In the effort to move toward integration, people left institutions for residences in the community. The end desire was not simply that people would have a home in the community (although a good thing in itself) but that people would be integrated into the community. That is, they would be known, have friends, experience what might be called a "typical" life. The difficulty that continues to be faced is that people do not sufficiently experience this form of social, community integration.
Applying this metaphor (perhaps this reality) to the church, our first desire would be to open churches to the presence of persons with various impairments. This is a programmatic opening. Perhaps now there will be a program within a church, a disability ministry. This is comparable to persons who were institutionalized in the past, now living in the community.
The next phase would be that people in the church would be a part of personal change for themselves, for other individuals and the entire congregation. This is the "promised land" as with social integration for those in community residential settings. This is the "not what we do but what we become"
in the previous blog.
In both of these cases, what is needed is personal change: change in individuals in the community and the community and change in individual congregational members and the congregation as a whole. We can develop programs/residences that evidence a form of physical integration
, but we cannot be satisfied with that.
It sounds trite, but the changes we desire truly begin with us, whomever we are. If I want community integration, I must facilitate it in my own life, whomever I am, being with people who would benefit from my efforts. If I want faith group integration, perhaps I strive to be more like Jesus in loving others, particularly those whom society has devalued, or whose social skills or other personal characteristics make people uncomfortable. Each of us have this power in our own social circles, and no one is excluded from this potential area for change and growth: secular or religious.
We need to think clearly about disability ministry within the church. The presence of that ministry at a church is better than there not being such a presence. But it only indicates that the church has taken a step of physical integration. I cannot programmatically separate people from myself if I want to become what I need to become as a lover of other people. I must not decide there are some whom I will love and others whom I will not. Presence of people opens the door for the opportunity
to love. I need to step through that door and take others with me.