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Mental Illness, My Thoughts

by Justin Hancock

Hello friends. As I write to you today, I am struggling to come to grips with the suicide of a prominent pastor and advocate for mental health, who took their life not 48 hours ago. Because I did not know this person well, I will not go into specifics. I will only say that this death hit me particularly hard, because this individual was an outspoken advocate for mental health and not shy about sharing their journey on their long and difficult road.

As I reflect today, there are two specific things that come to mind. First and foremost, is the ways in which the recent gun control debate, in the wake of the most recent mass shooting,s has used and played on the fears and misconceptions of mental illness to turn a group of people who are struggling with a medical condition into a nameless, faceless scapegoat for violence and fear. Although I will not dispute there are definite needs for “red flag” laws and other measures that keep guns out of the hands of those who might be mentally ill and have violent tendencies, to place the whole weight of the gun debate on the shoulders of those who are suffering from mental illness is not only wrong-headed, it is amoral. In my work with the disabled and those dealing with housing insecurity, I have the privilege of interacting with some lovely people who struggle with a variety of mental illness; everything from schizophrenia to depression. The vast majority of these folks are not violent, and are just people who are trying to make their own way in the world.

As Christians and people of faith, we should be working to straighten out the mental health and Medicaid systems so that medications and help can truly reach those who need it. This is the mental health issue that is most prevalent in this country. It has got nothing to do with guns, but the months and years of red tape that can stand between those who need treatment and the solutions they need. This is the thing we should be calling our congressmen about, instead of scapegoating the mentally ill.

The other aspect that rises to the surface for me today, is the prevalence of mental illness among our clergy. A survey done in 2017 showed that mental illness was double the national average. As people of faith, I call on you to slow down, open yourself up, and pay attention to the expectations and demands that we place on our religious leaders in today’s turbulent times. Reach out this Sunday, or whenever you go to worship next, and ask your clergyperson how they are doing. Above all, remember that just because someone is an advocate, does not mean they are not on their own journey. Often we have to silence ourselves, to be able to notice somebody else’s silent struggle. I would close by asking us to pray that we notice mental illness, not as something that marks someone as different or violent, but as an opportunity to help someone live their best life by journeying with them in compassion, gentleness, and grace. Thank y’all.

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Adventures in Medical Land

Adventures in Medical Land
by Justin Hancock

Hello friends,

What follows is going to be my way of verbally processing a recent experience and putting some questions out there, rather than having a definitive answer by the end. Last week I went for my yearly physical, which required me to take a bus through the DART Paratransit to be at my doctor’s office on time for my 9:30 AM appointment. The bus arrived at my house early, so I was on the bus and headed to the doctor by 8:05 or so. Now I feel that it’s important to know that I am not complaining about the bus being early specifically, rather I am just trying to indicate how the use of certain Medicaid related transportation services can commit someone to a very specific schedule and experience in their daily life.

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Faith and the Power Problem

Faith and the Power Problem
by Justin Hancock

As the Christian Church enters, shakily, into the second decade of the twenty-first century, we are facing what often seem like too many insurmountable challenges then we can mention. How will we, as people of faith, confront and minister to those who are victims of trauma and abuse at the hands of those who are suppose to be spiritual shepherds and guides? How will we interact with and speak into the increasing wealth disparity around the world? What will we have to say in terms of what love between two people should or shouldn’t be? How can human sexuality be fully and truly expressed?

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Why Don't You Believe Me?

Why Don’t You Believe Me?
by Justin Hancock

Hello friends. Yesterday, almost exactly 24 hours from when I am sitting down to write this, I was given a crystal clear example of how important people’s stories are. And how important it is that Christians, and indeed fellow humans, believe people’s stories when they care enough to interact with us and open up to getting to know another person. If you’ve read any of my previous blogs, you might know that I’ve been a long time customer of DART, or Dallas Rapid Area Transit, and their paratransit services. It is a door to door pick up service for those with disabilities.  

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A Christmas Message

Let me first say that I hope as you read this, you are anticipating a wonderful culmination of the Advent season in celebrating the joy of the birth of Christ with family and loved ones.

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A Theology of Fullness for All of God's People

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A Theology of Fullness for All of God's People

A Theology of Fullness for all of God’s People
By Rev. Justin Hancock

Last week, I had the privilege of traveling with my wife and our friend, Ryan Klinck, to just outside of Philadelphia to participate in the opening worship service of the Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference. The sermon theme was how we are all the body of Christ, according to 1 Corinthians 12. The Annual conference itself has a theme of including persons with disabilities in the leadership and greater life of the church.

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Advocates and Allies

Advocates and Allies
by
Rev. Justin Hancock

Hi friends. Just wanted to come to you today with a brief reflection on what the last month has
been for my wife and I in terms of dealing with my disability. Out of the blue, on a Saturday
morning in late April, I got an email saying that my Texas State Medicaid benefits were going to
be terminated as of June 1st. This came as a great shock to my wife and I, given that we sent
our yearly renewal paperwork in February and although nothing had changed from the past few
years, we had not heard anything for close to three months. Thanks to a case manager who is
on top of things and Lisa being on the phone for four hours with Medicaid, we discovered it was
an error in the local office.

