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.
Over the past two and a half years of being in ministry with The Feast community, I have learned a lot (and am learning all of the time!). For this blog post and one later this week, I would like to share some of my thoughts regarding what I have learned from a theological standpoint. (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.)
So first, some thoughts on humanity…
All humans are made in the image of God. Through my work with the special needs community, it has become more evident that being made in the image of God isn’t about perfection, physical appearance, capabilities/abilities, or any measure of worth that this world offers or expects. Rather, being made in the image of God means that every single one of us bears God’s divine image in our souls. We all come from God, we are all children of God, and we are all loved by God no matter how broken or “disabled” we may be. No one life is more or less valuable, beautiful, useful, or worthy. Every life is sacred.
As I ponder these truths, I wonder how we, as individuals and as the body of Christ, can more fully embrace and embody these truths in our daily lives and encourage others to understand and embrace them? What would this transformation look like in the world? How can people like myself, considered “able-bodied” by the majority of society, become better advocates for those considered “disabled”?