The Cold Reality of our Churches
by Stephen Taylor
On any given Sunday, churches roll out the red carpet, welcoming anyone and everyone to come inside. This scenario is replayed by churches across all denominations. They welcome all individuals, but once they are inside the church, families are segregated into their respective spaces: parents attend church in the sanctuary; teens head to student life; kids head to children’s ministry; and, lastly, individuals with disabilities—particularly children with disabilities—are sent to an entirely different area. Here, the church is dumbfounded about what to do—if an individual does not look like me or act like me, then what are we supposed to do? Parents come to church looking for community, but instead their children are treated just like they are in the rest of society—separated from everyone else. Judith Snow writes, “It is my fundamental belief that no true, lasting community can be without the gifts of people vulnerable to exclusion.” 1 In these situations, churches struggle with resolutions because they lack the knowledge and tools to rectify the problem. If, however, a church did have the tools, then it might become more willing to accommodate children with disabilities and implement practices that would provide the church with a way to offer a message to enable persons of all abilities to hear the message and see the message in action. The result would be a church that builds community and breaks down the barriers of isolation for people with disabilities.
According the United States Census Bureau, there are more than 55 million people with a
disability, and more than half of them have a severe disability. What are our faith communities
doing to welcome the disability community? Unfortunately, the reality is that most communities
would rather that persons with disabilities be invisible and not see the gifts that these people
possess. At some point, we must recognize that people with disabilities desire community, and this cannot be done by excluding them from society. Faith communities need to take the lead as an example of welcoming and fully including the disability community.
1 Judith Snow, What’s Really Worth Doing and How to Do It: A Book for People Who Love Someone Labeled Disabled (Possibly Yourself). (Toronto: Inclusion Press, 1990), 158.