Celtic spirituality speaks of their being 300 feet between physical life and spiritual life, that there is a thin space between where they can intersect. This is where love/belonging truly happens. Within the Belonging Pyramid, this is the heart that supports the inverted pyramid shape- Agape.

The thin liminal space. Are we ready to exist there as communities? I will take you through an exercise of Orthodox theology (those who like Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, or are familiar with the marriage equality discussion documents from the Orthodox to the Anglican Communion, they were written to the Roman Catholics). It becomes a parabolic discourse to a third party so the other can look in.

For the Canadian Church (and communities) this can be the Trump-Southern Baptist conversation (great article here ). Where even Pastor Crum began resonating within the Thin Space, and knew something needed to be said, yet as many, Not time yet.

It is the same argument within dying congregations around the belonging pyramid and drive not to be open as it was with these dying congregations of the Southern Baptist convention that rallied around Trump. Creating the closed huddle, allowed for a theology of survival and rallying to something.

If we cannot afford a pastor, and our fear is the cost to retro-fit the building to be accessible for all members, renters and welcome to the community, then perhaps we should give up the building and partner with a community centre so we can ensure at the least accessibility and inclusion.

-Me, as an associate pastor at a congregation meeting, tenure did not last

The song of survival is often heard. It is a common one. Regardless of how much money is coming in, there is never enough, nothing can change, must maintain donations or we will not survive. There is always another project that crops up to fundraise for that takes over any (if there even was) thought for basic accessibility. See churches get away with even the top portion of the pyramid for the simple fact their buildings fly under the radar the most. They come up to the letter of accessibility code when renovations are undertaken but rarely will go beyond because of “cost” they say.

What is hidden in that statement at the accessibility level is: your need (not want, NEED) does not override our privilege to preserve our bottom line.

Like the pastor in the article struggling with delivering a true message knowing it would cost, the church does not want to hear the truth of those in their congregation. This is not just about persons with disabilities– oh wait it is. For elders, youth, okay across the lifespan are using mobility devices and need accessibility.

Yet, we may make noises at national levels, but trickle down to the congregational and very little change happens. Due to one fact, tradition of reading. The Bible stories are all read as very black and white. Jesus healed the (insert descriptor of differently-abled here) and then they were included in the community. Full stop, medical model, something is wrong with the person so it is okay, because they must earn belonging, inclusion, even prove the case for accessibility beyond an archaic ramp at a side with a door not even grown to allow ease of entry.

I fall back to John 9:1-12 a lot, because it is so clear on this issue in showing the pyramid:

Verse 1 identifies the “disability” (blind). Which is what accessibility is about. What is wrong, how do we remove some barriers.

Verse 2 identifies the question- what is wrong with them? (Inclusion) it is trying to understand how to keep someone out. Yes, inclusion has become that kind of word in our 21st century. What are grounds for exclusion? How can we look like we have drawn the circle wider, but in fact are strategically shrinking it so the bottom line, old guards belief system is not challenge. This is the type of question that allowed the person to be “included” in the wider community as a beggar, seen as a burden, and allowed to hear teachings, but not fully participate within Temple life.

Verse 3 is about belonging. Jesus gobsmacks his followers and the people. The glory of God. That is belonging. The cosmic dust, life spark within each of us. The spirit that connects us with everything and everything with us within the Holy (that really is a puzzle created through and with the Thin Space tapestry of all creation). That is right, Jesus is showing that part of that tapestry is diversity within all its forms (other times he showed it through acts of kindness to Samaritans (traitors); and Romans (occupiers)).

Ahh but then the challenge for the listener where this might resonate. For Jesus does do a healing. This collapses the theory one would say.

NO!

It strengthens the theory. Look at the journey/ritual this man went through. Publicly to show the whole community that there was no turning him away any more. It was not only about vague inclusion. Jesus realized people could not understand belonging and agape. He short circuited it, much like his own transfiguration story. Jesus gave this man a ritual of transfiguration to reveal the living cosmic dust within to all.

Love illuminated.

2,000 years on (in some cases over 4,000 years) from the stories within the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Testament. Meaning and understanding has shifted and changed throughout time EXCEPT for those around healing. Why? Simple, we do not want to understand what is a disease and how someone is specifically created. Anything that is outside what we want to see as “typical” we want to demonize.

