If we are honest with ourselves, disability is an unsettling thing. We are most comfortable with people who are like us. For the majority who currently do not consider themselves disabled that means people who fall into a fairly narrow range of statistically typical bodies and brains. On the whole, our services, worship and preaching are directed towards people we imagine to be just like us. The presence of people with a disability confronts us with people who are different from 'us' in a whole variety of ways. It presents us with people who speak, hear, move, sing, think and perceive in ways outside of the narrow range we think of as 'normal'.
Because we find disability unsettling, we are tempted to rush to a quick response to this challenge, so that we can move along into less troubled waters. That quick response includes saying things like: “surely we’re all made in the image of God”, or “surely we all have disabilities of some sort.” Statements like these are not completely wrong, but they fall far, far short of actually tackling the often quite deep questions disability raises for us as Christians and churches. Similarly, the idea of including people with disabilities in church life certainly involves, say, physical access to the building and facilities, but it surely goes far beyond getting in and being in the congregation. We also must grapple with our attitudes to people with disabilities being involved in worship, in sharing God’s word, and in leadership. That includes thinking about how we preach in a way that gathers in those with disabilities, and how we approach the many passages in the Bible that specifically involve disability.
For ministry and church life to be actually inclusive, to go beyond 'we are including them in what we do' and move towards 'we are all doing this together', our approach to disability must be built on what we believe about God (what we call our theology). It must begin with what we believe God’s relationship is with humanity that, as we see all around us, includes disability. It must explore what God has done, is doing and will do in the lives of all people, including those who are different from 'us'.
These various posts and resources below aim to explore these sorts of questions so that Christians and churches can include and minister more confidently and effectively with disabled people.
Click here if you have questions or would like to contact our Disability Justice Hub Theology Group
Introductory Discussion Resources by David McLachlan: