Simple Forum 1.1 - Personal Experiences with Disability

Simple Forum 1.2 - Personal Experiences with Disability

Number of replies: 7

Awareness begins right where we are, with the people in our lives.  Make lists of the following groups, either in your mind or on a sheet of paper.  For this activity, don’t get hung up on the definition of disability, but rather think of people with visible or hidden disabilities who may need accommodations in order to participate or who have difficulty managing daily activities in typical ways and need technology or assistance for some tasks.

  1. List persons with disabilities in your family.  
  2. List persons with disabilities among your friends and acquaintances.
  3. List persons with disabilities in your workplace or other community organizations that you participate in.
  4. List persons with disabilities in your congregation.

Looking at your lists, consider these questions:

  • Which list has the most people in it?  Do they overlap at all?

  • Identify who is not at the table in your congregation.  Who is missing and who is present but not fully involved in the life of the church?

For this forum discussion, share with the group your responses to these questions, based on the lists you created.  (You do not need to share the lists of people.)  This is a simple-style forum with one single thread of conversation.  To add your contribution, please reply to this original (top) post.  You will receive 5 points for contributing to the discussion.

In reply to First post

Re: Simple Forum 1.2 - Personal Experiences with Disability

by Rebecca Chapman -

  • Which list has the most people in it?  Do they overlap at all?

I'd say my list of friends and acquaintances (possibly family) has the most, but that's likely only because I know them well enough to *know* their disabilities versus people I see in various places such as church. There are many people I don't know that have disabilities I'm not aware of because I either haven't been paying attention, or they are not visible disabilities.

All of these lists definitely overlap. In fact, many people in multiple lists had the same issues, such as disabilities related to aging.

  • Identify who is not at the table in your congregation.  Who is missing and who is present but not fully involved in the life of the church?

The people least likely to be present are those with more home-bound disabilities, either because they are unable to provide their own transportation and also don't have people to regularly provide that transportation, or they either don't have the equipment they need in church, or they find it to be a hassle dealing with it. Also, those with debilitating social anxiety and/or depression are less likely to be there.

As far as those not fully involved in the life of the church, it is harder to distinguish between whether it is a disability that is the obstacle, or things like people feeling they don't have enough time in their schedules for various reasons, or people who may feel that attending church once a week is enough for them.

We also may currently have a bit more awareness of some disabilities within our congregation as my pastor has a disabled son who needs wheelchair access.


In reply to Rebecca Chapman

Re: Simple Forum 1.2 - Personal Experiences with Disability

by Charles Daly -

  • Which list has the most people in it?  Do they overlap at all?

The longest list is of friends and acquaintances.  Then the congregation, which is my workplace; then family.   There was overlap.  More than half the people I could think of either belong to a congregation or participate regularly with a faith based program specifically geared toward people with disabilities.  Many people in our congregation have disabilities associated with old age.  There are people in all categories who are dealing with disabilities associated with temporary illness. 

  • Identify who is not at the table in your congregation.  Who is missing and who is present but not fully involved in the life of the church?

Feebleness and fatigue prevent certain elderly people in the congregation from participating in as broad a host of activities as their peers.  I can think of two who suffer from social anxiety who sometimes avoid worship service, especially on communion Sundays, when everyone comes up front.  I have attended churches with narrow aisles and no designated place for people sitting in wheelchairs.  There are people dealing with addiction who do not feel comfortable worshiping in their family church; they sometimes attend churches and support groups which specialize in their struggle. 
In reply to Rebecca Chapman

Re: Simple Forum 1.2 - Personal Experiences with Disability

by Mary Martha Hatch -

Great point about how well we know someone!

As church leaders sometimes we have parishioners who "overshare" things we cannot and sometimes we are the last to know!

In reply to First post

Re: Simple Forum 1.2 - Personal Experiences with Disability

by Paula Mosher -

1.     Which list has the most people in it.  Do they overlap at all?  The list of Friends and Acquaintances has the most people listed in it, and that’s NOT adding people I come in contact with working as a nurse.  The list for congregation is the next longest and there is overlapping of the two lists.  Our congregation is an aging congregation the youngest person who attends regularly is 40.  The pastor (my husband) is the next youngest and he is 54.)  Every year that passes, we see more of our congregation decreasing in the activities of daily living that they used to be able to do.

2.      Identify who is not at the table in your congregation.  Who is missing and who is present but not fully involved in the life of the church?  In the 6 years that we have been serving this church there has been several deaths, and several that have been placed in long term care facilities.  There has been a change in activities that people participate in, and fund raisers have had to change because they can no longer do what they used to do, or as they have gotten older, there has been an attitude of “I have done all that is required of me.”


In reply to First post

Re: Simple Forum 1.2 - Personal Experiences with Disability

by Mary Martha Hatch -

The areas of both the most people and overlap for me are work and congregation since they are one and the same.  There are so many in this congregation and previous ones who experience a new disability (dementia, incontinence, injury from fall...) and gradually disappear from the life of the congregation.  Those not at the table are those older persons with newer disabilities.  It takes time to adjust and by the time they do, they have fallen away.  

We have several younger people with issues like sickle-cell disease, T1D,  ADHD, anxiety disorders, and Autism spectrum, but they are alone in their "cohort" (meaning they are the only one dealing with the issue so there doesn't seem to be a cooperative or understanding support being offered.)    

Until VERY recently, those with slightly older infants were completely absent due to stress caused by a chatty baby or waddling toddler.

In reply to Mary Martha Hatch

Re: Simple Forum 1.2 - Personal Experiences with Disability

by Pat Parker -

I agree with the class that lists do overlap and am very pleased at the overall awareness of the individuals participating. Let us not forget the homeless and the people experiencing poverty. They are often forgotten by churches since we feel they cannot financially contribute. We forget that they often have multiple disabilities due to lack of funds or healthcare. 

In reply to Pat Parker

Re: Simple Forum 1.2 - Personal Experiences with Disability

by Mary Martha Hatch -

Good point, Pat!  I appreciate that we have each have different areas that we recognize as well.