Disability and Jesus began with a few of us on Facebook bemoaning the lack of good Christian literature on disability. We realised that much of what has been written and taught on disability theology and inclusion has been written from an observational view point, not by those who are living with disability, engaging with the day to day of all that disability can bring. The secular world of disability rights has a slogan “nothing about us without us” – we believe in that statement passionately and as time goes by it has become something of a mantra to us.
The Facebook conversation began as a simple question, with a couple of responses – but over the course of a few evenings the thread grew and was expanded on. There was lots of talk about writing a book and good resources.
We agreed that we would get together in a pub on the outskirts of Harrogate, a kind of central point for all of us, and we would have a chat over some lunch, throw some ideas in the pot to see what might be done. Each of us had lived experiences as disabled people, living within and even sometimes outside the church.
Bill, Dave and Katie emerged from that gathering and formed what has become ‘Disability and Jesus’
with his first guide dog
Revd Bill Braviner
Revd Kt Tupling
Click here to read our biogs.
(Such is the relationship that God has forged between the three of us that we feel safe enough to share some of the deepest, most painful and hopefully most profound parts of our story – and we did eventually write a book! Details are below – the book is called ‘Pilgrims in the dark’)
We pondered how best to give Disability and Jesus a base from which to operate – a website came first, some presence on Facebook came next, and then Twitter. We let it be known that we were available for audits, workshops, conferences, mentoring, support and conversation. And we waited to see where God would lead us…
We discovered our home was on Twitter – @DisabilityJ – where we (currently) have a community of over 15k Followers. We are hugely grateful to all who consider themselves part of this emerging community.
We find ourselves now as part of a widening network of communities on the edge of church – a place which Bill loves to call “church on the margins”. This wide ranging group of communities are experiencing a wave of the Holy Spirit bringing, healing, meaning and understanding – not just to ourselves but delivering it back to the mainstream church, not just being ministered to but in return ministering to the mainstream church.
These ‘marginal’ communities are where the Holy Spirit is working. It is these communities that are on the rise, breaking new ground, exploring new theologies. We see these groups as having the power, drive, openness and creativity to revive the broader church. These are groups of people who are hungry for meaning, for welcome, for inclusion, for genuine belonging.
So far our journey has taken us to national conferences, to General Synod, to advising Songs of Praise for the BBC, to appearing in packages for Channel 4 News, to speak at and take part in the Living Fully 2016 conference in the Vatican, and many other events. It’s a journey that shows no signs of slowing.
An exciting development came in a collaboration between Dave Lucas and Chris Suddes – the Ordinary Office. Using uncluttered liturgy, widget symbols, and video, the Ordinary Office creates space and time for people to pray at various points during the day – currently Morning, Midday, Evening, Night, and Nocturne (for the insomniacs!), with additional prayers added in times of crises (eg Coronavirus). An ‘Amen’ button to click after each pray enables people to see that others are also praying, as the number count goes up. Dave calls this ‘Alone, Together’.
The Roads that… God leads us on
God has given us a gift since that first meeting in Harrogate: to meet fellow pilgrims on this journey, to hear their stories, to share their joys and their pains, to study, to pray, to build relationships.
We’re glad you can join us, as we throw the box of disability theology up in the air and try to see what falls out – and as we sift through the debris to see what is of God: what he would have us discover and what he would have us consign to the theological scrap heap.
Bill, Dave, Katie and not forgetting (retired) guide dog Jarvis
Print Version, £13
5 copies, £60
eBook Version, £8