Faith & Disabilities
Our faith has the capacity to sustain us, heal us, reinvigorate us, open up the awareness of a greater power, and to provide us with a community within our church, synagogue, or mosque. But for many people with disabilities and their families, they do not feel welcomed into the faith community.
There are many reasons for individuals with disabilities and their families not necessarily feeling welcomed in the faith community. But one's spiritual life is a large part of one's identity and when they do not feel welcomed into a faith community, something is deeply lost for them.
Families with children with disabilities often feel unwelcomed because of the looks they get in the pews or the comments made about their children making noise or movements that they can not control. Families often report feeling isolated or shunned by others at church. Many families decide it is not worth attending any more, which can lead to even more of an isolated feeling. Families are often unable to fully participate in the fellowship life of the church because of the care that their child with special needs may require.
An inclusive faith community commits to sharing one another's joys and challenges. Included members love, respect and treasure each other; nurture and support one another on a journey through faith; and use their gifts and graces in ministry. This commitment does not change with the experience of a disability.
But being included means more than just being in a community, it means being a full participant with the community, in all aspects of the community -- from physical space to attitudes. A community where all are welcome means that they are barrier free, accessible, accepting and engaging. A truly welcoming faith community is one that is open to making accommodations, communication, and develop strategies to build a community where all members can grow and flourish. It is a community that looks at the needs of the fully family and ministers to those needs. It is a community where everyone is able to and encouraged to share their gifts and to contribute to the community as a full partner, regardless if they have a disability or not or a loved one with a disability or not.
An inclusive faith community is one where All Are Welcomed!
This project, All Are Welcome works to develop resources to help faith communities to be come inclusive and welcoming. This is a turnkey program distributed to faith communities and available online to help them to become an inclusive community.
In the first year of this grant, we created a video and curriculum for church and ministry leaders.
In later years, we will develop a similar format training for seminaries to use with their pastor and worship leaders in-training, and curriculum for members of the faith community to help guide them to assist in developing a welcoming community.