Shredding documents at a police sta- tion is a highly repetitive, seemingly endless task that must be completed
by a trusted worker who can maintain absolute confidentiality. It was just the job
for a person of disability whose very challenges – not being able to read or write –
coupled with his strong love of repetition,
made him the perfect candidate for the
shredding job at a local police station.
For Steve Snider, manager of educational services for Christian Horizons (CH), a
faith-based Ontario charity serving nearly
1,500 people with developmental disabilities and their families, this true story of the
man and the shredder serves as a challenging motif for how the Church might welcome and embrace people with disabilities.
“His disability was the perfect gift for
what that police department needed. They
needed someone who wouldn’t share confidential stuff, and would just shred,” says
Snider. “If we saw a disability as an ability
or a gift, something unique a person brings
to the community, it’s pretty powerful stuff.”
That vision is part of the ethos of CH,
and the message they are attempting to
bring to Canadian congregations.
“We have a vision,” says CEO Janet
How to Welcome People
Nolan, “that people with exceptional needs
would belong to communities where their
God-given gifts are accepted. There is really
quite a wide range of what churches are
able to do. We believe that people with de-
velopmental disabilities are a gift from God.
Our communities are whole because there
are all sorts of people at the table. We’re not
judging or condemning a church [because]
they are not inclusive yet, but we want to be
part of the solution.”
It’s not just about assigning tasks to
people with disabilities, of course. And
there are some levels of disabilities that
mean a person will never be able to hand
out bulletins or participate in a game
night. But it is about recognizing that
people with disabilities or developmental
delays are full members of Christ’s church,
able to give and receive.
According to CH, fostering commun-
ities of belonging and inclusion for people
with disabilities is not that different from
how we welcome anyone into our midst.
It takes some courage, authenticity and a
genuine desire for a community where
everyone has a place to serve and belong.
“We will discover,” says Snider, “that
we have a lot more in common with
people who are different from us than we
Here’s how churches can get started.
Think beyond the Sunday service.
There is a difference between attending
church and belonging to a church, says
Snider. Belonging tends to happen through
activities before and after the Sunday mor-
“Make that distinction between at-
With Disabilities Into Church
Expert advice on thinking,
speaking and acting to
improve the welcome at
By Karen Stiller
Pho To: WWW.GLo WIMAGES.CoM