Teenaged Rebekah Anderson reads Scripture -- from Braille -- at
the Spring Meeting of the Conference last May.
Photo by Eric Anderson
by Jacky Schofield
GREENWICH (04/17/2012) -- I was “un-churched” for over 25 years. During those years I developed a very personal and spiritual relationship with God. No rituals. No dogma. No creed. Just the two of us. But as I got older, I felt drawn to be in a church community, partly for companionship and partly to share my faith with others. I wanted to learn more about the Bible and Jesus, and I wanted to find a place where I can best serve God.
So far, this sounds like a fairly common story, but it wound up a little different. Not only was I called to return to church, but God also called me to ministry. So, first I found a church that I loved (the UCC, of course!), and then I went to seminary.
Shortly after entering seminary, I lost part of my vision and became legally blind. It was a devastating loss for me, and I thought that my life, as I had known it, was over. I believed that I would be a burden on everyone around me and doubted my ability to contribute anything more to the world. I turned to church for comfort and support, and I found it in the people who helped me when I needed it.
Comfort does not just come from my fellow congregants. It comes from knowing that, through Jesus’ broken body, God, too, was disabled and knows my pain. It comes from being part of the body of Christ and knowing that, within that Body, I am fully-abled. It comes from being valued and accepted for the gifts that I still bring to God’s table. These are the affirmations that I am able to find at church.
Many people with disabilities live lonely, isolated lives. They often don’t have the financial, emotional or intellectual resources to access and engage with the world around them. They may feel embarrassed. They may feel unwelcome. They are not affirmed as human beings. They become invisible.
But they are not invisible to God and, as God’s Church, we need to understand that they need to be encouraged and nurtured in their Christian ministry, just as I was. They need reassurance of God’s love and to know they are part of the Body of Christ. And they need a place where they can share their gifts.
Jacky Schofield is Chair of the Disabilities Ministries Team of the Connecticut Conference UCC, and a member of the First Congregational Church UCC of Greenwich. The Disabilities Ministries Team can help your local church find ways to reach out to people with disabilities who want to be part of a church. For more information, please contact Jacky at Jacky5ph@aol.com.