“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Friday, February 23, 2007

"Does the church let you to do that?"

Because we facilitate a class for persons with disabilities at our church, Kathi and I often receive phone calls from people interested in our church because we attempt to include people with disabilities.
Yesterday, Kathi got a phone call from a woman wondering about the ministries at our church. Our group called "Light and Power" which is specifically focussed on adults, was the point of her question. She described her son's disabilities, and then asked whether he would be welcomed in the class. Kathi replied that the class includes both people with and without disabilities.
"Really?" she replied. "Does the church let you do do that?" (That is, mixing people with and without disabilities).
Kathi replied, "Sure!"
She then asked, "What time does the Light and Power group meet?"
"We go to the regular church service at 9:30, and then..." Kathi replied.
"Does the church let you to do that?" she interrupted. (That is let the people with disabiliteis go to the regular church service).
"Yes" Kathi replied.
Obviously, this woman's response is a bit funny, but it must also be informed by something. Something that has grown out of her personal experience. Perhaps she and her adult son have been told "You aren't allowed to do that at this church" when she wanted to have her son in a regular church class, or attend the regular worship service. The confused responses of this mother of an adult son is an indictment. Imagine someone honestly wondering whether an organization (the church) which claims to represent Jesus would allow people with disabilities to attend the regular church service, or even house an integrated (people with and without disabilities) class on the campus.

Its a little funny but its a lot sad. It is particularly sad in that this mother herself may be a person who experiences a disability. Her questions and responses kind of make me think that is the case. Also I find that those with mild disabilities often will be turned away with excuses like that. Those without cognitive challenges would typically speak up. Others without the ability to argue their point are more easily turned away. Which is another insidious aspect of her responses.

Hopefully she and her son will soon be attending our church.



Penny L. Richards said...

My best experience calling a church I didn't attend was this: I saw a music program advertised in a local newsletter with the line "Children of all faiths and abilities welcome." What? Really? Huh, we'll see about that.

So I called my friend who was on staff at that church, and said, "You know my son, would they really let him join?" The beautiful reply was "It can't hurt to try! Just come, and see if we can make it work." And they/we made it work, for four fabulous years. That's hospitality.

Anonymous said...

Oh, this would indeed be funny if it weren't so true. And it is so true what you say about those you with cognitive disabilities easily being turned away becuase they don't know they can speak up for themselves.

'Does the church let you do that?' What a real question. Interestingly, when I shared with my small group at my church, my desire to see those with developmental disabilities who are living in facilities be a part of our small groups, of small groups in general, some people were still confused. They thought I meant, go into the facilities and create a small group there just for 'them'. I had to explain, to these people who are truly good and caring that I meant full inclusion, and that full inclusion meant bringing them out of the institutions and care facilities for a few hours a week to our small groups, where they will be on an equal level with the rest of us broken, imperfect people.

Julie R. Oklahoma City, OK

The Editor in Chief said...

We have such a unjustifiably high view of ourselves. As I have stated here elsewhere, we look at ourselves in the mirror, reflect on being created in the image of God, and say, "Sure, I'm created in the image of God." But then question the value, the contribution of others. My biggest problem, one that I have no hope of overcoming outside of Christ, is my sin which has basically destroyed me in every way. If I really saw myself as I truly am apart from Christ, my inflated self perception would be blown away like a vapor. If I see myself as I really am, there is the greater liklihood that I will be more open to seeing others as my equal, as even my betters.


cateacher said...

The comment about about "Does the church let you do that?" what a interesting question. I actually shared this question with my church, who found the question "to be rude." People with diabilities have the right to attend church with everybody. I don't think it's right to seclude them just because they are different or have a disability. I have experienced this in my own life with my niece who has a disability herself.