I Have to go to My Church

We are delighted to welcome a guest to share a part of her journey where the intersection of ability and faith really hit home with her. Mary Lynn is the mother of an adult son with developmental disabilities. When she was invited to share a story about faith community and hospitality she related a story about the deep connection that her son (who lives in a group home) has developed with his church:

It still brings a smile to my face when I think of it. Mother’s Day was coming and I was talking to my son, David, about spending the weekend at my house. He seemed to be thinking it over, which had me puzzled. Finally, in spite of a serious speech impediment, he managed to tell me, “I have to go to my church, not Mama’s church, my church St. Paul’s.” Of course I agreed. The Pastor at his church had a sister with Down’s Syndrome. He and his staff, as well as many of the parishioners, are very welcoming and inclusive with David and his friends. It is truly the love of Christ in action.

When God’s Children are in Need: Hospitality

When God’s children are in need, be the one to help them out. And get into the habit of inviting guests home for dinner or, if they need lodging, for the night. Romans 12:13 NLT

Over the last few decades our culture has become increasingly isolationistic. Many people are uncomfortable saying hello to strangers; few people establish and maintain eye contact with others; eyes and minds are buried in smart phones and other mobile screens and most are not acquainted with their own neighbors. If you would like to be an agent of change in this area don’t lament the fact that it may be true for you and wallow in guilt. Trust God and choose to act upon this wonderful passage that reminds us to step outside our comfort zones and overcome cultural influence to actually meet the real needs of people we meet. We are encouraged to be on the lookout for those who have need of physical sustenance in the form of food or shelter. They could be fellow believers, neighbors or strangers that God has brought into our lives for no other apparent reason.

As Christ followers we are called to reflect His love in the world. The act of hospitality is a tangible way for us to mirror that love. In His earthly ministry Jesus showed His love for others by often meeting their needs when those needs were presented to Him. He gave sight to the blind, gave the ability to walk to the lame, healed the sick and fed the five thousand, just to name a few. But our ultimate need, to be reconciled to God, was met by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. The need for that sacrifice was determined before the foundation of the world. He willingly gave His life to meet our need for a Savior. This gives us the opportunity, if we believe upon His name, to have a right relationship to our Creator.

So yes, for us to be hospitable some sacrifice of time and resources will be required as we reflect the love of Christ by meeting physical needs for food or shelter. Such a small price to pay compared to the joy one will receive when one helps a fellow human being in need. Develop the habit of ministering to other people and you will be blessed beyond measure.

Contributed by Larry Havlen, Spiritual Life Coordinator, Heritage Christian Services

Faith, Hope and Inclusion

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.

Welcome to AbleFaith

Welcome to AbleFaith, a growing community of people exploring the intersection of faith and disability. Much of what is written here is from a Judeo-Christian point of view as that is our frame of reference. However, all faiths are invited into this community of AbleFaith.

We believe that each person is fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). We believe that each person is created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). We believe that each person is loved by God (John 3:16). We believe that each person has the ability to develop a relationship with God (Romans 10:9-13). We believe that each person has gifts and talents given by God (1 Corinthians 12:4-7). We believe that each person desires to connect with a community of faith as fellow members of the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-27). These beliefs shape the manner in which we seek to journey with people as they explore life, spirituality and faith.

The community of AbleFaith exists to journey with each other. Whether you are an individual with a disability, or connected to someone with a disability as a family member, friend, neighbor, clergy, employer or paid caregiver we are learning and growing together concerning what it means to believe, belong, become.