Rev Chris ChandlerBy Rev. Christopher Chandler

As we plan development of a meaningful ministry to those with special needs, a thoughtful Biblical and practical theology should be simultaneously developed to sustain us in this adventure. During the next several weeks, this is my hope, in sharing with you the words of several authors who are influencing my own thoughts in this arena of faith-formation. As I mentioned this past Sunday (6/30), some of my current reading includes a lecture series by Stanley Hauerwas (professor of Theological Ethics at Duke Divinity) and Jean Vanier (founder of the L’arche Communities) offered in Aberdeen, Scotland, in 2008. As these excerpts have shaped my personal outlook, my hope is they may begin to shape yours, as well. This first selection comes from the preface to this lecture series published in book form and arranged by John Swinton:

“In our Western society we develop policies and practices that welcome people with disabilities into the world (schools, workplaces) offering them rights and responsibilities, and at precisely the same time we develop forms of genetic technology designed to prevent them from entering society in the first place.  If Vanier is correct that in France within the next few years there will be no children born with Down syndrome because they will all have been aborted, then something is deeply wrong with our society.  As my friend John, who has Down syndrome, puts it, ‘That doesn’t make us feel very welcome, does it?’ And he’s right. Stanley Hauerwas correctly points out . . . that one of the real dangers for people with disabilities in the Western Hemisphere is compassion! Our desire to alleviate perceived suffering in the name of compassion easily leads to the destruction of people whom God has created and loves beyond all things. . . . I suspect that the question of precisely whose ‘suffering’ we are alleviating in aborting children with disabilities will depend on whom we ask. It is rare for our society to take the time to ask people with disabilities. How odd.”

Something to think about . . .

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand – when I awake, I am still with you.

–   Psalm 139:13-18