Missed Opportunity

A few days ago, a distraught mom contacted me for help.  Her son who has autism had been treated rather poorly and unfairly at her small church.  Although reluctant to pursue reconciliation on any level at first, the parent had agreed, after a somewhat delayed invitation from the pastor, to sit down to discuss what had happened.  I had also been invited to the meeting and was looking forward to both supporting the parent, who had been obviously hurt, and providing suggestions and resources for the church.

Unfortunately, the parent backed out of the meeting at the last minute.  She had a found a more welcoming place to begin taking her family with a youth group that she felt had more experience embracing kids who have autism.

As I sit down to ponder these events (and I had been quite invested with thought and prayer for this hurting family and the church congregation and staff), I can’t help but wonder a few things:

  1. What happens in that little church now?

Chances are, they will encounter another family that experiences disability.  Will their attitude change?  Will they recognize the opportunity when it arises to help support an individual with autism or any other kind of disability?  Or will more people get turned away either intentionally or more than likely, unintentionally?

  1. How many families are there like this one?

My fear is that there are way too many families who have experienced feeling pushed out and excluded.  With all our work with Faith Inclusion Network here and efforts around the country, it is upsetting that this kind of thing is still happening!  Individuals and families are not always welcome into a congregations.  Or if they are, they are asked to conform or get out.

  1. What more can be done?

Education, awareness training, sharing positive stories and resources-these are all part of what FIN offers. We are dedicated to this cause and ask you to spread the word, advocate and be a part of efforts to eliminate attitude barriers in our faith communities.

So what about this church?  I fear that we have missed an important opportunity to bring about a better understanding and awareness of the way faith communities can come alongside and support families who experience disability.  I am still going to try to contact the pastor to see if they may be interested in some information or a discussion about faith and disabilities.  I don’t want the opportunity to be missed completely.

What do you think?