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TAPESTRY

Tapestry

A beautiful community of diverse abilities

/ˈtapəstrē/

noun

Something felt to resemble a richly and complexly designed cloth.

“The history of the church’s interaction with the disabled is at best an ambiguous one. Rather than being a structure for empowerment, the church has more often supported the societal structures and attitudes that have treated people with disabilities as objects of pity and paternalism. For many disabled persons, the church has been a ‘city on a hill’ – physically inaccessible and socially inhospitable.” (Nancy Eiesland, 1994)

More than half of the stories that I hear (in a blog, from a friend, or even first-hand) about families impacted by disability regarding their experience with the local church involve some element of rejection, shame, or hurt. It’s not everyone’s narrative, but I hope we can agree that it shouldn’t be anyone’s narrative. So, when the Reflectors Ministry began at Faith Church, there was a clear goal to change this narrative – to create a space where individuals with disabilities and their families feel welcomed, accepted, and loved.

But there’s more.

In our attempt to change the narrative for these families, the reality is that they have changed (and are actively changing) ours. It’s a journey that has run parallel with one of the core, shaping documents of the ministry: The 5 Stages of Disability Attitudes.

Ignorance →  Pity →  Care → Friendship → Co-Laborers

(Learn more @ http://www.the5stages.com)

I’ll be honest: our initial vision landed in Stage 3 (that Faith Church would be a place that primarily cares for folks with special needs and their families). But think about this:  fully belonging to a community includes more than people just caring for you. It involves you caring for them. It involves being an active participant in the life of that community. This is the Stage 5 reality (co-laboring), which brings to life what Paul is talking about when he says, “there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable.” (1 Cor. 12:20-22) This is the true, unfolding beauty of this ministry. There’s so much I’d like to tell you regarding what God is doing right now; but I also know the best is yet to come.

So, what does this mean? And where are we going? It’s a radical thought, but I find myself in alignment with Michael Beates when he says, “in the end, a successful measure of disability effectiveness in a local church would be that it would not need to have a disability ministry. Outreach to and inclusion of people with disabilities would become so second nature that those who are disabled would be involved, included, and assimilated into the fabric of the church to the point that they would need no special attention as a population group.” Now, I’m not suggesting my job at Faith Church be eliminated (even if just for selfish reasons), but the principal is this: people with disabilities, in Christ, are part of the body. Each part has a purpose and active role in the body, and every other part gets to benefit from that. The more we all embrace this, the more beautiful the tapestry of Christ’s church (the body) will become.