Hope and Healing

The Abilities Church

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This year I was introduced to a church in Toronto called the Abilities Church.  They claim to be the first real inclusive church in the world. They are impressive. Their staff and vision are excellent, and have all levels of ability. They model inclusion and invitation to all people. The Ability Church’s goal is to have 50% of their participants having a disability. Their services are lively and show a part of the spirit of Christ that many churches miss. If you are in Toronto on a Sunday you should attend this church.

As I heard more about the Church something bothered me – and I hasten to add that it was not the church or the people I met. Let me explain.

I spoke to one woman from the Abilities Church who has a son with a disability. She told me that it is only in the Abilities Church that their family feels fully accepted. The structure, worship, demands, and vision of other churches were such that their son was not able to fully participate. As she spoke, others from the church were nodding their heads. This is a common theme with families who have a person with a disability. They feel as if the church does not really want them – at least not as how God made them. Indeed, I just read a book where the author, a theology professor, spoke of how he and his wife were asked to take their son out of Sunday School – his disability made him too disruptive for the other children. They too left that Church.

Is the Church for all of God’s people – or only the ones that look, sound, and act alike?

So what bothers me about the Abilities Church? It bothers me that it has to exist. The Church is the body of Christ and is supposed to be love. The Church has an explicit command to include all who choose to be there. Jesus not only accepted, but actually sought out those that the community had classified as the outcasts. They weren’t outcasts to Jesus. They weren’t  the “least of these” in the eyes of Jesus. They were the outcasts and the “least” in the eyes of the community. (Maybe I will reflect on that a bit more on some later blog.)

Yet today we still have not really learned this lesson. There is a group of people that feel unloved and unwanted in our Churches. It is sad to hear that people have to leave the established Churches in order to feel God’s love and acceptance.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the Abilities Church – I just wish that there was no reason for them to exist.