From what I see online these days, many people are feeling overwhelmed and afraid in the midst of the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Our familiar world of working alongside colleagues, visiting with friends, making small talk with strangers as we run errands, and worshipping together at church, has disappeared. In its place is a world of threat, isolation, and uncertainty.
The current circumstances feel somewhat familiar to me. When I developed a neuromuscular disease that disabled me five years ago I felt as though the ground was torn out from beneath me. I had had an image in my mind of what my future would look like and all of a sudden it had been erased and there was only uncertainty in its place. I feared for my health, I feared for my relationships and how they might change, I feared for my daughter and how she would fare if my new illness turned fatal. I feared that my faith would not be strong enough to make it through the fears and doubts I was experiencing.
Fortunately I knew who to turn to for guidance as I traversed this new path. I am blessed to have been in close proximity to people with disabilities my entire life so I leaned into the disability community. Disabled perspectives showed me a new way to think while disability theology gave me a new way to believe.
Because disabled people often have extensive experience with isolation, there is a wealth of online information and connection. In my time of fear and isolation I found great comfort in the stories told by, and the communities formed by disabled people. Now that we are all traversing the land usually reserved for people with disabilities my hope is that these voices can be a comfort and a light to guide the way for the general public. As Bethany McKinney Fox (of Beloved Everybody church ) says in her book Disability and the Way of Jesus , disabled voices can be propetic – calling out the path for the rest of us to follow.
- Shannon Dingle made the same point recently, specifically in relation to COVID-19. Her work has been challenging and eye-opening for me. Although she writes various places, my favourite way to follow her is on Twitter.
- Rev. Miriam Spies encourages those of us staying at home during this pandemic to learn how to wait well from those familiar with “disability time.”
- You Belong has been holding church online long before the term social distancing was even in our vernacular. Rather than stream video they hold daily prayer times together through Twitter, inviting members to connect and participate rather than just spectate.
- Stephanie Tait shows vulnerability and strong leadership as she shares her personal struggles and consistently amplifies the voices of the disability community in her writings and Twitter feed.
- K. J. Ramsey uses her training as a therapist and her experiences as a person with chronic illness to share beautiful insights on life, pain and faith while encouraging others on Twitter and Instagram.
And of course, this Disability & Faith Forum is a great place to hear from voices of both people experiencing disability themselves, and allies.