Many of us have heard the saying “a few of the church’s members do all of the work!” I began to ponder how that unfolds. I wondered: Are we receptive and responsive for all to share their capacity and their gifts? Is there a “welcome” for all to contribute?
Studies have shown that 1 in 5 people struggle with a kind of impairment which also could be called a disability or a special need. This could vary from a mental diagnosis to a visual impairment to a chronic long-term illness. How do we offer respect, dignity and value to a percentage of people who might not be engaged in church life as they might like because of the myths, misunderstandings and barriers surrounding their circumstances? One of the primary calls of the deacons is to extend mercy to those in need. Some of that may be obvious when a walker or wheelchair is visible but more often the challenges related to disabilities happen behind closed doors.
This morning’s breakfast brought these thoughts to mind as a mother shared her experiences of isolation when a son’s mental struggles were well-known throughout their community. The seat next to her on the bleachers at the baseball diamond remained vacant! She experienced aloneness in her journey because no one seemed sure how to be “with” her. She needed presence and acceptance. Pat answers, unreal assurances, pious platitudes, suggested fixes and reasons for the suffering of mental illness were not necessary!
In that spirit, Diaconal Ministries Canada, through their network of deacons wants to pursue a relationship with Disability Concerns by connecting with Disability Advocates in congregations so that together they might seek out those who may need support and invite everybody to contribute their gifts and passions to the church’s ministries, mission, and leadership. When a church engages in “asking and listening” with people who have disabilities, that church will enhance and increase an individual's encounter with dignity, control, inclusion and involvement.
How valuable for the different organizations of the body of Christ to encourage and support each other’s missions and values! As a church becomes an active and visible place for inclusion of everybody within their midst, that church will become attractive and welcoming for any neighbor seeking a place to name and take pleasure in the “good news expressed in my church.”