Does everybody belong in church?

Does everybody belong in church?

An image of a woman praying Faith Today - January/February 2018

Think of a time when you didn’t fit in. A time when you were on the outside looking in. Perhaps a time when your gifts were not recognized or appreciated. Maybe you encountered circumstances beyond your control that blocked your participation. Now think of a time you felt included, accepted and loved for who you are. The longing to belong is universal.

It’s a world of difference

You can make a meaningful difference in the life of someone in your community today. Did you know one in seven Canadians 15 or older has a disability that affects daily activity in some way? That’s 3.8 million Canadians and their families with gifts and abilities to contribute to our churches and society. Unintentional barriers often exist in our communities. With these barriers removed people with disabilities can now access the building, form strong friendships, and actively contribute their gifts in recognized roles in community life.

As we read the Bible, we learn welcoming people with disabilities and their families is important. In his wellknown passage on being the Body of Christ, the Apostle Paul implores us:

In fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as He wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don’t need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don’t need you!" On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable… (1 Corinthians 12:19–23, niv)

Every body is to be welcomed into the Body of Christ, and those "who seem to be weaker" in society are absolutely indispensable to the Church’s flourishing. For a church to welcome everybody, additional effort may be required to remove physical, communication, or attitudinal barriers that keep people with disabilities from experiencing belonging.

Theologian John Swinton writes:

Within Jesus’ body diversity has become the new norm, and living faithfully in the midst of diversity is the expected way of being in the world. As people are baptized into the body of Christ, so they enter into a space of deep and radical belonging. Within the body of Christ, every body has a place, and every body is recognized as a disciple with a call from Jesus and a vocation that the church needs if it is truly to be the body of Jesus (Becoming Friends of Time, Baylor, 2016).

At Christian Horizons we desire to come alongside you in being a place of belonging with people of all abilities. You can start by taking one Sunday within the next year to celebrate the gifts and contributions of people with disabilities in your congregation. We’ve made it simple by putting together a Service Planning Guide, a prewritten sermon, and helpful videos and resources to equip you in making this Sunday a success. Accessibility doesn’t stop there, so we also feature videos, tools, and resources that will empower you to take this from a one-day focus to an everyday experience for your community.

Check out our website today and pick a day to celebrate EveryBody Belongs as part of your church year. We can’t wait to partner with you.