I can’t wait until I am in heaven with your son so I can hear him speak and see him run and dance. -“Well meaning” congregant.

That needs to end. At the current General Council 43 of the United Church of Canada there is a gent with disabilities up for moderator. I would love to see him elected. Yet I know the church is not ready for it. It would cause each and every congregation to confront authentic accessibility, inclusion, and belonging sourced through agape and not lip service. Much like a small Southern Baptist congregation of Trump supporters in their pews on a warm Sunday morning as the pastor opens to preach about the 7th Commandment (thou shalt not commit adultery) and backs down because they are not ready yet for the full implications of faith.

So is spiritual life that does not see the beauty in the diversity. The belonging of the person in full person-hood, or as Brother Jesus said, “Glory of God”.

It is trite, but it is true. We are all created in love just the way we are.

But are we ready to hear the full implications of our beliefs?

Are we willing to step out of the physical, and into the Thin Space of resonance?

To live, unreservedly out of love for OUR NEIGHBOUR?

 

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No this is not a mid-term thingee (though to my American neighbours, please do use your right to vote, I hear it’s in November via a rather clogged Twitter feed).

This is the 2019-2020 election started at midnight of e-day last time around, so remember to vote this time around informational.

Things to remember:

  1. The only vote that does not count, is the one not cast (yes we are first past the post, but there is still roughly 30-40% of eligible voters not turning up, so think what can happen).
  2. Vote splitting. It is one “X” next to a name on a piece of paper, we only get one “X”. No party owns that “X”, only you do. So if you choose to vote for said candidate because of or regardless of affiliation, guess what? That’s right, that’s your vote. See point one.

Our system is simple. Party with most one seats becomes governing party, second place become “Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition” who serves to make proposed government legislation better. The Members of the House are there to serve their constituents, not party (though we have muddled that a bit recently). So the local candidate matters (note word local, don’t let a parachute in foil or is that fool you?); the party is the caucus they will be in (unless they are an independent, which yes is allowable). Also not all parties will run candidates in all ridings (otherwise known as EDA’s or Constituencies), but they are still a viable party if the resonate with you.

Provincially please note there is more than simply NDP-UCP. Federally please note there is more than simply Conservative or Liberal.

So here is the so-far official list of Provincial Parties in Alberta (here)

So here is the so-far official list of Federal Parties of Canada (here)

So endeth your Public Service Announcement of voting.

 


In 1998 Mark Wills’ released a song, “Don’t Laugh at Me” (listen here) following on the idea of anti-bullying, and building on the momentum of inclusion. It was a time of hope for some, as the world had been slowly moving away from locking away that which made us uncomfortable, or victim blaming (yes I know it still existed, but there was a glimmer). In Canada through things like the Waterloo model de-institutionalization of persons who were differently abled was happening and appropriate community supports for accessibility, and inclusion were being brought online in Ontario.

As you look at the inverted belonging pyramid it was a time, and moving forward until the last few years where some strides were made. New builds were taking into account some aspects of universal design (until a boom, then it halted), and some retrofits were happening. Yet it was localized. Much like today. We look at the current existence within our community, the current demographic and that is what we retrofit to. We cannot, or more truthfully, will not think into the future. I remember being part of a church renovation that built up by multiple floors, when I spoke about building outwards for accessibility (most of the congregation at time of reno was in their 60’s) I was mocked that there would not be a reason, for the stairs over four floors were not that bad.

And then there’s the voice of the reader going– damn it can’t you just be greatful. Surely it is not as horrible as you make it out to be. There is truth to that, and there are moments of gratefulness, unfortunately I find when you lay those out the community stalls out patting themselves on the back and not moving forward anymore. It has happened when I have praised churches for what has been experienced as positive then get smacked with passive ableism (moving statements that spoke of all abilities to change it to health, back to a medical need to be healed lens).

We as a family have hovered mostly on the line in the pyramid between accessibility and inclusion. I understand the financial challenges for physical retrofits on aging buildings, so there is quite a bit of forgiveness we hold in our hearts on that. The side effect, being like the building that built up instead of out– there is much offered by communities we associate with that we cannot participate in, especially now that our kids are getting bigger.

