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Disability devotional strengthens Salvos’ commitment to inclusion


National Disability Inclusion Lead Joseph Pinkard and the cover of the new devotional resource.
BY ANTHONY CASTLE

The Salvation Army is releasing new resources to encourage and equip Salvos to include people with disabilities more intentionally in faith communities and mission. Joseph Pinkard is The Salvation Army’s national Disability Inclusion Lead, starting in August last year, and he began in the role by considering a new approach to resourcing.


“Over the last year, I spent considerable time listening to Salvos living with disability, corps leaders and reviewing the existing disability inclusion resources. I felt there was scope to do something amplifying the lived experiences of people and their carers and exploring biblical perspectives on disability too. The lived experience of disability is so broad. Visible and invisible disabilities, people who are born with a disability and those who acquire them, to those who live with multiple disabilities. Bringing together a diverse range of perspectives provides a fuller picture than you would normally get from just one person writing all the devotionals.”


The devotional is aimed at individuals exploring the topic of disability inclusion in a diverse range of Salvo mission expressions. Belonging and becoming is an accessible digital devotional featuring seven reflections contributed by Salvos with a lived experience or a personal connection to disability.


“Scripture was written over a period of time thousands of years ago, and its perspectives on disability somewhat align with our understanding today and somewhat differ as well,” Joseph explains. “The Bible is central to our faith; there’s no reason to shy away from it when it comes to disability, but we do need to approach with an openness regarding what’s being said and what we interpret about disability.”


The Salvation Army’s focus on disability inclusion is about creating mission expressions where people with disabilities experience welcome and belonging, ensuring equitable opportunities to engage with mission.Themes of disability and inclusion feature throughout Scripture, from commands around community support, ritualistic instructions, poetry, and the miracle stories. For those with a disability, the relationship with the biblical narrative can be liberating or fraught, depending on how it is interpreted.


One of the chapters in the devotional.

“There are stories in the New Testament where Jesus is healing people with disability,” Joseph explains. “Think of the story of the man born blind in John. That passage explores the question, ‘Why does disability happen?’ Is it something that’s caused by sin? We need to create spaces to engage with these stories, to consider their connotations and to wrestle with it. Particularly regarding questions of healing. What does healing actually mean for a person living with a disability? Some people living with disability may not even want to be healed in the sense we assume they might.”


Belonging and becoming approaches these Scripture stories with a lived experience of disability to hear what personal perspectives can share on the passages. Each devotion focuses on a different aspect of disability inclusion and features a biblical perspective, reflection questions and a prayer.


“The Salvation Army is an organisation with an enormous connection to disability,” Joseph explains. “The amount of people who live with disabilities, have a family member with a disability, or a connection to disability is huge. Disability runs through all our streams and mission expressions. It surprised me how many people have a connection to disability.”


The Disability Inclusion Toolkit on mySalvos features a range of other resources, including a Disability Inclusion Checklist to help local mission expressions reflect on their local context, a Disability Inclusion Discipleship Study that can be used by small groups or individuals, and a Disability Inclusion Language Guide. Other materials include assets for Neurodiverse Discipleship Groups, Auslan Interpreter Services and Fees, and a guide to celebrating International Day of People with Disability.


“If we don’t get this right, people get excluded,” Joseph explains. “They develop a view of the Church that isn’t as welcoming as it wants to be. That’s sad. Everyone is part of God’s Kingdom, including people with disabilities, which is what we see in Jesus’ parable of the Great Banquet in Luke 14. Everyone had a role to play, everyone is a part of the body, as we read in 1 Corinthians 12. When we get it wrong and don’t include people with disability to serve and participate, we lose part of the body of the Christ.”


Belonging and becoming will be available in a range of delivery methods so different people can engage with it according to their needs, and is now available for download from the Disability Inclusion Toolkit on mySalvos.


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