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“We need to change the way we treat disabled people in church spaces,” said Amy Kenny, a disabled (as she prefers to identify) scholar, Shakespeare lecturer, and author. Her book My Body is Not a Prayer Request has been named the book of the year by the disability concerns ministries of the Christian Reformed Church and the Reformed Church in America. 

“I wanted to focus on the church because I think it stings in a really tender place when it is the church (perpetuating ableism),” Kenny said. “As Christians, we talk about how everyone is made in the image of God and we are to love our neighbor as ourselves, we are to welcome the stranger and befriend the outcast, and yet that hasn’t really held true for me in my experience of churches.”

Instead, those with disabilities are often overlooked, underutilized, and treated as something in need of fixing instead of as equal members of the community. The title of Kenny’s book illustrates this: she said she has frequently been approached by well-meaning Christians who ask if they can pray for her healing. 

“They have been discipled into ableism and only see my disabled body as a ‘lack’ in need of a ‘fix’ or a cure,” Kenny said. “The title of my book is a declaration that my body is not a prayer request. It was made in the image of the divine, and it radiates that to the world. It is just that the church hasn’t caught up enough yet to see her shine.” 

Disability Concerns is encouraging all CRC members to read Kenny’s book and discuss how we can come together to fight ableism in our churches and instead engage in disability justice. The ministry has put together book discussion questions and, with support from the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, offers up to 10 free copies of Kenny’s book to churches that host a book club. So far 22 book clubs have formed, with more joining every week. 

While book clubs in local congregations have been encouraged, Disability Concerns also offered a four-week online book club in January for people across North America that included a live Q&A event with Kenny via Zoom.

“For some, reading Kenny’s book is an ‘aha’ moment of what disabled people often experience in the church and what they can do about it,” said Lindsay Wieland Capel, content manager for Disability Concerns. “For others, it is a validation of their own painful experiences of ableism at church. Kenny’s prophetic voice is a call to action for the church.”


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