LOVE IS, LOVE ISN’T, LOVE ACTUALLY 

JACK*  

A large, ‘successful’ church: good-looking successful people. And if you’re female, being blonde (whether by birth or by bottle) helps. If you’re popular in the media, so good. We love you!  

But you? You’re in a wheelchair? We’ve got a ramp, and a wheelchair loo [good for storing gear in] – what more could you possibly ask?  

Well, I’d like to feel as welcome as the blonde and the media type who get lauded. I’m not actually asking to be lauded, but rather to be valued, to ‘feel the love’. I don’t. After more than a year, I leave. I don’t think anyone notices. 

For five years I don’t go to church, except when I’m asked to speak. The ‘successful’ church didn’t know I could – I can read only minimally, I cannot write, such is the nature of my impairment. I appeared, to them, as more of a target for ministry rather than one who could actually offer it. So when I go to a church now it is by invitation: they invite me to speak, to challenge, to inspire. Which I do – nationally and internationally. In person, and via various media. And I’m accepted by those who stop to chat, in person and virtually. Thank you for loving me.  

******* 

JILL* 

I’m eight years old, and have been variously described as autistic, ‘on the spectrum’ or neuro-diverse – the latter term being increasingly used to recognise the rich differences, abilities and strengths I offer.  

At kids church one day I run around randomly and unpredictably. I don’t mean to hurt or threaten anyone, but kids don’t understand me, and some of their folks are uneasy with my behaviour. So the church bans me from the premises – kids church, big church, the lot. Stay home, and to sweeten the impact (edict, actually) they offer to provide a Sunday babysitter for me at home, meaning the rest of the family can still go. That won’t work – I can easily run down the road to the church only to be told I’m banned. Jesus said, ‘suffer the children…’ Being different, by exclusion I do suffer. Is that really what Jesus meant? My family suffers also, my exclusion excludes them.  

I’m twelve now. God’s ‘representatives’ apparently don’t love me. Does God love me?  

******* 

JACK* (again)  

(I know Jill. She is my niece.) 

For five long years I don’t have a church that I can call my church. My church participation is when I’m invited to speak because the host churches (bless them) heard of the ministry I’ve offered nationally and internationally. In serving and giving, I’m sure receiving. Thank you host churches, thank you Lord. 

Time passes. Five long years. During this time, I go each summer to a Christian music festival. One of the volunteers there is a pastor the rest of the time. He greets me and chats, I get to know him year-by-year. ‘I think I might come to your church,’ I tell him. ‘That’ll be great!’ he replies. So I do. Immediately I feel at home, I fit. Why? I’m accepted as I am, loved as the person I am, created by God – albeit not quite the same format as those ‘good-looking successful people’ of elsewhere. Soon I’m asked to lead into the communion part of the service. The pastor later tells me, ‘I will never forget that first occasion, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house, it was spectacular.’ He says I’m an encourager. One time I suggested a way of improving something. My idea was adopted.  

******* 

IMAGINE (as first imagined by St Paul in his letter to the Corinthians, reinterpreted by J. Lennon in 1971, updated in 2012 by Wes Walter) 

Imagine that in heaven, 

There’s access to the gate. 

Disabled enter, welcome! 

No plan to isolate. 

Imagine all the people  

Living all as one… 

 

Imagine there’s no barrier –  

It isn’t hard to do. 

No need to discriminate –  

Embrace disabled who 

Know that they are people  

Living life with you! 

 

You, you may say  

I’m a dreamer,  

But I’m not the only one. 

I hope some day you’ll join us, 

And the Church will be as one! 

 

Imagine a Church inclusive: 

Everybody welcome here! 

Disabled right there, valued 

Not patronised, no fear! 

Imagine all the people  

Living all as one 

 

You, you may say 

I’m a dreamer,  

But I’m not the only one. 

I hope some day you’ll join us, 

And the Church will be as one! 

 

******* 

SO, WHO IS… 

…on the outside edge of our [church, or whatever] community? 

… a little ‘different’ from our ‘average’ participant? 

 

…AND HOW DO WE… 

…demonstrate that we welcome diversity in our community? 

…show genuine non-patronising love? 

…welcome the God-given gifts of those whose life and gifts may be a little different from our standard? 

  

******* 

Writer Wes Walter* is a Kiwi Christian leader with decades of pastoral experience in the local church and wider ministry. He knows both Jack and Jill.  

 *Not my real name 

 

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