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

Friday, December 27, 2019

Disability ministry and cultural change in the church

Matthew 9:16-17
"Besides, who would patch old clothing with new cloth? For the new patch would shrink and rip away from the old cloth, leaving an even bigger tear than before. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the old skins would burst from the pressure, spilling the wine and ruining the skins. New wine is stored in new wineskins so that both are preserved."

Jesus replied this way to the disciple of John the Baptist when they asked about his disciples and their fasting. There might be an aspect of this which applies to the cultural changes in the church that need to occur with the presence of persons with disabilities. The old cloth or old wineskins might be the past and at times current practices of the church in relation to persons with impairments. The new patch or new wine, may be inclusion and belonging of persons with disabilities that does not easily work under the old practices. That is why something new is required.

Disability ministry done well is not simply a room where persons with impairments go, or another program on a night when no one else is there. Would you feel loved and a part of a church, if you were only invited to come there when people who others wrongly considered as having a life defining characteristic were also invited or present? What you experience might be better than no involvement or better than what you have experienced in the past, but it is not what is best for everyone. I will at times try to illustrate this by talking about a church having a "ministry to blue people." Imagine a church that only invited people with blue skin to come on a night, once a week or once a month. This form of discrimination would become the defining characteristic of that group. Yet we think that is OK when it comes to persons with disabilities.

Maybe the cultural change that needs to occur in churches is tantamount to new clothing because the new cloth patch wouldn't hold or new wine skins to hold the new wine. I think one of the points of this is that if the clothing can't be patched, it must be replaced. The new wine needs to be put into a wineskins and the old won't work anymore. The new wine is put into new wineskins so BOTH are preserved. The cultural change needs a culturally changed setting so "both are preserved." It is as Jesus demonstrated. Something that needs to be changed, should be changed. Applying the metaphor to our subject, the change will be good for both the church and those with impairments.


Wednesday, December 04, 2019

The friends of musicians' ministry

A group of people gathered in a room. Some carried musical instruments that they carefully removed from their cases and proceeded to warm up playing various scales. A kind person strolled to the front of the room and the sound quieted a bit.

"Welcome everyone to our Wednesday night friends of musicians meeting! I see you have brought your instruments which is great. I am so blessed by being with you on these evening meetings twice a month."

The musicians and those accompanying them smiled back cheerfully.
"Sometimes I wish more of our church family could hear you play your instruments."
The leader paused.
"But we have had our ministry to musicians twice a month like this for so long. The way it is, is just part of how we are."

Most of the musicians had always been separated like this and didn't have experience otherwise. So they gathered in groups and played their instruments together. There was much joy and laughter as well as genuine appreciation for their gifting. They were really quite skilled. Those with them did not have the same gifting, were not talented musically, but they sat with them, listened happily and provided encouragement. Yet, they had become used to the tradition of segregation where no musicians ever came to church or worship on Sunday.

"If musicians came on Sunday, we would probably have to change the way we do things" was the feeling of many people. "We would have to sing songs or listen to instrumentals being played. Our worship service would probably be a lot different if we included musicians and I like it the way it is."
But at one meeting where such a statement was made, a brave soul spoke up.
"I wonder if musicians are God gifted musically so that the way we do church would change, would be different. I wonder what worship would be like if we integrated musicians and allowed them to express their gifting?

A leader spoke up.
"I don't want people staring at people when they play their clarinet, their instrument. And some people don't like music so I don't want people to feel bad because of those people. Why should people feel bad about being a musician?"
The lone voice responded, "But the Bible itself talks about music and how people who are created as musicians are indispensable, have much to contribute and are to be celebrated. Their lives have purpose for the whole community."

"We are not changing so that musicians can demonstrate their gifting. Let them be together twice a month on Wednesday night and demonstrate their gifting then."