Archive for the ‘Belonging Pyramid’ Category


It is those over nacho political conversations that can bring up the best memories, and what is lacking in the political party fields of today. I miss the times when policy and people came before quests for power. Yes, I realize the terms “blood sport” and “power” have always been intertwined with politics. But entrenched ideological loyalty even when your party has gone full on nutbar to harm citizens was not present. There was the party that would act as conscience, provide an “extreme” of what was needed in the social net for citizens to prosper (and like health care, and other safety nets, aid corporations for they did not need to ensure these things), others would moderate but pick up on the point to maintain power effectively creating some sort of compromise. Historically this has been the position of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (and all the labour, justice and social gospel movements that formed it) and then the New Democratic Party. Sadly, the voice has been lost (I was hoping the Greens would’ve picked it up, but…).

We are just a generation into the repercussion of 1990’s austerity/common sense revolutions, and attempting the rebuild. New “research” screams what needs to happen. But it is known knowledge: affordable housing needs to be built for a variety of ages and needs; social programs need to provide much needed prevention into poverty and homelessness; minimum wage (much like original legislation) needs to be a living wage; universal health care needs to be improved- grown and to include dental, optical, mental health and pharmacare. As well bureaucracy needs to be shrunk, we need to care for our persons with disabilities, children and elders. As well as citizens of all stripes, and those that can easily be discriminated against. Y’know the old Just Society mottos.

And before people cry out about lazyness, or “old stock Canadians” and hand outs… do I need to point out the history of the “homeless” or “transitional” shelter in Canada? Where they were places of short term stay for educational equipping, health care, ensuring entitlements or employment, establishing all documentation necessary for citizenship and then provision for the home(stead) that was necessary for the individual or family to thrive and grow– to BELONG in their new community. Was it always easy? No, we can look to our reserve system, but even with new Canadians there was bigotry towards those of Asian descent; Ukranian; Mormon; Loyalist (American); Francophones; Irish and Scottish (to name but a few). One can say- yeah but they came here to be Canadian first. Yes, they came for what a new land had to offer. They were/are Canadians. Just as any refugees and immigrants are today. Yet, what we forget is that Canada has always been a MOSAIC, not a melting pot. That is, the beauty of Canadian Identity has grown and been accented by the cultural pieces of the world brought to our doorstep. Just take a drive around your town, city or province and visit historic sites pre-colonization and post-colonization. It is a celebration of the diversity of life.

Was that a rabbit trail?

No. It was pointing out that we have reached a tipping point politically where we are attempting to mirror the melting pot to the south. The idea that there is only 2 choices, and we must choose. That is a fallacy. We have multitude choice. We can choose segregation and hate. We can choose money over people. Or we can choose to grow a great mosaic of a nation, that is prosperous, just and inclusive. Where each citizen belongs for we share the common good, and the accessibility needed for the individual to be a part of the community.

This sparked from nachos, for while discussing Alberta Politics, my old political stories kicked in. Back when Joe Clark (Joe Who?) had returned to lead the decimated PC (Progressive Conservative, historically created in an attempt to beat the liberals, a progressive left leaning labour party merged with the Conservative Party of Canada, creating a centrist party. Hence the terms Red Tory and Blue Tory, purple if you shared visages of both) Party of Canada. In 1993 they were reduced to 2 seats (due to Mulroney’s Western alliance with Blue Tories (Reform) and Quebec Red Tories (Bloc Quebecois) walking away to form their own parties). Clark in the late `90’s had brought the party back to between 12-16 seats. Back to official party status, and a decent fifth place party, that with a former PM at the helm (and one who had beat Pierre Trudeau) an elder statesman quality.

Best way to learn the political game? Join a small party, and be there to learn from the elders. That is what I did. Policy wise we were focused on being fiscally conservative (using money wisely, a lesson the other parties learned from Tommy Douglas, a pastor and premier of Saskatchewan, father of Medicare, oh and first leader of the newly minted Federal NDP in the 1960’s)…but also knowing the social contract needed to be renewed and citizens cared for (socially progressive). The Purple Tories in the party did the money bit, us Red Tories had fun going for broke creating what was just left of progressive policy for the NDP at the time.

