When I started Joyful, Brave and Awesome, I said this blog would not be a place to discuss religious views, except for when related to the blog’s central message of inclusion.
Well, over the past year our family has made some changes in how we practice our faith, and I wanted to share our experience with you.
My husband and I were raised in and educated by the Catholic Church. We met while attending the same Catholic high school, were married in the Church, and baptized our son in the Church. Over the past several years, something shifted, though. I came to a point where the ever-increasing list of things I disagreed with was far too burdensome to make me want to practice my faith anymore. My husband felt similarly, and we discussed switching to a different denomination, but never actually followed through with it.
As JB’s disabilities became more apparent and we learned more about his genetic syndrome, we struggled with how to give our son a faith community like the one we we grew up with – attending worship services, learning prayers, having traditions – while staying true to our beliefs.
We tell JB every day that his differences don’t make him any less worthy of respect or love. He can achieve anything – pursue a career, fall in love and get married, raise a family, participate in social events, etc. Just because he was born a little different than other people doesn’t mean he is not enough, or is inherently wrong or bad. How could we justify telling JB these reassuring messages, while at the same time belonging to a group that limits people’s rights simply because of how they were born?
I knew that if we wanted to lead by example and teach my son to have faith and believe in a higher power, my husband and I needed to make a change. As one person astutely pointed out, we were looking for a church that “preached what we practiced.”
One of the good things about the pandemic was it caused churches to livestream their worship services. Our family was able to “attend” different Sunday services without worrying about when to sit, stand, kneel, sing, pray, etc. We also didn’t need to worry if JB had a meltdown, or if his feeding pump alarm went off, or if the building was wheelchair accessible. We ended up finding a local parish in a different denomination that is a much better fit for our family. This group has welcomed us with open arms, and has gone out of their way to make sure services and special events are accessible and accommodating for JB.
I realize no church or religious family is perfect, and JB – like any other kid – will face hardship throughout his life regardless of his religious affiliation. But I also know that, as his mom, it is my job to provide him with a safe environment that fosters confidence, compassion, and tolerance.
Recently, I have connected with an online community of writers and readers who believe in the importance of inclusion in faith-based writing. I am so excited by the work these group members are doing! As part of this group, over the next few weeks I will be sharing information about a new children’s book called What is God Like? that illustrates the themes of faith and inclusion in one of the most beautiful ways I’ve ever seen.
You can see a preview of the book here.
I’d love to hear if you have positive stories of inclusion and faith, whether disability-related or not. I’m also curious if you have any stories of changing your religious practices during the pandemic. Feel free to share in the comments!
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Let me introduce you to Zulily
Our church made its services available online through OneSource and Facebook. That is how I launched my Facebook account. Once we were able to be back in person, we set up a reservation system: commit to attend by Friday so they could set up groups of chairs together by family and social distance with required six feet between each group, with 14 feet between worship team and congregation. This transformed the main sanctuary, and divided the fellowship hall downstairs into two groups with audio-visual set up in the two basement locations for people to watch and participate real-time (almost). They made an effort to ensure families with children were upstairs, as close to the front of the sanctuary as possible to help with attention spans. The pastors preaching also incorporated children’s sermons for the kids first because there was no child care or children’s church or nursery during this time. We were back in person by May 31 last year. On nice days, we would sing a group of hymns outside in the parking lot following the service — socially distanced, of course. In late October, God opened the door for us to move into a larger church a few blocks away, and we were there by December. It’s so important for the people of God to gather together and worship Him corporately. Jesus is the consummate inclusive leader — His message of salvation extends to all who will believe and trust in Him as Savior and LORD.