Those who attended Inspire 2017 were privileged to view a video that showed multiple speakers reciting the Apostles Creed. With each speaker voicing a single phrase, the compiled results provided an amazing testimony of belief, made all the more significant because the speakers were children, teens, and adults with disabilities.
The video was produced by Faith Church, a Reformed Church in America multisite church anchored in Dyer, Ind. If you haven’t seen it, I urge to do so.
This video is incredibly effective. It provides us a clip of the body of Christ voicing their faith in unity. Moreover, it includes in significant ways those with disabilities—members of the body of Christ that are often looked-over or forgotten.
Reformed Christians are not Sunday-only Christians. We are the church when we gather for worship, but we are also the church when we participate in the various ministries of our congregations and in the ways each of us carries out our responsibilities every day of the week.
As I think about enfolding people with disabilities into our churches, I am reminded that this is also a 24/7 task.As such, I’d like to share some of my perspective, which has been shaped by my son Paul, a delightful 32 year-old man who also happens to have Down Syndrome.
As a family, we’ve been blessed by the body of Christ, whether coalesced from members of our congregation or from our circle of friends. When both Barb and I were working outside of the home, we were grateful for those who stepped up and provided Paul transportation to work or social activities. It’s similar to the logistics required of soccer parents, only it is not just for a season. It is every day, year after year, and the body of Christ serves faithfully.
Paul has been a member of three Christian Reformed Churches in his life. This space isn’t enough to share all the stories of how these congregations have embraced Paul’s membership in Christ’s body: pinch hitter for collections at Loop CRC, one-to-one catechismal instruction at Neland CRC, friend of all at First CRC. The theme, however, is important. Each of these churches was intentional about seeking to use the gifts of all its members and made room for these gifts to be expressed.
Second, as I read some of the things posted on Facebook by parents of children with various disabilities, I’m struck that social media gives us opportunities beyond the typical “share and care” methods of our congregations.
We all seek to enter church Sunday mornings looking as if we are (mostly) succeeding at parenting. Clothes are clean, behavior is appropriate, and we take up our spots in the pew. But when we’re honest, life is not quite as easy as we seek to portray on our social media profiles or in the pews. Life is messy, for many, many reasons, including when disability is part of the picture.
Parents of people with disabilities may let you see a glimpse of this messy reality through their social media posts. When they do, you can respond. If you aren’t on social media or if they don’t share in that way, you can still initiate connection with others in a way that characterizes the body of Christ.
Find a time to have coffee together. Provide a way to allow those who are weary a chance to be renewed. Advocate for even greater inclusion at church by discovering new ways to share each other’s gifts. The list goes on and on.
That which we confess is appropriately specific: We “believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.” Let’s live what we believe for all!