Then Clark stepped down. It was quite amazing how many wanted to lead this little fifth place party back then. Some rumblings of merger with the then CCRAP (Canadian Conservative Reform Alliance Party, a rebranded Reform Party, that would become simply the Canadian Alliance Party). Most in the small but mighty knew that merger was not the right path, cause hey, if they were wanting us back that must mean we were on to something. As a young man, I was also excited that if this worked I would be running in my Federal riding under a new leader and living out one of my dreams as a kid (it would take until 2006 for that to become a reality).

All i remember about that race for leader was I backed a gent named Gafferty, who had to drop out I believe it was a stroke or a heart attack. He released his candidates. Most of us Red Tories (whether we liked Free Trade or not) fell to back David Orchard by the last ballot, because Peter MacKay was a merger type. Orchard made a deal with MacKay, to back him and swing him as leader with the signed promise of no merger… well a MacKay/Harper chat later, and fautly where to vote info sent to members and the Conservative Party of Canada was born.

I point to this as the rise of truly divisive ideological politics. There was a homeless progressive/red Tory vote available, but entrenchment began fomenting.  With the entrenchment it began a dissolution of actual debate/discussion of policy points, laws, and programs. What is began to dissolve into was a shouting match where everyone would pull “data/facts” wherever they wanted. The goal was to prove that the one who yelled the loudest, was right.

The failing, is that the loudest yeller, who can get the most money, does not create the best governance for the people as a whole. Canada is a diverse nation. That is as a mosaic we are economically diverse, culturally, religiously, ethnically, gender, and the list can go on. Ideological entrenchment does not bring all along for the ride, it demonizes, and creates hate.

I ponder what if, we could actually remove the last generation of politics. What if entrenchment never truly entered Canada?

As you look to the next election in your area. Get to know the candidates. Ask the hard questions. Push them on platforms, policy, the things we can see as boring and take more than the threads Twitter allows. Learn some history. Discover what has worked before, what needs to be fixed. What does it mean for the citizens that have the least in your area to be lifted up to a level where they are no longer struggling but can grow from. What happens when we shatter our ideas that health care is for the healthy? That there is a worthy and unworthy poor? That this person or that person is different from me…in reality we are neighbours, and as neighbours we all have a right to exist does not matter how much or how little tax you pay.

What if…we stopped looking at ourselves as tax payers at each level of governance?

What changes if we framed our discussion in the way our Constitution Act, 1982 and Charter of Rights and Freedoms, 1982 frame it: Citizens (and yes with agreements signed post World War II that extends to refugees and immigrants)?

A little bit of wisdom to keep in mind, 7 generations from now when history looks back upon us. We will not be judged by how wealthy we made corporations, or how we kept medical costs low. What we will be judged upon:

How we treated our migrants, our refugees, our immigrants, our seniors, our children, those without voice in our world, the have-nots, persons with disabilities, persons live life with mental health challenges; persons who have chronic illness, the sick…

Essentially, how we treated our neighbour, when they needed to belong.

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P-R-A-Y-E-R.

“We have been so persistently taught that prayer consists in asking God for some human need that we have lost sight of our spiritual identity and have become a race of praying beggars.”

-Charles Fillmore

To some a four letter word. To others an opiate (to paraphrase Karl Marx) to keep the masses appeased and seeing themselves as fallen. Some an introspective/meditative/positive thinking technique that removes any personal or mystical agency for the miraculous. At worst, an intercession to a man in the sky that may deem us worthy or unworthy of aid.

And the stalled litany that removes mystic growth of the soul to true love communion with creation and loving Creator is removed by continuing the piece meal of pablum. Where is the meat? Those growing, become emaciated as they are not allowed out of pre-school, and those in pre-school are never given the challenge of spiritual growth into Kindergarten or Grade One (never mind 2-12 or upper colleges of spirituality) because no one wants to rock the tradition boat. Whether you are from the Abrahamic religions, Eastern spiritualities or meta-physicians.

5 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

7 “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 9 Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.[a]

-Gospel of Matthew 6:5-9 (English Standard Version)

The debate over how we pray. While we miss the point on what is the point of prayer. In her 2011 book, How to Pray Without Talking to God, Unity Minister Rev. Linda Martella-Whitsett poses this question:

To what degree does praying in the traditional fashion support or detract from your growing awareness of your divine identity?

