In our Pastoral Care in Context class this semester we have spent a number of weeks exploring how we as pastoral carers, and as the church, might better share in the care of Jesus for persons with a disability. Disabilities are any long term conditions of our bodies or minds that restrict everyday life, and are generally divided into four categories: physical, sensory, intellectual and psychiatric. The Christian church in Australia has to some extent reflected the positive progression in wider society in recent decades regarding a greater awareness of the challenges facing persons with a disability, and some lessening of associated stigmas. Clearly, though, a bigger cultural shift still needs to occur. A particular challenge that faces the church is the need to develop a practical theology of disability that helps us move beyond patronising charity, towards genuine hospitality, deep listening, and mutuality in ministry. Two resources are particularly helpful in this regard.
The first is Luke 14, an initiative of Christian Blind Mission Australia equipping churches to be places of welcome and belonging for people and families living with disability. This ministry draws its name from Luke 14:12-13—“When you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind… and you will be blessed”—and provides a wide range of resources including Bible studies, a kit for running a ‘Disability Awareness Sunday’ in your church, a manual on making your church accessible, and ‘Tools for Inclusion’ workshops run by Luke 14 staff. As far as I am aware, Luke 14 is the most practical, accessible and theologically grounded resource centre for Australian churches wanting to seriously engage with and grow in this important issue.
The second is a more personal resource. Stephen Abraham, a Lutheran pastor, suffers from severe chronic back and leg pain. Together with his wife, Thérèse, Stephen helps others do some theological reflection around chronic pain, healing, suffering, God, and pastoral care through a series of 5 professionally produced short clips: #1. When pain becomes your friend, #2. What about the carer?, #3. ‘I want to be healed’, #4. Life is suffering, and #5. Where are all the superheroes?. Stephen has also produced a free booklet on Chronic Pain that can be ordered by emailing Lutheran Media. Whether you know of someone in particular suffering from chronic pain, or want to help your congregation explore these issues from the inside, you may find Stephen’s story very helpful.
Bruce Hulme- Lecturer Tabor Adelaide