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

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Divergent thinking part 2

Continuing with the ideas of Dr. Julian Rappaport from the previous post, another problem with convergent thinking in human service is that single solutions create another whole set of problems. The menu driven limitations of human service agencies will solve some problems, however, such limited options provided to problems to which the don’t apply, exacerbate some problems and create others. How about an example.

If the only option for Sunday school is to have children sit in large groups on the floor of a room, then there will be many children who will never benefit from Sunday school.
If the only option for ministry to adults with mental retardation is fully including them in the regular adult classes at the church, then some of these adults will never learn about their faith.
If the only option for persons with disability is to go to another church, then there will be many people with disabilities who along with their families will be unchurched.
If the only option for service in the church is something that requires a physically intact body, then those with out such bodies will not be able to serve.
If the only singing, dancing, reading, speaking that is permitted from the stage of the church is perfection, a total emphasis on excellence, then there will be few who can participate.
If the standard for social skill for the congregation is too high, many will be excluded.

In each of the above areas, escaping from the convergent requires creativity. What if there were actually options for children in Sunday school? Options for adult ministry including reverse integration where adults without disability attend the class geared to the level of understanding of those with cognitive disability. I have taught such classes for a long time and I always learn something.

We have to find ways to open up our churches to persons with disability. We need to look for options for service for all members, while at the same time reserving particular opportunities for service, for persons with disability who are perhaps limited in the ways they can serve.

Recognizing that persons like my friend Gavin, an adult with severe cerebral palsy who uses a wheelchair and is blind is a powerful witness when he sings before the congregation. It doesn’t matter that he won’t be releasing an album any time soon.

Also, expanding the range of normal to include a variety of not entirely appropriate social skills which are tolerated (not without efforts to improve them) because it is more important to have the individual at church than it is to have his social skills be perfect before he is admitted. I have had disabled friends with their hands touching or scratching every imaginable part of their body, but I welcome them because after shaking theirs, I can always wash mine.

Be divergent, be creative.


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