-p.45

Much like Brother Jesus in his teaching on prayer. Break the mold of what is taught by rote, without emotion, without self(lessness); without connection to the divinity that is breathed into us, and that is around us (y’know that love source we are from and return to). For it creates a false dichotomy that one method is better than another. There is no false dichotomy. All movements have their ways. Centering and grounding techniques to bring us to peace.

book

Great new book study with UCM Alberta

A priest mentor gave a sermon on praying for the dead, which would be seen as the ultimate traditional form of prayer. It has been taught to pray your loved ones out of purgatory into paradise (heaven). What I loved is he pointed out that purgatory in its purest form is having whatever has kept us from the Love Source, God, purged away instantaneously upon death. So why pray for the dead? It allows us to get out of our own pain/heads/hearts and speak that which is mired deeply within us.

What is that? It is grief processing? Singly, and when Mass is celebrated for the person, communally. It is healing.

In the metaphysical way taught by such as Ernest Holmes, The Fillmores, and Mary Baker Eddy to name a few, it is about going within to the divine identity that always exists. Much like the Lord’s Prayer Jesus leads into with his words from the Sermon on the Mount, these methods allow us to centre and root.

Image result for lord's prayer

Hey do you notice any metaphysical steps in this?

The Five Steps of Affirmative Prayer (Holmes’ way) are here. While my family prefers the method of this spirituality taught to kids. BINGO: Begin with God; Include yourself; Name your good; Give thanks; Over and Out.

 

Much like the Lord’s Prayer almost mirrors…

Image result for ACTS prayers

Into the Unity Five Step Process which is simply (from Unity.org):

1. Relax
Close your eyes. Relax, breathe deeply, and let go of outer concerns.
2. Concentrate
Quiet your mind. Begin to focus your thoughts on the spirit of God within you.
3. Meditate
With an open mind and a receptive heart, feel the peace of God’s presence. “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10 RSV).
4. Embrace the Silence
In the silence of your soul, know that you are one with God. Allow this realization to permeate your being.
5. Give Thanks
So is it talking outside or within yourself?
What is prayer?
It is communing with the love that we are sourced from. Tapping into the cosmic dust that exists within. personalized and cosmoligically. It is coming to an understanding of surrender, presence and love.
This is halted when Chemicalization (psychologically may present as cognitive dissonance) sets in. When we become stuck in the pablum of life not open to the grand cosmic buffet. Martella-Whitsett (2011) defines chemicalization as “a confused state of consciousness when embedded beliefs appear threatened by the introduction of new spiritual ideas.” (p. 41). The protection mechanism of life, as change triggers the grief cycle, and the grief cycles forces us to acknowledge that we are autonomous and interdependent people. It is easier to freeze where we are comfortable than to continue the journey.
That is why prayer is such a dividing line between movements, for it is within how we pray that we can label those who have “levelled up” and those who have not. Missing the point, that in the journey, many ways and means will bring us back to the grounding of understanding and resonance with God.
It may seem unbelievable…but…
P-R-A-Y-E-R
Takes many forms as a way to centre the person and community into the true source and identity of who they are. It centres us into seeing each and every person as part of the beautiful rainbow of creation and belonging. Labels define supports, not the intrinsic worth of the person.
Created in love. Meant to return to love. And most importantly, to live out of that love…to as the Christian Testament describes it…bring the Kingdom here.
That is to transform our world through one humble act of compassionate love at a time.
Are you willing to truly enter into prayer?

I have been blessed in my 21 years of ministry to be involved in many great blessings. From blessing civil weddings; watching equality rights flourish; acceptance and belonging in spots for all people; breaking bread at a potluck; public prayers and laments; fun sing-a-longs; Serving the Eucharist; hearing one’s Truth and Reconciliation journey; anointing; affirming calls…teaching, speaking and preaching on all manner of topics from a holistic perspective, being apart of creating sacred and sanctuary space or more simply, home, for community and individuals… and yes all this across a myriad of spiritualities and philosophies.

Ashes to Ashes

Dust to Dust.

-Anglican BCP Funeral Liturgy excerpt

Yet, one thing is an outlier. Grief and change. We do not want to grieve. For we equate grieving with death.

Yes, grieving is a part of death.

