This vision of what can be is something I long for. It’s as if I’m nostalgic for what will be, and not what was. These days, diversity in nation, tribe, people, and language are things that keep us apart.
Wentworth Miller says when you’re in survival mode, there isn’t space for “we” or “community.” It becomes all about “I” and “me.” He is not relating specifically to the challenges of disability, or faith communities fostering , but he shares valuable information about the challenges that may arise if you feel singular, different, and alone; if you have to spend the majority of your days in survival mode over the long term.
So much of what we do on a daily basis we do without qualifications. We walk through every conceivable season of a person’s life with them because we are the ones who happen to be present when the call comes.
While the incarnation is a unique event in Christian theology, the experience of embodiment is not. I have found the image of the Word made flesh to be a powerful paradigm for seeing the experience of my minimally verbal children, both in their relationships with me and their expression of faith.
He was middle aged, had Down Syndrome, and spoke no English, but he said hello and quickly answered my introductory question about how long he had worked in that shop. I apologized for not understanding his answer and he realized that I was at a disadvantage in this conversation.
Then the pandemic hit and everything moved online. Our church hosted multiple online ways to connect: Zoom calls, online teaching, podcasts, Instagram and Facebook communities, virtual camp, book clubs, park meetups, subscription boxes and more. I could fully integrate into the life of our church community and it was wonderful.
Even if the statistics were less significant, accessibility should still be a priority considering that Jesus taught us to go out of our way to accommodate 1, rather than 99 sheep. Many churches do not make decisions which demonstrate that even one sheep matters.
When such assumptions concerning the connection between faith and chronic illness or disability do not pan out over the long term, they may lead some people with disabilities and their families to a fork in their spiritual journeys. Option one being the belief that “God is a real jerk.” Option two being the belief that “people with disabilities must be horrible people to deserve this much ‘extra punishment’.”
Ultimately, though, the way forward [...] will be navigated in relationship with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities themselves. As Whole Community makes clear, it is people with lived experience who are experts on the best way forward. "The most powerful and effective act that people without disabilities can take is to yield to the voice of people with disabilities"
The first week of Advent and the International Day of Persons with Disabilities is a wonderful week to reflect on the hope of Christ, our saviour who was here, is here with us now through his Holy Spirit, and who will someday, hopefully soon, be with us in the flesh again.