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!