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Recently, a fellow ministry worker was sharing with me some of the new things she was doing in her very traditional church. One of those new things included helping a bunch of very cool adults (I have met them, they are a fun bunch) with intellectual disabilities participate in the sacrament of communion. She was sharing some of the staff and volunteers concerns.
Can they really take communion?
Yes, they understand what it is to be in relationship with Jesus.
Do they understand the significance of the sacrament?
Yes, they have been taught and we have practiced in our classroom?
What if…something goes wrong?
I snickered and stated something may go wrong. Then my mind drifted…

I over the years I have worshiped in places where it was customary to move out of the pew and move toward taking the elements. As a child, the small white wafer was placed on the tongue and I swallowed the wafer, and there was never an issue. But because, of safety, a wafer is now often placed in ones hand. This can often bring me to a place of dread, will I be steady enough to pick the wafer or bread up, will I drop it…. What will happen…and the juice… Over the years, I may have worn more juice then swallowed it.

Because of my hand coordination my preferred method is intinction, a method where the bread is dipped in the juice or wine. Because it is bread, so the pieces are normally larger and I have better control over these things. But oh…those small little cups, that are often over filled. I see the tray coming and I want to run or hide, or have the cups pass me by…I have dropped full trays…and have left places of worship with red stains on my clothing, feeling mortified, ashamed and left out of one of the most important traditions we have as Christians! I have had better meaning people point out the stains on my clothing, bringing more embarrassment. I have cried on many occasions, feeling it was so unfair this beautiful sacrament, had been marred because of my physical limits…

I began to tell my colleague about spilling and her very quick wonderful reaction was the blood of the Lamb washed you. My perception…of all of those spills changed with that phrase…for I am glad I am made clean by Jesus blood…. And with that I will go boldly to the communion table in the future. Do you come to the table boldly!

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It’s holiday time. Many of us are beginning to think about the preparation that needs to happen to make the holidays memorable for our family and friends. Often during the holidays I will host a few large gatherings. Some people ask, how do you bring so many people into your home, are you not overwhelmed. The years I am able to plan and think through the details, I consider it a great joy and honor to have people in my home. I always didn’t do big gatherings; I would host family members and slowly added friends!

Disability ministry needs to be looked at in the same manner. We do not need to have huge gatherings and huge programs, but we do need to plan for individuals who may come through the door. Each family or individual with disabilities has specific needs that most likely someone in a congregation can meet. Sometimes, we will make mistakes, but we are called to serve and love the folks God sets before us.

So, dust of the center leaf for your table, and invite a few more guests to join you during the holiday season. Who knows they may become a part of your church family!

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Through the roof

Most people who have studied the gospels of Jesus are aware of the man who was lowered through the roof to see Jesus. Over the years this story has become a personal favorite. The Message says:

After a few days, Jesus returned to Capernaum, and word got around that he was back home. A crowd gathered, jamming the entrance so no one could get in or out. He was teaching the Word. They brought a paraplegic to him, carried by four men. When they weren’t able to get in because of the crowd, they removed part of the roof and lowered the paraplegic on his stretcher. Impressed by their bold belief, Jesus said to the paraplegic, “Son, I forgive your sins.” Mark 2: 1-5

This story is a great reminder that as believers we need to be intentional about removing barriers so people can have access to a relationship. Many churches are willing to make modifications to the physical building, but do not take the same posture when working to enfold persons with disabilities into church community. The story is about four people being intentional, to bring a man who by societal standards would have been shunned. Like many of us, this man needed help in order to be introduced to Jesus. Some of us have huge obstacles to overcome before we have an encounter with the one true living God, this man had the obstacle of being a paralytic and a barrier of large crowds between him and Jesus, yet, none of this was a deterrent. Instead, they were bold and willing to take a risk, they raised him down through the roof. It was not just the man’s faith Jesus was impressed with, this passage tells us Jesus was impressed with their faith.

Bringing people with disabilities into the life of the church does take intentionality, it does take others to advocate for them and their families. So what stops your church from including people who may different then you? How do you create space at the table for all?

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