By Stephanie Evelyn McKellar and Justin Hancock
“Every valley will be raised up, and every mountain and hill will be flattened. Uneven ground will become level, and rough terrain a valley plain.” - Isaiah 40:4
Imagine a table with a certain number of chairs.
What type of embodiments are envisioned here? Beyond the door frames being accessible, beyond a ramp situation being available, does the table allow a diversity of embodiments to approach and find welcome? Are there hurdles and obstacles for alternative embodiments to cross/scale/overcome?
Beyond inclusion: what would a table focused on integration of all embodiments look like? Instead of merely adapting the space, what if universality of diverse embodiment was preferred and prioritized?
Our humanity and experience of the Imago Dei (image of God) is incomplete without the diversity of other embodiments. No matter your ability or mine, your lens or mine, your embodiment or mine, our unique human existence has something to contribute to the whole, something about who God is and the kin-dom of heaven among us. This changes our view from “a person has a problem to fix” to being a person to embrace and receive. It teaches us to receive grace for our struggles and shortcomings, and teaches us to embrace a wider view of goodness and beauty in the world.
Yes, inclusion can mean to widen the table. But we can do better; we can reconsider the table from the diversity of perspectives who may wish to arrive to it. We may not only need chairs, we may need empty spaces, different heights of spaces, different tools at the spaces, so that all may have access to their full identity, their full voice, their full beautiful radiant beloved humanity. Integration means not just sharing a seat that has been designed for one embodiment, but sharing creative power of what it means to be “seated” at this table. Sometimes true mutuality requires us not to make room for other postures, but to physically take the posture of another, so that we can indicate our vulnerability and our welcome to them.
At the Missional Wisdom Foundation, The Julian Way and Improv Theology have been intentionally intersecting the wisdom of disability culture with the wisdom of improv. The oft-experienced “no” of those differently-abled interacting with improv comedy’s “yes, and” provides an extraordinary experiment to explore new capacities of abundance in community.
Open an improv game of supporting everyone’s contribution and voice, bring in various abilities, and you find that the postures and somatic practices of “yes, and” create more reception and honor of every single person’s unique contribution: each person experiences being valued and celebrated. Not only do you hear “yes!” from everyone, but they receive your idea and build with it! Beyond inclusion, everyone gets to experience being integrated, in a way that cherishes exactly who they are; the shape of their being gets to be exactly the kind of place into which they are able to enter. When we minister with an open hand towards each other, it encourages my ideas and gifts to flow towards you, while also encouraging you to open your hand to me, which allows both of our gifts and graces to flow. Then, neither dominates the other, allowing both of our gifts to compliment each other. Partnering with open hands benefits all parties.
As we sit around the table after our improv workshops, we share laughter, food, ideas for future workshops, and wisdom. Together, from our diversity of embodiments, lenses, and life experiences, we have co-created something playful, abundant, and deeply heavenly. For when each of us is welcomed in our diversity of who God created us to be, it is truly Christ’s table at which we sit.