Accessibility is the easy one to speak of that being buildings that are flat so all can be easily accessed. Or those that are older having a lift system put in and keeping it up, when it goes down prioritizing that it is fixed. As well, I do hold the Catholics and Anglicans to a high grace for inclusion in the sacraments, for even if you cannot partake of something such as Communion (Eucharist) all are welcomed forward and all can participate somehow, even if it is a blessing.

Which brings us into inclusion. The small Moravian church, that did not want to default to our daughter being the support for our son, asked us for information on both kids, their personalities and abilities so they could support them as individuals within the children’s ministry. Moments in other churches when elders would love on them. The children’s ministry leader that came and spoke directly to my son about his day, and if he wanted to come be her buddy in Sunday School, not asking us first. The lady who plans the Sonrise Easter egg hunt for the kids and searches out ways for the “super heroes” to find eggs as well as the other kids (the balloons attached to their eggs, brilliant). The folks that will say “at first we were annoyed, but once you weren’t around for a few Sundays due to your fundraising on the parades we realized the joy that him being as Spirit created him…well that was missing and so was a piece of us”. Visiting in hospital, sharing meals and households, kids playing and cutting up together.

Some of those sound like belonging to some readers I know. And if that was all the dynamics of community I would agree. Yet they are spread throughout a history within structured spirituality that has run from conservative/orthodox to progressive to metaphysical.

Why have we not left simply inclusion (a space created for you, if you earn the spot)?

Simple. Those that speak as allies, become silent when the “powers to be” in the community have their own beliefs challenged. This can be around a medical lens/deficit or realizing that to truly make the building accessible for inclusion to belonging challenged the financial drives of other projects they saw as more important and besides, the building is within “city code”.

The push becomes the shove. Where you thought belonging could be experienced, it becomes the shove out. But its okay because you have friends.

No, it is not only the Jehovah Witness’ that “shun”. They are just transparent about it.

You become shunned because, well, you challenged the paradigm and if it looks like they continue the friendship…sorry, we just aren’t strong like you to lose this community.

When you begin as a community to look at accessibility, it may be the most expensive end on a new build, or a retrofit, but it allows the circle to be drawn wider. Remember though, those two need to feed into belonging.

And that is the scariest word in any language for someone that is not seen as fitting in– belonging.

So are you one that laughs? Or one that welcomes?

Are you one that will risk being shunned…that all can belong?

 


I wish I could say that the 2018 slate of candidates for Moderator of the United Church of Canada has put a moratorium on my beliefs around the Christianities perpetuating ableism. One would think it would, especially with 34 year old Lay Candidate, Collin Phillips:

“I’ve come to see disability as just another part of the diversity of God’s Creation,” says Phillips, who uses a wheelchair and communicates via a word board. “While my disability is integral to who I am, it does not define me or my call. I know this will challenge, maybe even anger, some in the church, but I’m hoping it will deepen our understanding of inclusion.”

Meet your 2018 Moderator Candidates by Mike Milne, July-August Observer 2018 (https://www.ucobserver.org/faith/2018/07/meet_2018_moderator_nominees/)

I do hope he becomes moderator, for it would force a dialogue beyond accessibility (physically belonging in space). Hopefully challenge the outdated “must be healed to belong” b.s. of the churches and grow the circle wider (inclusion). Yet, it would take a gospel level miracle for this to happen for I do not feel the desire within the church for such a movement of the Holy Spirit in mystical discernment and understanding.

Honestly, outside of personal experience, and yes there are many progressive to conservative Christians who believe it is their right to lay hands and pray over you if you have a physically visible disability (without consent). To the idea that it is about making things accessible, but not fully comprehending the need at the most basic level that not everyone does things the same. Whether it is how they experience life (physically, mentally or spiritually) to socio-economically.  But the cynic in me grows for there have been many in leadership throughout the years who are a part of the disabilities community, and yet we are still having the same debates around RIGHT TO EXIST.

Most notably is the amount of times the UC Observer has hyped the plastic straw ban and has not been able to see beyond their own enviro-lens to a fuller belonging lens. Finally, when you can crack through you are not sure if they get it or not, and their declarative includes a surcharge (not comprehending the socio-economics of persons with disabilities).

