Disability has been a feature of my life. Not due to any disability I may have, but people close to me. I have watched as places are hard to access; been the ears for someone who struggles to hear; been the opener of things for someone with limited dexterity. I know this is not the same as living with a disability, but I am so aware that churches often aren’t as inclusive as they could and should be.
Reading “Pilgrims in the Dark” has challenged and inspired me. It made me angry at the way the authors (Katie Tupling, Dave Lucas and Bill Braviner, with a little help from guide dog Jarvis) have been treated by the church. Each one of them is a devoted Christian, living with disability. Using theology, deep bible reading and honest personal accounts, I was taken on a journey of hope. Hope that the church (and by that I mean the whole Body of Christ, not a particular denomination or individual church) can be a place which sets the example of the kingdom of God. When all are accepted as God’s loved children, irrespective of their ability.
I was in awe of the authors for staying with the institutional church, despite some of what they have experienced. Not being able to access church buildings because there wasn’t a ramp; being told to not come back to a service of healing; being told where to sit; the list could go on.
The theology is much the authors’ own reflection, as there isn’t much disability theology out there. That which does exists is by non-disabled people writing about disability from a very abstract point-of-view. Why is this the case? I don’t have the answers, save to quote “nothing about us without us is for us.” The church needs to up its game in terms of inclusion. That means EVERYONE. Irrespective of ability.
For the church is a pilgrim people. Often I know I feel I am in the dark, but in reading this book I can see a light. The light of hope, in the words of those who live in hope from Christ where church has, too often let them down. The church, in doing so, is diminished in what it should be for God’s kingdom and the world.
The authors form part of Disability and Jesus. Join with them, engage with them, journey with them as fellow pilgrims on the way.