It is a long and slow process for me, a well-educated and nondisabled white male, to appreciate and to pay attention to the ways that God is working on the margins. But whether it is in pausing my frantic productivity to gaze for a moment at crisp pin-points of light in the night sky or in turning my attention to a neighbour who does not use words to communicate, I am “Learning how to say ‘Hallelujah’ from the ones who say it right.”
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.
My plea is that congregations will continue to have online worship services long after the pandemic is over.
But then I actually talked to the people I was trying to protect. While I was enjoying my coffee and car rides with my wife, some of my people were stuck at home alone, often with no access to our online services.
How did these COVID-19 restrictions affect people with disabilities, many of whom already felt unwelcome or ignored by their church even in normal times?
Dear Church, As restrictions are being lifted and you plan for being together in person once again, please think of us...
Isaiah presents a vision of the glory of the Lord being revealed when there are no barriers; the valleys have been lifted, the mountains have been made low and the planes are smooth; I could go anywhere and do anything regardless of my wheelchair.
What a great opportunity to intentionally celebrate the gifts of people of all abilities in your church community! To make this easy, Christian Horizons has put together a number of resources, including videos, a service guide, and a complete sermon around the theme of "EveryBody Belongs."
In partnership with Christian Reformed Disability Concerns, the Christian Learning Centers (CLC) network has a helpful list of practical tips and resources to foster accessibility and inclusion which may be critical to a sense of belonging in your church.
My prayer for all five our children, those with and without autism, is that God would reveal himself in a way that they would understand.