For the last few days, I have found myself in Cleveland – the land of Guardians, Browns, and Howard the Duck – to talk about inclusion in the small church. Along the way, I’ve met with parents, advocates, and others who have a passion for the church thrive at welcoming people with disabilities.
There is the father who advocates for a calming spirit. There is the dad who champions the cause of fathers. There is the mother who is passionate about volunteer recruitment. The list could go on. There is a blessing to see, meet, and be encouraged by so many on this journey together.
My heart also sank in hearing the stories of individuals who have seen their passion broken by the hardened hearts of stubborn church people. A mother expressed being at the end of her rope trying to get her church to pay attention. There was another mother who was concerned that advocating for her child would be too much for her church.
I can relate to both sides of these stories. I know the energy that comes from living out your passion for advocating for others. I know the heartache of seeing the church ignore the very people who are often the most excluded from our congregations.
Yet, I year for the church to try.
To try to have empathy for those who are excluded and to hear their stories.
To try to make room for people on the margins by listening to what is needed to make accommodations for them and putting those practices into place.
To try to let go of misunderstandings and misguided perspectives that do more harm than good.
To try to see that person who is struggling, that parent who advocates, that volunteer who has a passion for the least of these as children of God and people of worth.
Effort must meet passion when it comes to disability inclusion in the local church. Where effort is most lacking is from churches who recognize that it needs to make an effort towards inclusion and yet are often unsure how to get things started or worried it would take away from others.
What harm would it do to try?
Sure, you may fail a time or two. How many of us fell off our bikes a dozen times before learning how to ride without falling? Failure is often necessary to learn and grow.
My desire is to see the church hear the passion of parents and advocates who are banging on the locked doors of their church to let them in. They want to worship God. They want to celebrate at the table of grace with others who desire to grow in Christ’s love. We must remember Christ welcomes the least of these to the table, even when we struggle to have a seat ready for them.
So, what are you waiting for? Just try.