Corey Parish (Tyndale)
I am Corey, and I am Here: Rediscovering ‘Place’ in Disruptive Seasons
Abstract:In the latter half of 2022, I experienced a season of disruption in my life as many of the relationships, routines, and physical environments I was accustomed to suddenly changed amid an unforeseen transition in my career as a pastor. At the same time, I was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and found myself navigating these changes within a new framework of neurodiversity. This season presented me with a unique opportunity to examine my life and discern aspects of spiritual formation pertinent to seasons of disruption through a personal lens of neurodiversity. I conducted research using documentary reviews, journal analyses, and personal interviews to better understand my experience of transition and ASD. I composed an autoethnography describing my discoveries and suggesting pathways for nurturing faith in neurodiverse people, especially as they experience disruption in their lives. Specifically, I explore the role of ‘place’ in my life as the context where relationships, routines, and physical environments intersect and contribute to my development, spiritual formation, and overall sense of identity. I describe how ‘place’ is essential for faith formation in seasons of disruption, especially for neurodiverse people who draw on predictability in their environments as a stabilizing factor in their lives. Finally, I suggest how a renewed appreciation for ‘place’ in our faith communities is a step towards justice and inclusion for neurodiverse people. I will offer an overview of my research with practical suggestions for reimagining the role of ‘place’ in faith communities as a step towards creative justice for neurodiverse individuals.
Dr. Michael Morelli (North West Seminary, B.C.)
Stillness and knowing, fear and trembling, groans too deep for words, and tongues of fire: re-imagining discipleship with help from people called ‘disabled’
Abstract: It is wonderful the scripture verses alluded to in the title of this essay are familiar to and cherished by many Christians, but it is problematic that such texts tend to be interpreted, preached, and performed in ableist ways. Captivity to ableism causes people to miss the ways in which reading texts like these with the phenomenon of ‘disability’ in view can reveal potent truths for the Christian life, the Body of Christ, and the practices of discipleship integral to the health of both. In this essay I combine stories of relationship with people called ‘disabled’ with a ‘dis-ableist’ reading of these scriptures passages to inspire a re-imagining of discipleship that articulates a truth worth interpreting, preaching, and performing in the church. People called ‘disabled’ can de/reconstruct the ways in which most Christians and churches think about and practice discipleship—and for the better. As this essay unfolds, the de/reconstruction to which I am referring here is described as a con/inversion that happens over time as people who are ‘not disabled’ live in relationship with people who ‘are disabled.’ Over time, and with eyes to see and ears to hear given by a present, active, and loving God, the person who is ‘not disabled’ discovers that the care and discipleship they are offering to the person who ‘is disabled’ is being returned. Life-, church-, and world-changing conversions happen whenever this kind of inversion is experienced because they provoke a dismantling of ableist hierarchies that place one individual in the position of caring and discipling subject and the ‘other’ individual in the position of cared for and discipled object. Here, new, better ways of discipleship and care emerge as people in and outside the church discover what disciple really looks like: constantly being the recipient and giver of care, not only from and to other people, but from and to God.
Rev. Steve Dykstra (New Hope Church, Hamilton)
Liturgies of Inclusion — Structuring Worship to Welcome the Marginalized
Abstract: I pastor New Hope Church in Hamilton, a small congregation made up of rich and poor members, all living and working in East Hamilton. Our church has sought to include those living on the margins, and have made some intentional adaptations to the structure of our Sunday gatherings in order to be as welcoming as possible. Over the last ten years, a few non-traditional elements of have taken a particular liturgical significance in our worship services. These include: coffee service, seating arrangements, and passing a microphone to take prayer requests. Each of them are an essential part of our liturgy, and speak to a rich theological truth in a correlate way to, for example, the positioning of the Lord’s Supper Table or the role of the narthex in a more traditional service. Without downplaying other elements, the ‘pinnacle’ of a typical New Hope church service is the passing of a microphone to take prayer requests. The symbolism of this act is rich; it proclaims our equality in Christ, and our commitment to give voice to those in our community who are marginalized. It strengthens our resolve to ‘weep with those who are weeping and rejoice with those who are rejoicing’, and builds unity in the body of Christ.
Becky Jones (Christian Reformed Church of North America)
Imago Dei Belongs in Community
Abstract: As I listened and learned from friends within the disability community about their connection to church, often noting their feelings of being rejected or less than, what I heard repeated over and over was the fact that Bible narratives, read through the lens of ableism, have perpetuated harm for them. When Bible stories are told, often the focus is on how a disability has been cured – thus leading to a negative narrative for a person with a disability that their body needs fixing. Is this actually what the Bible is saying? Have we as a society, seeped in ableist perspectives, simplified stories in a negative way? Can we re-vision Bible stories to focus on the holistic healing that took place through Jesus rather than focus only on the curative narrative that we often focus on instead? What about the concept of Imago Dei – can re-visioning the scene from each of the four healing narratives allow us to expand our understanding of the term from a disability justice lens so that, as disability advocate and author Amy Kenny suggests, we “recognize the Imago Dei in every body-mind, regardless of the ability, aptitude, and appearance” (p. 62). How do we come together as a community to recognize the Imago Dei in each other? Along with a paper written on the topic, 4 art panels have been created, re-visioning the typical imagery of healing natatives to re-vision these stories for the reader, focusing on building community and supporting each other, recognizing the beauty of Imago Dei in each one of us.