Stroke is a leading cause of disability in adults around the world, so most congregations probably include—or will soon include—stroke survivors. And since about a third of stroke survivors suffer from some form of communication impairment the implications for churches are significant.
Goetz researches disability studies, an academic field focusing on the social model of disability, which emphasizes changing things politically or socially for people with disabilities. This contrasts with the more typical medical model of disability, which tries to “fix” or get rid of someone’s disability.
She says: "I noticed that stroke survivors were not well represented in the field of disability studies, and I began talking with stroke survivors at the Calvin College speech pathology clinic. Many are Christians who said they had been very involved in their church before their strokes, but they no longer go to church. I began to wonder about their church experiences and started going with them to worship services."
She found that "typically churches are very involved during the initial crisis and rehabilitation. They visit stroke survivors in the hospital, pray, call, send cards or email, and provide food," adding that "most churches are very good at this type of support."
But after the initial crisis, she says, churches are not so good at support. And worship presents many challenges for stroke survivors.
These two interviews with Calvin College professor, Peggy Goetz, describe her work with churches and stroke survivors compellingly.