Presence to Participation: The Spirit is Not Disabled
Webinar 2 (Feb. 10, 2022): How Inclusion Glorifies God
This webinar will feature a presentation from Dan Vander Plaats, Director of Advancement, Marketing and Communications, Elim Christian Services (Crestwood, Illinois, USA) entitled: How Inclusion Glorifies God. It will explore how in order for the church to be the church, people with disabilities must be included.
It will also feature a lived experience discussion from Karen Puddicombe, Pastor and CFS Director at the Salvation Army Burlington Community Church and Family Services in Burlington, Ontario, Canada.
Featured this week:
Dan Vander Plaats – Director of Advancement, Marketing, and Communications Elim Christian Services (Crestwood, Illinois, USA)
Dan was born with a developmental disability that manifests as a speech disorder. Dan has served on the advisory committee for a bi-denominational Disability Concerns ministry since 2008. In 2009 he developed “The 5 Stages: Changing Attitudes” to help churches and individuals assess and change their attitudes toward people with disabilities, and he’s the author of Changing Attitudes about Disability and an editor of Everybody Belongs, Everybody Serves (also known as The Inclusion Handbook).
Presentation: How Inclusion Glorifies God
Karen Puddicombe – Executive Director Salvation Army Burlington Community Church and Family Services (Burlington, Ontario, Canada)
Karen has been married to Mike since 1987 and together they have ministered in Victoria and Richmond, BC; Yellowknife, NWT; St. Albert, AB; Niagara Falls, Thunder Bay, Orangeville, and Burlington, Ontario. Karen has a passion for justice issues and is currently the Chairperson of the Ethics and Social Issues Committee for The Salvation Army Canada & Bermuda Territory. She is a talented musician and gifted worship leader and is responsible for the content of the Sunday morning worship experience.
Karen will be sharing her own lived experience with disability.
Please read Psalm 8John 5: 1 - 18
It has probably happened today, right where you live. People walk past individuals who are invisible to those rushing by, unseen and unheard. Intentional or not, persons made in God’s image are ignored, overlooked, and dismissed.
Jerusalem was the location for a major festival of the Jews. The temple was the central place of power and Jewish religion. People poured into the city from outlying districts. There would be constant traffic in and out of the temple. Close to the temple were five porticoes, according to John’s account in chapter 5 of his gospel. In them lay many people – blind, lame, and paralyzed – vulnerable people. Dealing with various disabilities, these folks were likely poor, unable to work and provide for themselves. They wouldn’t have been able to participate in the festival activities because they were considered “unclean.” So, there they were, present yet unseen; close to the centre of religious activity and power, yet not invited to participate.
Among that crowd was a man, ill for 38 years, seemingly without a support system. Then something amazing happens. “Jesus saw him lying there.”(verse 6) Jesus initiates a conversation with him. Note that Jesus doesn’t assume what the man wants. He doesn’t take over his decision-making. Rather he asks, offering dignity of choice in the process. The result is a healed man, once again able to walk. Because Jesus saw him and became present to this man, his life was transformed. The man didn’t know who Jesus was. He didn’t even know his name. But because Jesus saw him and was willing to get involved in his life, real change was possible.
All of us, all vulnerable in our own ways, all with our abilities and disabilities, can help to build a better world as we move from presence to participation.
The story doesn’t end there. Later that day, searching the crowd in the Temple, Jesus found the man again and initiated a second encounter. As a result, the man became aware of who Jesus was. We don’t know what difference this made in the man’s life. But there he was, not only present in the Temple but participating in the festival of the Jews. From an invisible person lying outside of all the religious activity, he was present and participating, all because Jesus saw him and offered interaction leading to the man’s healing.
This story offers a concrete model for us. To be a transforming influence in the lives of people, we must walk around with eyes wide open, willing to see, really see people and situations. We can do this as individuals or in our ministry units as we plan our outreach. What persons or groups of people do we see? How can we create opportunities to initiative conversations to find out ways we can participate in their lives so they might flourish? All of us, all vulnerable in our own ways, all with our abilities and disabilities, can help to build a better world as we move from presence to participation. We can do this because Jesus has seen US and invited us to be part of his transforming vision for God’s world.