Pastoral care givers and theologians warn us of the minefield faith and scriptures create when used inappropriately. This is especially true as we consider the ill and disabled. Not only do we do a disservice when we over-emphasize the power of faith to bring healing, but also when we misinterpret the language of "healing" vs "cure" and inadvertently denigrate those with chronic disease or disability. Even our jargon (lame, retarded, unclean) can hurt.
I intended to highlight the do's and don'ts of being an inclusive and welcoming church for those who are differently-abled and differently healed. But I discovered that I needed a primer on the complexity of this issue. So I'm sharing my primer with you!
Here are a treasure trove of resources for your use. If you know of a church that is welcoming for the disabled and/or has trained its community to use language and theology appropriately, please post an anecdote! If you need resources, read on!
Disabilities and Faith is a website that offers a wealth of resources - even a PowerPoint presentation that can help generate sensitivity to how we talk and interact around each other's differences in church. There is soooo much material here...go digging!
This short blog post is about 5 things restaurants can do to be hospitable to wheelchairs, but its important for our church potlucks too!
Accessible meetings and conferences are highlighted in an online, free guidebook published by the ADA Hospitality website. It's a great resource for thinking of our space-use and hospitality around sight and sound.
And finally, a video that could be watched and discussed at your place of worship:
I hope these resources will help you think about how your community widens the welcome to everyone. The great sadness is that over 85% of people identify as belonging to a faith tradition but less than half actually go to a house of worship even once a month. (Stats from the National Organization on Disability). Barriers include architectural challenges, programmatic barriers, and attitudes of the community. This is a statistic we shouldn't ignore. It's one we can change - for the better.