It starts with me! This Ability Sunday, how do we create a community where everyone can take part? – Livability

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It starts with me! This Ability Sunday, how do we create a community where everyone can take part?

Across the lifetime of Livability’s work with churches, we’ve been interested in discovering what makes a community where everyone can take part. Are there specific ingredients, behaviours, values which seem to engender involvement? One thing that Livability is calling churches to get involved with this September, is Ability Sunday. In this article, Corin Pilling explores what true participation could look like and how churches celebrating Ability Sunday could play a role.

Who’s invited? Involvement and belonging

In any community context there is a time for giving and receiving, but if these roles are always set, then the community will become imbalanced. In some cases, this results in undiscovered gifts and limited expectations, or a dependency on leadership. Yet we need to acknowledge there’s no exact science which leads to a community where everybody feels able to bring their gifts, and the commitment to change involves a long road. So how might a community operate to encourage members to think of themselves as participants, rather than recipients? One answer lies in the question: ‘Who’s invited?’ Most of us need an invitation to get involved beyond being there.

Ability Sunday – one route to growing participation

Understanding how we can limit the opportunities of those around us may be challenging, and finding solutions often takes a whole community to see differently. This can be particularly true when it comes to disabled people in our churches. For many disabled people gifts may be unexpressed or are undiscovered by others. Yet a church where all of our gifts are present is one which is richer and more authentic. To draw attention to this, we’re encouraging churches to get involved in Ability Sunday on Sunday 9th September 2018 (which celebrates the fact that we all have gifts to offer). Ability Sunday is about running a day of inclusion and participation in your community, with special consideration for the needs of disabled people.

Ability Sunday and a renewed vision of the Body of Christ

This year’s Ability Sunday will pick up on themes raised in our new church resource called ‘More than Welcome‘ (which is designed to help churches move from welcome to inclusion and participation). The Ability Sunday pack, also contains ideas and inspiration for an inclusive service, including a sermon outline and guidance.

This year’s Ability Sunday’s Biblical reflection has drawn inspiration from Paul’s illustration of the body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 12, which emphasises the importance of honouring the unique gifts we can all bring. The sermon material in the pack asks some challenging questions about the way we view and use the gifts God has given – whether that’s as individuals or as congregations. The challenge to the Corinthians is the same as that to us: that we treat everyone with equal honour, that there is no division, and that all members have equal concern for one another (v25).’

A prayer for inclusion

This year’s Ability Sunday resource ends with some prayers for corporate use, which are included below, that we might all commit to this journey together for a richer and more authentic expression of community. We hope you will find an opportunity to pray them in your context and find both resources helpful.

God we thank you that you have made us all different and that you know and love us.
God, we thank you for your good gifts.
Forgive us, when we fail to love and accept people because they are different from us. Please open our hearts.
Forgive us and restore us.

Lord we thank you for the places we can be fully ourselves and the people we share them with.
God, we thank you for your good gifts.
Forgive us when we value being busy above including one another – please help us to slow down.
Forgive us and restore us.

We thank you for everyone in our neighbourhood who lives with disability, for no one is forgotten by you.
God, we thank you for your good gifts.
Forgive us when we have failed to offer friendship to those who are isolated and lonely in our community.
Forgive us and restore us.

We long for the time when we can all share our gifts for the common good.
God, we thank you for your good gifts. Help us see your kingdom come.
Amen.

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