Faith, Hope and Inclusion: Believing Together is the thought provoking name of an event that Heritage Christian Services sponsored through funding from New York State’s Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD).
When we started to plan this community building educational outreach to local clergy and caregivers we struggled with what to call it. We did not want to use the word disabled, or any of its derivatives, in the title because we believe that relationships and community are outside of the confines of disability or impairment. As our planning team talked about the word inclusion one of the ideals of inclusion that we kept returning to is that included people are honored, valued and loved people. Faith Hope and Inclusion grew from the New Testament words: Now abides these three things- faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love.
Faith. No one is excluded from having faith. People with disabilities have the capacity to express deep faith: faith in God, faith in God’s unconditional acceptance, faith in their ability to contribute and make a difference, faith to belong in a community of believers.
Hope. Hope is deeper than an optimistic outlook; it is the belief that the God of love is present and at work in creation. Hope steers the human heart. Hope gets us up and out of bed in the morning. No person is excluded from having hope.
Inclusion. Belonging… being seen as part of all, every, everyone, everybody and the world. An included person is valued and is missed when she or he is not there. An included person is a loved person.
Believing Together. By definition a community is more than one person united by a common belief, interest or activity. A faith community is united by a common spiritual or belief system. It is expected that the members of a community work together to strengthen their community; relationship and respect, including and encouraging, differences and dignity flourish in healthy communities. When people with disabilities are included in communities of people who are believing together the community is strengthened.
Faith, Hope and Inclusion: Believing Together. Together we will learn who, what, when, where, why and how to include people with disabilities and those who love them in our communities of faith and beyond.