On Saturday, May 4 I had the privilege of being part of A Deeper Communion Conference, held at Emmanuel College in Toronto. The day was for anyone interested in the intersection of disability and faith, whether you were a person with a disability, a family member, a student or a scholar, or a church leader and the 3 main goals for the days were:
To inspire theological reflection and re-imagine communities with people with disabilities
To meet passionate and innovative ministry leaders and foster partnerships and relationships
To offer emerging scholars the opportunity to present and discuss their research.
And the day certainly met and exceeded those goals! Participants had the opportunity to both hear from and be ministered to by people with disabilities as they live out their calling by God. Participants had the opportunity to engage with practitioners, authours, key ministry leaders and organisations as well as emerging scholars and academics.
In the morning plenary session, Cynthia Tam challenged us to consider what it means to be family and if church is a family, why don’t we miss someone that is not there? Miriam Spies, who lives with Cerebral Palsy challenged us to consider why we might keep people with disabilities from living out their calling to leadership? and Tom Reynolds challenged us to consider developing an “expansive imagination” as we look around our communities as ask, Who is not there and why? Who is there? Who is where?
The afternoon plenary included hearing from Chantal Huinink, a motivational speaker and authour that is living with Cerebral Palsy about the significance of partaking in communion and how we might consider the spectacular experience it is for all, while minimising the spectacle it might create for some. Greg Lannan and John Guido, who live in community at L’Arche Toronto shared some of their journey of what it means to be ‘family’ together.
There were 2 options for workshops and I had the joy of being the host for Doing Life Together: Episodes in the Life of a Father and Daughter where Phil and Chelsey Zylla shared their thoughts and key stories from Chelsey’s life growing up with Spina Bifida. They challenged us to consider 7 Habits of Reciprocity in Community. The other workshop had several practical presentations of including people with disabilities in church life and ministry.
The closing plenary session offered participants the opportunity to hear from Maria Truchan-Tataryn and Myroslaw Tataryn, authors, that presented some thoughts on discovering trinity in disability, based from their book Discovering Trinity in Disability: A Theology for Embracing Difference and took us through beautiful visual representation in icons found in Eastern Christian theology.
It was a beautiful day of both joy and sorrow, reflecting on what it truly means to be the body of Christ. My prayer is that our communities of faith would choose to embark on an ever deepening communion with all people.