This guest post from Dwayne Milley tells the story of a holy moment and reflects on how it connects to what scripture says about “the ones we really need.”

Receiving communion

Recently I was reminded of a church I visited in South Ottawa just a little while before the pandemic. When it comes to representing the Body of Christ, they are doing it well. I visited on Communion Sunday with a group of people from Christian Horizons. If you don’t know, our vision at Christian Horizons is people who experience disabilities belong to communities in which their God-given gifts are valued and respected. A few of us were visiting because several people who attend this church are connected to Christian Horizons in that community. 

On Communion Sunday different groups from this church rotate responsibility in serving communion. On the Sunday I visited, a group of people with developmental disabilities were serving communion – as a regular part of the serving schedule. 


Reflecting on scripture

People stand in front of the stage a church holding baskets with communion elements.

Patricia, Delia, and Steven are part of the team serving communion at Parkway Church in Greely, just south of Ottawa.

In his first letter to the new believers in Corinth, Paul talks about the gifts of the Spirit, and how the church is like a body with many different parts. He says all parts of the body are gifted and have purpose, and that those parts that seem less important deserve a little extra attention. In his words, “… The parts of the body that we think are weaker are the ones we really need. The parts of the body that we think are less honorable are the ones we give special honor. So our unpresentable parts are made more presentable.” (1 Corinthians 12:22–23, GWT). 

In today’s world, people with disabilities – and even more, people with developmental disabilities – are people who society deems as weaker and less honourable, yet Paul says these are the ones we really need.  When people with disabilities are absent, or others who society deems weaker, then Christ’s body – the church – is not whole. The Body of Christ as represented at this church in South Ottawa is whole. They know how to welcome and include people with disabilities, and even more, they know how to help them fulfill their responsibilities as essential parts of the church. 

To receive communion at this church in this manner was both a holy and moving experience for me. In this sacrament, the whole body of Christ was present and active, and Paul’s instruction to the early church was being demonstrated.

What it means to be whole

Only a couple weeks prior to this I had a not-so-encouraging experience with a person who had been a pastor of a church in a community I will not name. He shared that his church had loaned out space to a group of people with developmental disabilities from Christian Horizons and he was repentant as he shared how he and the other pastors often used derogatory words (that I also will not name) to describe the people with disabilities. It was unnerving, to say the least, to think and know that Christian leaders in my own denomination were being derogatory towards other members of Christ’s body. More personally, it was hurtful because their words showed a disrespect for my ministry and calling. 

You see, almost 30 years ago, right out of Bible College, I tripped up into my calling when I got a job at Christian Horizons. There was something about the people I was hired to help – they welcomed me almost unconditionally. It might sound cliché, but I was hired to help others and they helped me just as much, perhaps even more. I learned about acceptance, trust, diversity, and what it meant to have a place to belong. Looking back, I realize God was beginning to teach me about 1 Corinthians 12 and what it means to be whole. 

Up There and Down Here

When Jesus taught us to pray, he used the words, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven”. I’ve heard these words paraphrased as, “Make up there come down here”. The Communion experience in South Ottawa was a little bit of up there being brought down here, and for them, it’s an everyday experience. The other church? Not-so-much. They were letting down here be a lot like down here. 

Make up there come down here.  For the watching world to see what up there is like, for them to get a glimpse of how God intended things to be, they need only to look at people who follow the way of Jesus, the church. I’d love to take the world to up there in South Ottawa. They know how to embrace the ones we really need.