It has often been said that a few of the church’s members do all of the work! I began to ponder about 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. It 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. A mother shared her experiences of isolation even though her son’s mental health struggles are well-known throughout their community. The seat next to her on the bleachers at the baseball diamond remains vacant! She experiences being alone in her journey because no one seems sure that it is helpful to be “with” her. She needs presence and acceptance. Pat answers, unreal assurances, pious platitudes, suggested fixes and reasons for the suffering of mental illness are not necessary!
In that spirit, Diaconal Ministries Canada, through its network of deacons, partners with Disability Concerns by connecting with Disability Advocates in congregations. Together, deacons and advocates might seek out those who need support and invite everybody to contribute their gifts, passions and abilities to the church’s ministries, mission and leadership. When a church engages in “asking and listening” with people who have disabilities, that church will help to cultivate dignity, 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 our churches become active and visible places of inclusion, they will also become attractive and welcoming for any neighbor seeking community.
–written by Katie Karsten, Justice Mobilizer for Diaconal Ministries Canada (DMC)
Click here for DMC’s justice resources related to those with disabilities.
Click here to be re-directed to Disability Concerns website.