But grieving is also apart of change. Minor or major dependent on the change (transition) within our lived lives. It is why recovery of any can, is challenging, for there is a transitional change and we mourn what is now, and have trepidation for what is to be born.

Much the same, in the 600 journeys I have had the sacramental (sacred) privilege with family, friends, clients, neighbours, and congregants in journeying with to what lies in the next life.

The great unknown.

One thing I have always stood in when it comes to grieving and loss of life in this world, is know what you believe. Be open to learning and discovery. Those two pieces are invaluable before entering into any kind of human service, for they will not teach it in a text book, it is an experiential discovery that has sidelined many a vocation earlier than necessary.

It became a discomfortable expertise, but a comfort in my own belief system and aiding someone in discovering/affirming their own beliefs whether it be in healing from their own grief, or becoming comfortable with their own transition. Also being able to sit in the silence, with the tears that heal, and know that sometimes, there is no pat “holy answer” (despite what every religion, spirituality and philosophy of life tries to peddle to you) and that it beyond acceptable and okay in life. I never knew 21 years ago cracking open an old King James family Bible to teach some Junior high youth that one of my sacramental expertise’s would become the funeral liturgy, and the journey of grief.

What I do know for sure:

I have no clue what comes next from this life, and that is okay.

I do not know why children die, in fact it is kind of a universal dick move.

But I do know the great cosmic story, and the greatest thing is love. From that breath of love is the source of the cosmic dust we share with all of creation. We are birthed into this world…and when we pass away from this world and our physical body returns to the elements…

The soul cosmic born of love, returns to the eternal river that is love.

The journey of life is simple, live the love your were born from.

Some Listening:

Kenny Chesney “Get Along” video here.

Luke Bryan “Most People are Good” video here.


Rebuilding the Mind Palace/Interior Castle using universal design. When those things are multi-leveled and crash on in, it hurts something fierce from the brain through the emotions to the body to the soul.

Raise your hand if you actually know how many times you have hit your head in your lifetime? (if you actually know, I loathe you). 12 days from now, 1 year ago, my life literally neurologically crashed in on itself (watch out for turning 39 years old it is a trap). Since then it has been taking life one chapter at a time attempting a rebuild or a reboot as the analogy may go.

Looking back, known, yet hard to prove scientifically it was the culmination of a build up of environmental factors and neurological factors triggered by most plausibly a microstroke(s) a year and a bit before hand. It involved nothing showing up on ER visits back then, and any crash down sick time in between looking like a flu or de-stress after pushing oneself, yet through different eyes weird symptoms lines up. Everything from weird vomits to headaches to coldness/fatigue/foginess/minor memory loss to soreness down to ones bones. But in the early coming bouncing back and things would cycle through happy black spaces and reboot quickly.

But, as the stubborn man I can be, always bouncing back. Not truly understanding how neuro-a-typical I was until it slipped away. To last year with almost daily ER visits. Weird seizure/convulsions; increase in the symptoms severity (to the point that my body was continually running hypothermic, yeah I was Ice Man baby)…facing stigma in the ER because until I wound up before an RN who had been a student on rotation in my programs that advocated for me, they kept putting me off as a fentanyl addict overdosing (even after my wife showed video, and they kept telling me it happens again come back). That was the trigger that fired me into Neuro, and eventually led to my leave from work to try and figure out a new reality. A new reality triggered, by literally, my old mind palace collapsing in upon itself. All the years of self care, healing, from the journey of helping walked, shattered. Body rife with pain, physical exhaustion, mind losing memory, the neuro-memory of tools for the work of aiding another, struggling some days so my words wouldn’t slur, or fighting with my weaker left side to not need a cane and unable to focus to read something as simple as a Murder, She Wrote mystery novel (when I would usually juggle 10 books within a four day span) and the vivid lived again flashbacks of the worst days of my life (think of a computer reboot on the old DOS systems when some things would not load and you would have gaps, that is what would happen within my reboots post episodes).