Yes. I hope this is a breakthrough. Yes, I hope it draws the circle wider. Yet for that too. happen the church itself must wrestle with its own history and identity. It must admit that there are many great things that were birthed out of the social gospel, yet the darkest shadow of that was the plague of eugenics? Truth and reconciliation must happen on doctrine lead (Christian) pushed for locking away in institutions, less than ideology, forced sterilizations and the litany goes on.

Sadly, until that happens, it is just more lip service and tokenism, hiding in the visage of inclusion…

But refusing the most important piece of Agape—BELONGING.

Is the church ready? 

End thoughts:

  1. Considering outgoing Moderator Jordan Cantwell called for listening in this time of change…I do not see much of that in regards to the intersection of abilities.
  2. I have stood my ground as an ally for those in the mental health-disabilities community and paid the price as staff (laid off, fired, reorganized); laity/volunteer (kicked out) and friend/parent (devastated) as congregants harrassed and belittled, dehumanized those they did not see as “whole” in the Body of Christ…what would this chap as moderator mean for those within the church?
  3. Finally, Moderators travel and visit congregations– how many of the churches meet the first level of the inverted Belonging Pyramid – accessibility, and simply increase the cries of “we are so broke, we have no money.” Instead of the inward looking to community focused solutions?

A compilation of random thoughts on the political landscape.

First up: Hon. Ricardo Miranda (Min. Tourism & Culture, YYC Cross MLA) and his twitter up with Airdrie UCP MLA Angela Pitt. It started with Ms. Pitt’s tweet as best as I can see pointing out Mr. Miranda calling her out on being at the Women’s Centre after being part of the UCP walk-out on Bill 9 (bubble zone legislation for pregnancy care centres that include those providing abortions).

I can see his point, I can see her point. Where is should’ve stayed is dereliction in duty of the office (not being on record for the vote). But in typical hyper-partisan fashion Mr. Miranda jumped the shark and took it to a whole other level. Where the comparison may have been able to be made about a worker crossing a picket line, then showing up to the Union Office for help to keep their job or even more high road: I hope you had a good experience at the Women’s Centre and learned why Bill 9 was important, or MLA Pitt do you care to share what you learned or heard today?

Nope. Instead it went to from Mr. Miranda:

WTH??? Yes I saw the tweet, yes I was about to respond, but thankfully those from across the political spectrum jumped on it and called it out.  It has since been deleted, and a supposed apology issued. But let’s be honest, we have honest to God Nazi’s still in this country, and a strong history of holocaust deniers (Keegstra in Red Deer anyone? or the Green Party member from Canada on trial in Europe)…where did this jump come from???

It is the dehumanizing falsity of dualistic politics. Keeping up there is only two choices NDP or UCP…we have a multitude in Alberta, and please look beyond party to your local candidate.

Point 2: If Charles Adler calls out the CPC ya know it also jumped the shark. Yes, I will admit my bias against the Conservative Party of Canada since the hostile sell out of McKay to Harper, but the image of a Haitian refugee crossing Trudeau’s tweet as a bridge into Canada with the hyperbole  and falsity of illegal entry was deplorable. Thank you Mr. Adler for holding your party to account, and using your media presence to do so.

I say falsity on the illegal entry, because the processing of refugee, immigrant and irregular entries is part of international agreements Canada has been apart of since the end of World War II to ensure what happened in the Holocaust does not happen again. Yes the system may be refined, but it is working and is simply a hot button issue and as the image projected going for the lowest possible denominator in a multi-cultural country. What I do endorse is the ending of Safe Third Country with the USA (who shares our border) which then allows us to look at a system that does not have a failed caveat within it.

Point 3: Just a fun flashback point, like going to Granddad and Nan’s for dinner. Political parties hope one does not have a historical context or understanding. They hope you have a drive for power or hatred of the “other guy” enough to dodge the tough policy questions, the questions that affect your life and your neighbours. The ability to look beyond your own household, person and context to the whole. It is why I try to look at the person running over the party, and then hope that the person can stand up to their party when needed. Sadly our system has become about leader over member and this is wrong and unconstitutional.

That is a ramble into a funny story from when I ran in 2006. The CPC candidate’s campaign manager attempted to recruit me to run for the party at the candidate’s debate. He pointed to the policy around poverty and was dumbfounded when I said no. He asked why and I bluntly pointed out, it was point one of a 7 pillar approach I aided in creating to alleviate poverty. His gobsmacked face is a fond remembrance.