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Vulnerability

Vulnerability
by Steven Taylor

Vulnerability…why does this word stir up anxiety among so many in society? Is it because vulnerability reveals too much of us? Or is it because we want others to accept the “mask” that we love to put on as we go out into the world?

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Community and Disability in Light of Easter

Community and Disability In Light of Easter
by Rev. Justin Hancock

Hello dear friends. I know it’s been a little while since Stephen and I have talked to you through Julian 360. Turns out that spring for ministers is super busy! I would just like to take a few moments to share some reflections on community in the context of disability in light of Easter.

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The Feast

Reflections on The Feast, a worship service with and by the special needs community
by Rev. Ramsey Patton

I currently serve as an associate pastor at Highland Park United Methodist Church (“Highland Park UMC”) in Dallas, Texas and have the great privilege of pastoring The Feast, a worship service with and by the special needs community (not for the special needs community).  The service seeks to include and empower in worship those who are often excluded and marginalized.  I thought it may be helpful for me to share my experience and some thoughts as an encouragement to other churches and faith communities which may be striving to create more intentionally inclusive worship. Read more

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Reflections on the Last Week

Reflections on the Last Week
by Rev. Justin Hancock

I’ve had some time to think lately about the state of disability civil rights and the place of the wider disability community within our current cultural landscape. I, like many disabled people, found myself reeling when on February 15th, House Resolution 620–a bill which severely curtails the effectiveness if not the protections of the Americans with Disabilities Act—passed the House, in a vote that included 12 democratic congress members.

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Call Shapes the Question

Call Shapes the Question
by Rev. Justin Hancock

I was recently blessed to be part of a panel discussion with both clergy and lay participants involving The United Methodist General Board of Higher Education and Ministry. The discussion revolved around what were the factors that encouraged and discouraged younger people, or really persons of any sort, from going into ordained ministry in this day and time. I brought to the discussion my experience as a man with Cerebral Palsy seeking ordination. Read more

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Why?

Why?
by Stephen Taylor

Why does the disability community constantly have to fight for basic rights?  After all, people with disabilities are people too!  We want access to recreation, jobs, living communities, education, restaurants, healthcare facilities, transportation, and faith communities.  Yet here we are in 2018 and we are still lacking access to much of what is considered basic rights. 

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Are We Invited?

Are We Invited?
by Stephen Taylor

A basic need for humanity is a sense of belonging to something, such as a family, a group, or even better, a community. Our faith communities are supposed to be a community that invites persons of all abilities and all ages to come and worship together. There is a Latin word, communitas, which means an unstructured community in which people are equal. I believe this is what church attempts to be, but fails, particularly for those within the disability community.

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The Curiosity of a Child

The Curiosity of a Child
by Rev. Justin Hancock

Over the last several months I have had the great pleasure of doing the children’s sermon every Sunday at Oaklawn UMC in Dallas.  Having the opportunity to interact on a weekly basis with kids has put me in mind once again of something that I have long considered.  To put it succinctly, I think the conversation around disability in the United States would be much further along if we allowed ourselves to approach disabilities the way that children do. 

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Faith and Woundedness

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Faith and Woundedness

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about harm inflicted on persons with disabilities and their families by Christians, be they lay people or ordained church leaders. That such harm is done, that persons within the disability community carry such wounds, may come as a surprise to some.

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No More Waiting Under Fig Trees

As I sit here in the early part of this new year, 2018, I am reminded of a passage that came up during my daily prayer this past Friday. I pray with the British Jesuit and their wonderful podcast, Pray as You Go. The liturgy for Friday morning included the story of Nathaniel meeting Jesus for the first time wherein Jesus says, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” Nathaniel then asks Jesus, “how do you know me?” and Jesus says, of course, rather nonchalantly, “I saw you under the fig tree.” 

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Viewing Disability from God's Perspective

Viewing Disability from God's Perspective

Some people choose to see disability as broken or damaged, as a challenge or hindrance, or maybe even as a glitch in the genetic makeup. I choose to look at disability the way God sees it. Not as a disability, but as a gift. If not a gift for the person with the disability, a gift for the people around that person. God does not make mistakes in creating life, as shown in one of my favorite stories in John, when Jesus comes upon the blind man and strikes down the typical way of thinking about a person with a “disability.”

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Things I am Learning...Part II

Things I am learning….Part II
by Rev. Ramsey Patton

So for part two of things I am learning from being in ministry with The Feast community, I would like to share some of my thoughts on grace.  (I shared these reflections in paperwork I recently submitted to the Board of Ordained Ministry of the North Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.)

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Things I am Learning...Part I

Things I am learning….Part I
by Rev. Ramsey Patton

It is a privilege to have been asked by Rev. Justin Hancock to contribute to this blog.  I currently serve on staff at Highland Park United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas as the Director of Caring Ministries and as an associate pastor.  A large part of my role involves overseeing our special needs ministry and leading a worship service with the special needs community called “The Feast.”  The name of the service was inspired by Christ’s heavenly feast, to which all are invited and included.  The worship service is all about empowerment and worship with and by those with special needs (as opposed to a worship service for those with special needs).  Individuals with special needs lead worship each Sunday by reading scripture, praying, singing, signing, passing the offering plates, and serving communion. 

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