‘Weak’ are indispensableBy Christine Guth
Most people who have lived in a Christian family know the stresses of getting ready for church. The change from weekday routines sometimes knocks the whole family off kilter. Mom, Dad and kids alike may be grumpy from the pressure to get everyone fed and out of the house in clean clothes, on time, for worship.
For families living with disability, Sunday morning holds more than the usual challenges.
Let’s look in on a family whose children might live with fetal alcohol, autism spectrum, or mental health conditions. After the supreme effort of getting their family to church without an explosion, parents try to police rowdy children squirming and fighting in the church pew. Embarrassment that their family doesn’t look or act like those around them makes focusing on worship difficult.
Parents shout silently to God, “Where are you?” while a cheerful worship service offers too little help for coping with daily crises or finding God in the mounting chaos in their home.
As we look around our faith communities gathered for worship on Sunday morning, chances are we see few people with disabilities. One reason is that we can’t see many hidden disabilities that are present. Another is that we don’t always see the barriers we have built and the people they have excluded.
Our programs and practices can keep out families like the one described above, or push them to the margins. Visible barriers, such as a flight of stairs or a narrow doorway, can be expensive to fix but are relatively straightforward. Taking down hidden barriers may not cost money, but we often fail to notice our own judgmental attitudes, unwillingness to change or lack of welcome.
Could the Apostle Paul have been thinking about people with disabilities when he wrote, “The members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable” (1 Cor. 12:22)? How would it be different if the body of Christ lived out Paul’s claim? Would people with disabilities find warm hospitality in faith communities? Would disability concerns be less easily crowded out by urgent priorities?
When the church embodies Paul’s claim that those who seem weak are indispensable, we begin to see that the people we thought were weak bring a treasured presence to our community life. We learn that a person’s gifts and passions are far more important than what the person cannot do.
If we don’t see inability first, but rather a person’s ability to contribute to our community of faith, it frees us to see and welcome the vulnerability in our own lives.
As we seek to live out a belief that people with disabilities are indispensable, we look for ways that they can share hard-won expertise.
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