Presence to Participation: The Spirit is Not Disabled
Webinar 1 (Feb. 3 2022): No Weaker Parts: Everybody is Indispensable
A casual conversation with Mark Stephenson and Cara Milne on supporting faith communities who want to be welcoming communities to all people, with and without disabilities. The first webinar will also feature a lived experience discussion from Major Christine Johnston, Spiritual & Religious Care Director at The Salvation Army Broadview Village. She will share her own lived experience with neurodiversity, Attention Deficit and anxiety in a presentation entitled: “The Making of Me. How an evolving understanding of myself, others and God made me who I am.”
Featured this week:
Rev. Mark Stephenson
Mark served as Director of Disability Concerns for the Christian Reformed denomination for over 15 years before his retirement from that ministry at the end of 2021. He and his wife Bev have 5 living children, including their oldest, Nicole, who lives joyfully with severe multiple disabilities.
Cara Milne of M-Powered Planning Ltd.
Cara Milne is the owner of M-Powered Planning Ltd, an award-winning business that has been promoting positive and valuable roles for people who are vulnerable for over 18 years. Cara provides training and consulting that is innovative and practical for both agencies and families. Cara’s books and training seminars encourage staff and families to see the strengths of their existing services, and simple strategies that create positive changes in the lives of children and adults with developmental disabilities.
Major Christine Johnston
Major Christine Johnston, Spiritual & Religious Care Director at The Salvation Army Broadview Village will also be sharing her own lived experience with Neurodiversity, Attention Deficit and anxiety through her presentation: “The Making of Me. How and evolving understanding of myself, others and God made me who I am.”
Please read Psalm 8
Does it happen with you as well…that a question intrudes itself into a service of worship? That in the midst of our praises of God, our thanks to God, our repentance before God, there emerges an important question? This is the experience of the psalmist in the 8th Psalm. Notice that this Psalm begins and ends with the same conviction: “O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” Exclamation mark! The Psalm is bookended with confident praise. And yet within this forceful conviction a question intrudes: “What are human beings that you are mindful of them, that you care for them?” The psalmist names God, but finds it difficult to name human beings. What does the Lord our Sovereign have to do with different races, different genders, different abilities and disabilities? And yet this Psalm voices the conviction that the Lord, our Sovereign, is mindful of all and cares for all.
We know too well the tragedies that take place when our world makes distinctions of worth, of importance, of human dignity. Some races are put at the pinnacle of the human story; other races are considered less than human, designed to serve the rest. Some genders are considered less important, even unacceptable, and so excluded from the human family. Some children are born with limbs and minds that don’t function like the others and find themselves stigmatized; some first responders experience trauma and its wounds disable them from service; some teens are abused by trusted coaches and guardians and unable to compete as they used to. What are all human beings—children, teens, adults—that you are mindful of them, that you care for them, Sovereign Lord?
What are human beings that you are mindful of them?
And yet we do believe that this Sovereign Lord cares for all. As we pay attention to the whole story of God’s mindful care we visualize the One who embodied God’s care. We watch Jesus touch those with disfigured bodies; we listen to him forgive a man whose paralyzed body cries for help; we hear him call a woman with a bent back a “daughter of Abraham”; and we watch him save one whose tormented mind forced him to live among the tombs. Jesus is mindful of all, cares for all. And because of this we understand more fully the Sovereign Lord’s response to the psalmist’s question.
We are creatures made in God’s image, valued by God, loved by God. All of us! All races; all genders; all abilities and disabilities. As a mark of this care, the Sovereign Lord has given a vocation to care for the works of His hands. We do this in different ways, but we do it. And the more vulnerable among us are included in this vocation. So it happens…that parents learn to love through their mentally disabled child; that courage is given deeper meaning as we watch a blind teen make her way to school; that dignity is made real through a veteran who has lost limbs and mind in combat. “O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is Your name in all the earth!” Amen!!