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

Monday, June 12, 2006

Disability awareness Sunday

This past Sunday, my church held what was called "Disability awareness Sunday" which largely highlighted two ministries of our church. The one is called the Light and Power Company, with is a group that includes adults with developmental disabilities, and the other is called King's Kids which helps to integrate children with various disabilities into the regular programs of the church.

The service started with worship/music. Four individuals with cognitive disabilities assisted in leading the singing. Our worship director had provided them with cds with the songs they would be singing, and they all apeared to have listened to them as they were singing along with the band and having a great time. Next up was a video I did with my video expert extrodinaire and son, Josh (http://punkvideoguys.org) which was interviews and some video of people just living their lives. I hope to have a link to the video from this website eventually. After the video was an interview with three people from our group. I always like th ask the question in front of a group, "Do you have a disability?" as the answers really open people's eyes. Typically the response is "I don't know." I then comment that people without disabilities often think that disability is the defining characteristice of a a person with disability's life when they may not even recognize that they have a disability.
After the interview, there was more singing and then a faith story shared by the parents of a great young guy who attends our church who also has cerebral palsy. They told of their life in Virginia at the birth of their son. Basically, they were pretty much rejected by their church and after much searching at the churches in the city where they lived in Virginia, they found that the churches were basically discriminatory against children with disabilities. Ultimately, through the wife's mother, they came to California, specifically because of our church and it's desire to include all the people in God's family. Our pastor then did a great job going through sections of Romans 15. It was interesting and he made some great connections with disability ministry.

The highlight for me, however, was the second service of the morning (we have 3 every Sunday morning). During the second service there must have been 35-40 people with mental retardation in attendance in an audience of perhaps 600. There was something about that gathering which gave you the feeling that that was the way church was supposed to be. Some folks were a little noisy, not bad, and perhaps there was a little more activity than usual, but the fact that so many were there was cool. There were actually about 10 people with severe mental retardation in attendance. I wondered to one of the pastors whether that had ever happened before at our church (I am sure it hadn't). It was great.

I also was aware of how the presence of all the folks with disabilities kinda softened people, from the pastors to those in the congregation. The pastor had several moments where he was overcome by emotion during the services. Congregational members responded to the the over the top desire to shake hands that some people evidence and were patient with noise and atypical church behavior. It was awesome. The church would be changed if that type of attencance occurred every week.



Impossibleape said...

Sounds like a truly wonderful day. Thanks for sharing it. I am looking forward to seeing the video.

What I have often wondered is how do we get beyond seeing, thinking, and talking about people as disabled?

You said
"I then comment that people without disabilities often think that disability is the defining characteristice of a a person with disability's life when they may not even recognize that they have a disability."

If only we didn't have to bow to the neccessity of lableling. We have changed some of our terms for the better. We don't use the Mentally Retarded term any more but it seems that stigmas continue to be problem for the developmentally disabled.

It is difficult to talk to people about the need to value people with disabilities because a disabled person often is present and to need to defend them must make them feel strange since you say many do not consider disability as a defining characteristic.

I wish our society could get to the place that we didn't have to label at all, but I don't know how to get here.

Anonymous said...

Hopefully Disability Awareness Sunday will become "Sunday." It was wonderful to read of the turn out of so many Christians. It is certainly a much needed start. I hope everyone was able to comprehend the message given that day. Now that the congregation experienced the readings of Romans 15 and God's children, everyone will need to incorporate the message and move on to "normalcy." After all, isn't that what everyone deserves...a normal life at every level? Make every Sunday a normal Sunday. Pushing one message will make the congregation loose interest and it will make the special members the center of attention. I'm sure no one will want that. Changes must be made, so let us incorporate them into normal living needs...not "special" or "out of the ordinary" changes. By focusing on the "special" needs places these Christians on the outskirts of our society. Normal living changes will benefit everyone as a whole, including those with special circumstances.

The day we look at societal needs as a whole, we may be able to stop classifying those that make up our society. Marcia 06/17/06

Anonymous said...

As I am reading your comments on Disability awareness Sunday, I think about the time I had gone to church and sat very close to the "Disabled" section. It was during worship that I noticed the amount of praise and greatfullness these people had displayed. I was going through a rough time in my life and did not appreciate what God had done for me. Here I was self sufficent and healthy but still not content with my life. Looking over at a "Disabled" gentleman worshiping the Lord, I asked myself, "How can I be so ungreatful to all that has been given to me and still be complaining?" This "Disabled" gentleman showed my in his way I was actually the "Disabled".

Anonymous said...

I truley enjoyed reading, how much effort you have put into your church. It's a great sign that their are people out there that not only care, but actually does something about it. I haven't chosen a church to attend, and the looks of your church seem to be the best heart warming place to worship. You are correct, that there needs to be more churches with the same ideas as you. After reading, "Diabiltity awareness Sunday," I've realized I too, need to join this awareness, and share to my family and friends the importance of being aware that disabilities should not be judge as the entrance to anytype of church. Life is too short, and there is no need to judge. We are all loved in the eyes of God.

Anonymous said...

What a blessing your ministry is! It is sad that it stands out as such. Every church should have as wonderful a ministry as you do, but unfortunately that is not the case. I hope that this can turn into a more frequent opportunity for this group to share their "abilities" with the congregation. Keep doing what God has obviously called you and your wife to, and hopefully more such ministries will grow as a result from your example.

Impossibleape said...

Amen and Amen

Anonymous said...

Well I'm sure this won't be the only time you have this type of service. It's so wonderful to hear that there was a great turn out. I pray that the families continue to come and peoples minds continue to open to person's with disabilities. I need to visit your church someday, it's an inspiration :)

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you had a wonderful day. When you said that "people without disabilities often think that disability is the defining characteristic of a person with a disability's life when they may not even recognize that they have a disability," I also noticed this from our class earlier this section when Mark, Joyce, Mark, and Ryan visited our class. I used to think that people with disabilities felt sorry for themselves and had difficulties living a normal life. I was completely wrong. Like you said people with disabilities often don't even recognize that they have one. I think that people with disabilities are perfectly capable of living normal lives. It is amazing that so many people showed up to "Disability Awareness Sunday" at your church. It sounds like you have a truly amazing church. More churches need to be like your church. I think more people need to recognize that we are all children of God and he loves us all equally. This class has really taught me a lot and has touched my heart in many ways. I also completely agree with your statement "The church would be changed if that type of attendance occurred every week." People should not just show up on this particular day, but they should be aware and supportive of people with disabilities every Sunday.

Thank you for sharing this!