As we approach the final days of 2020, are we collectively breathing a sigh of relief that we made it through an extremely challenging year? Is there trepidation as we look towards the new year? While we can leave the old year behind, gaps in our structures have now been pointed out, and we need to name them and work towards solutions for the future.
From the perspective of the Disability Concerns ministry, we have realized how valuable our network of advocates is to our ministry. Our ministry works to connect with over 1,000 churches across North America. As churches, schools, and community organizations were shutting down to curb the spread of the virus,we relied heavily on our church and regional advocates to connect with their communities, ensuring the safety and well-being of so many. We heard sad stories of isolation within our disability communities, ones that pointed to a huge gap in health care that our governments can no longer avoid. Yet, we also heard beautiful stories of how people offered support to each other. In the midst of wide-spread tragedy, a story of perseverance and love was being written within the disability community.
For so many of us, the loss of community was almost unbearable. We watched as strict regulations for gathering were put in place to keep us safe. Thankful for the wisdom of these regulations, but saddened by the reality of them, we had to work on new ways of connecting with each other. This is the first year our ministry shifted to provide our events fully online. While it is true that we lamented the loss of in-person connections, we rejoiced that working from an online platform engaged a larger number of people within our community and our conversations, ideas and goals grew and developed as a result. Geography no longer dictated our resources or connections.
While painful and full of tremendous loss, we have learned a great deal about community. Now we will continue to ask, how do we build it? What limits us? How can we work around these limitations? How can we break down traditional barriers that exist within communities? We will need to take space to grieve the significant losses that defined 2020, we also need to hold onto the lessons 2020 has taught us:
Communities do not need to be defined by geography.
Strong communities are built upon the beautiful uniqueness that each individual brings into it.
Communities need to learn to grieve and lament together in order to grow.
Communities grow through a wide variety of connections and are not limited to traditional formats of connecting.
As we, the Disability Concerns ministry, look forward to 2021, we will be embracing all the valuable lessons that 2020 has given to us. This year, while full of grief and sadness, may we celebrate the value of human connection.