October 9, 2011: Temporarily Abled Persons?

Posted on : Oct 6th, 2011 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

This summer while attending the General Synod of the United Church of Christ (the national setting of the UCC), I heard a term I had not ever heard before and it caused me to think deeply about my life and my (current) position of privilege.  That term is “Temporarily Abled Person.”  The context in which this term was used made it all the more disturbing: it was a presentation on one of the UCC’s four commitments to inclusion in ministry called “Accessible to All,” sometimes shortened to “A2A.”

“Accessible to All” is one of four commitments to the full inclusion and valuing of persons in the UCC.  It means the UCC is Accessible to All persons, especially those with physical or mental disabilities.

One of the things I have noticed about the UCC is that when the UCC makes a commitment to be inclusive, they “live it out.”  There are four intentional commitments the UCC has made to be inclusive.  They include “A2A” (Accessible to All), Just Peace (which means they are a church that proclaims Justice as the way to Peace), “ONA” (Open and Affirming of GLBT persons) and “M&M” (Multicultural and Multiracial).  At every setting of the UCC I have experienced each of these intentional commitments of inclusion.  The UCC is very multicultural and multiracial.  And not just in token ways.  The national staff is intentionally racially and culturally diverse.  The General Minister and President of the UCC is The Rev. Geoffrey Black, and he is black, an African American.  The Rev. M. Linda Jaramillo is Executive Minister of Justice and Witness Ministries, and she is Latino.  And this year, The Rev. Ben Guess was elected the Executive Minister of Local Church Ministries, and with great pride and honor, he was elected as the first gay man to head one of the four Covenanted Ministries of the UCC.  And his partner was on stage with him, just as the heterosexual couples’ partners were honored.  Likewise, the “T” of GLBT is not just for political correctness.  Every survey of the UCC, including the registration web site for General Synod, offers 5 gender choices:  female, male, transgender (female to male), transgender (male to female) or other.  This is really practicing or living out their commitment to inclusion.  So, not surprisingly, at General Synod there were far more disabled persons than I had ever experienced.  There were more wheelchairs and motor scooters than I have ever seen in a public gathering.  As I engaged in conversation with some of the disabled persons whom I met, I heard from them the same thing that so many of us seek.  They said, “The UCC is the only church where I have ever felt truly valued and included.  It’s not just talk, it is full inclusion.  Equal partners at the Table of Christ.”

But then came the part that I wasn’t expecting.  It was the use of this phrase, “Temporarily Abled Person.”  As one person said, “Chances are real good if you live long enough, you are going to be one of us.  You’re going to be disabled.”

I had never really thought about that, but it’s true.  Most of us will likely become disabled as we age.  We’ll lose mobility, or our eyesight or our hearing or our memory, or who knows what else.  I had never really thought of myself as “temporarily abled.”  For me, that brought about a new sensitivity and understanding of what it means to be disabled, as well as the need for disabled persons to be fully included in the community of Christ.  The UCC resolution proclaiming the Church to be “Accessible to All” includes these words:

The Biblical vision of the Great Messianic Banquet is of all gathered at the table with bounty for all; any barrier that limits the wholeness of all, diminishes all.

Wow – deeply profound words!  “Any barrier that limits the wholeness of all, diminishes all.”  That’s what we in the GLBT community have tried to say.  And that’s what women and people of color having been trying to say, and that’s what justice loving people have been trying to say.   And that is exactly what Jesus said.

So this Sunday we’re going to look at what “Called to Wholeness in Christ: Becoming a Church Accessible to All” might look like and feel like for us.




This Sunday’s Scripture

Mark 2: 1-12

Some friends carry a paralyzed man to Jesus to be healed.

Jesus came back to Capernaum after several days, and word spread that he was home.  People began to gather in such great numbers that there was no longer any room for them, even around the door.

While Jesus was delivering God’s word to them, some people arrived bringing a paralyzed person.  The four who carried the paralyzed person were unable to reach Jesus because of the crowd, so they began to open up the roof directly above Jesus.  When they had made a hole, they lowered the mat on which the paralyzed one was lying.  When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the sufferer, “My child, your sins are forgiven.”

Now some of the religious scholars were sitting there asking themselves, “Why does Jesus talk in that way?  He commits blasphemy!  Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

Jesus immediately perceived in his spirit that they reasoned this way among themselves and said to them, “Why do you harbor such thoughts?  Which is easier, to say to this paralyzed person, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up, pick up your mat and walk’? But so you all may know that the Promised One has authority on earth to forgive sins”— Jesus then turned to the paralyzed person and said—“I tell you, stand up! Pick up your mat and go home.”

The paralyzed person stood up, picked up the mat and walked outside in the sight of everyone.  They were awestruck, and they all gave praise to God and said, “We have never seen anything like this!”


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