Sabbatical Blog 3 - Disability in Ministry
I said in my first Sabbatical blog that I was due to have a PIP face to face assessment last Thursday. Well, this was cancelled at the last minute and changed to today October 2nd. It was a good assessment with a lovely assessor. I must admit that I cried with relief when it was over! Now we wait for the DWP’s take on her report and my disability… and what happens next. (It will be a 4 to 6 week wait).
I have been totally overwhelmed by people’s support, love and avalanche of prayers through this – thankyou so much!
Today’s blog is about being in ministry when you have a disability and the part it has to play in this sabbatical – so the PIP stuff is a good precursor….
It takes a lot to find peace in the fluidity of a degenerative illness. The onset of disability and decline of your health can affect your confidence massively. As a Christian, there is the added dynamic of what this means to my faith too. I have found a place of peace because I see how God has used my disability.
I don’t blame Him for it.
As I said in my last post about diamonds, although many see my disability as a flaw – I see it as an inclusion (much like the person shaping a diamond uses the word ‘inclusion’ and not ‘flaw’)
I first got called for my PIP ‘re-assessment’ back in May. The whole process requires you to look in minute detail at what you cannot do. The re-assessment also requires you to say in every detail what has ‘changed’. These questions are soul destroying if you look at them for one afternoon, but to dwell on it for this long is damaging to your mind and your soul.
As I’ve already said, I’ve come to terms with my disabilities in a spiritual sense. I am not disappointed with God because of them. But I am hugely disappointed with how the ‘Church’ in all its expressions views me as a disabled person in ministry.
In the most part, they too look at what I cannot do rather than the gifts that God has given me. This is what causes me the most hurt and the biggest distraction in my work – and has been half of the driving force behind the sabbatical and seeking God for the future.
There is a bigger story behind this that I can talk to you about if you ask, but it’s not for the public sphere, other than to say that being female, being disabled and not working for a large organisation are all working against me most of the time. Yes, I am very busy – but rarely do I get paid work that in turn pays for my expenses when working with organisations who cannot afford to pay me. (Hope you could follow that!) The most common reasons given by organisations and churches are either my gender or my wheels…and sometimes both.
All this looms large in the middle of a ministry that I love, a gifting that has been tested by people I trust and found to be true and a field of work lacking in workers.
It is true that ‘Church’ is a hard place to be if you’re disabled or have additional needs. It’s even harder if you are called to some form of ministry. Friends who are disabled and in ministry also say that you are judged more harshly, you feel you have to prove yourself to a greater degree and most institutions and churches are not forthcoming with accessibility information that would make the tasks less onerous. A couple of those friends have blogged on exactly this in the last year – so I’m certainly not alone in the struggle.
So here I am in ministry – a little battered, a little fearful and with my confidence squished because so many cannot see beyond my disability to the giftings I have.
I need to overcome, forgive quickly and move on.
I’ve laid this before God and I’m pretty much getting the ‘it’s not up to them, It’s up to Me – so keep going’ response. Everywhere I turn, everything I hear and see says the same things: “Don’t be afraid, look to me, keep going. Create a place of welcome in my house for the voiceless and the vulnerable”. Even today’s verse on Bible Gateway that I read first thing in the Morning!!!
There are some wonderful organisations I work alongside who do ‘get it’ and are an enormous source of encouragement and support. Two of those are Spring Harvest and the Evangelical Alliance. My own sending church, Knighton Free Church is also fabulous and my place of safety. But some other organisations have been soul destroying.
So my thoughts and prayers on this aspect of my sabbatical are:
Forgiveness and the ability to ‘let it go’ so to speak(!) when people can’t see past my wheels or gender.
To rebuild my confidence and look to the one who is the source of that confidence – not the ones who by thoughtlessness break it down.
Now – back to the knitting