Hold to history, hold to accountability. Look for change if it has happened.

Now a bit of fun:

First, as endorsed in previous elections, I do think Jeremy Nixon would make a good representative in government. I am unsure if he would break party lines with the UCP, that will be up to those in Calgary-Klein to ask him and press him on the doorsteps. Including things such as Bill 9, not just his stance but also would he have voted, but I could not let this endorsement meme pass without a comment from my comic geek side:

“Where unintentionally the UCP makes themselves Lex Luthor, and the NDP Superman…for Kryptonite was only wielded by the bad guys.

Where unintentionally the UCP makes themselves Lex Luthor and the NDP Superman…for Kryptonite was only wielded by the bad guys.


On June 7, 2018 I wrote to Alberta Education Minister David Eggen, as noted in this almost 2 month old post here.

I finally received a response from the Minister today. It was a lovely and long outlined letter. I must state unlike letters from previous PC Education Ministers it stayed on target for the issue brought to his attention.

The just is this, in Alberta Education’s opinion resources and monies have been provided and it is something to be dealt with via principal, superintendent and trustee (which has already been brought up multiple times) for they are the ones to determine if any grief support response is necessary for students and staff in schools when a child passes.

Yes, the letter affirmed what I already knew to be true. The unfortunate piece is that the Alberta Government had an opportunity to address a systematic discrimination issue and–

CHOSE NOT TO.

Much like my son’s school principal CHOOSES not to use the resources at his disposal to care for his staff and students.

I encourage all parents of children who are (Complex Learning, Special Needs, Super Heroes, Differently Abled, Kids with Disabilities-how they choose to identify) Super Hero– to take up the fight. Do not let them medically-cognitively segregate us anymore. That is how the voice is lost. Do not let the system deem who is of better worth or worse off…

THESE ARE OUR KIDS AND ONE VOICE MUST RING OUT IN THEIR SUPPORT!

 


We do not encourage being present in the moment. No matter the aspect of life we are existing in: personal, professional, membership clubs, etc. We are rushing most of the time. We want the next step, the next big thing. With our children we are constantly pushing them to thrive harder, take on more, what happened to that missing 5% from the 95/100. You have to know what you want to do with your life, you are after all 10 years old. What is your 5, 10, 15 year plan? What is the career path you see laid out before you?

What you can’t help with that now it does not fit the plan laid out. Oh, something came up, well it has to be put off until later, not what we want now.  Ridged. Scheduled. Planned out. No wiggle room. Must achieve what you say and do it exemplary.

Trace Adkins’ You’re Going to Miss this, watch/listen here 

Kenney Chesney’s Don’t Blink. Watch/listen here.

If you are not the person or parent preaching/planning like this there must be something wrong with you. Want to confuse a teacher at at CBE parent-teacher conference, ask about social things in the school, speak of holistic education, talk about the outcome being citizenry and zest for lifelong learning, not just a university entrance GPA. Talk about the child/student discovering who they are, their passions and interests and growing a path from that.

Want to confuse friends? Put out there that University or Technical school is not a must for your child. That your child may only have 1 extra-curricular they are booked into, that they want to just spend time in play with their friends. That the kids want to be kids.

It confuses folks, because it is the antithesis of the world we have created. Yet the world we have created has created an outcome that anyone could see coming– children with mental health issues most (if they experienced) would not see until middle age…yet we are talking those at one point in psychiatric history should not be labelled or diagnosed as such is now normative.

What happened? Listen to the two songs above. We have created a world that cannot be in the moment. Cannot be present to the experience that is now. Cannot find contentment in the now. Yes change happens, yet change needs to come from not wrestling with the current gremlin of felt insufficiency or drive to be seen with esteem.

Change comes from following your own interior compass of who you are.

And you have that interior compass, because you have had the time to discover who you are.

Be honest with yourself. In your rush in life up to this point to stick to the plan, to achieve:

What have you missed?

When you close your eyes and think of life, what was gone in a blink?

You cannot change the past, but you can live into the present which in the future will let you look back and know that you didn’t miss what was most important in the blink of an eye.

For your heart eye was on what mattered in life, not the shiny bauble before the magpie.

Bonus listen: Tim McGraw’s Live like you’re dying