The full court press of figuring it out through our health care system (which I am grateful for), yet triage’s highest need-that is silo’s the person into pieces- (stopping the brain from yo-yoing inside my skull–still a work in progress, though slowed). Trust me, when your brain clicks on and off like a light switch you have the constant stress that one time it may switch off and won’t switch back on. I can sit here frustrated and angry. Yes I have those moments, not as many as I used to. Some answers, yet as those were answered, and some symptoms vanish, others would persist and leave people stumped (I think maybe 8 folks have looked at different brain scans trying to figure it out-yes I enjoy excelling at what I do lol) and am still awaiting more tests to close loopholes. The doctors still not able to answer if with my partial unsteadiness if I should use a cane, or with my weird mind I need a medic alert bracelet because well I am weird. It is all about seeking the answer to the question that is needed now (for I knew how it used to–freakishly mutant like I am told):

How does my brain work now?

In the midst of that, and living with a constant migraine style head ache, we have lived a journey that we are thankful for an employer that has supported us with good benefits to aid in the healing. We have faced the challenge of keeping our 45ish year old house shored up (nice word for what happens when main drains meet poplar roots); renewing major appliances; minivan; fighting the government over my son’s wheel chair; fighting Alberta Education to treat children with disabilities with dignity when they lose friends; fighting with CBE to treat transporting of children with dignity. Fighting to hold my brain together to aid when questions are asked as innocuously as how the system of homelessness works for a Nativity play, that the asker would not know triggered a week of flashbacks at that time in the journey.

Some positive memories finally popping up, like a live action real of Facebook in the mind’s eye:

4 August 2012 · 

The greatest blessing I was reminded of in my time in ministry The Mustard Seed a former resident looked at me and said, “when it was my darkest and I thought no one cared, you told me to come home. Who knew Come Home would be such a life changer”

Yet it is not down a rabbit hole of despair. For the above Nativity play allowed me to aid my son in being apart of it; and our daughter to shine. We were able to make summer camps work for my daughter to maintain some normalcy. My daughter still being able to have a major slumber party she was planning at Christmas time and other sleep overs. I am getting better at reading and processing, not like it was before, but getting back a bit (chapter by chapter). Focusing on working on writing, as it brings focus to the scattering (and allows for downtime after when needed to reboot). Those moments when a friend makes time each week to get together, knowing your family has taken a financial hit, and still connects to discuss life, politics, spirituality and whatever else happens or a friend that has blessed your kid when needed with vcr’s so he can keep his independence. Another friend that seeks your counsel on different matters. The regular book study still happening in your home, and growing a little bit. Some have aided in the financial tightness that can exist between life and safety nets kicking in. My Dad and his wife, helping with meals, or whatever else (would have been a chilly winter without his furnace expertise), and just being grandparents and having their granddaughter out for sleep overs on the farm. Being able to be apart of a few parades with your kids like they are used to in summers (its their philanthropy and volunteerism). The moment in the VBS feast when the adults ensure that not only is your daughter invited to the youth group, but they have planned out all the logistics to ensure your son can get through to the event and belong.

It is a time when you get to know your friends and family. You get to see who continues to journey along with you, not simply those who help, but those who adjust and still keep up life that was before. For health and healing, is a process of the whole person. The system only handles a piece of it. The rest is the belonging one has in their social circles of support.

Discerning your true place of belonging.

This journey is hard. It is frustrating. Some days my memory or mind will betray me. Some times my emotions betray me, for no reason.  It is getting better. I am still the person I once was. I am learning to be the person I am now in this chapter. It is like a preface of a new book, this is what brings us up to the point before the prologue. The unofficial start before the official pieces of the life narrative.

The preface is arriving at the entrance of a new labyrinth if you will. The prologue once understanding how everything is functioning, and rebooting without so many gaps… well that will be stepping into the new labyrinth and beginning the walk to the centre.

Or

Turning the page into the prologue and entering the centre is when the prologue ends.

And the great writer of my story.

Types the simple words:

Chapter One.

That will be a day of new gratitude.

Tonight, I am grateful for the blessings of my Mind Palace that collapsed.

I am thankful for the implosion.

I find gratitude in creating a new work… Thank you to those who have supported us on this pilgrimage. (And yes, FYI, my soul mate is a living angel and saint for journeying with me before any of this happened, and continuing on).

tommy2

 

 


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?

 


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?

Addition post General Council 43 (August 7, 2018) in Philips own words:

A moderator nominee says the majority of commissioners at General Council weren’t comfortable enough to truly engage him. Read his full thoughts here.