Reflecting on Your Practice

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by Erik W. Carter
Read Part 1:  On Belonging
Read Part 2:  Dimensions of Belonging
Read Part 3:  More Dimensions of Belonging

Are people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families invited, present, welcomed, known, accepted, supported, cared for, befriended, needed, and loved? These ten dimensions can provide practical (and powerful) points of reflection for congregations desiring to be places of hospitality in which everyone truly belongs.
 
As you think about your own congregation, consider the following questions:
 
In our church, are people with disabilities and their families…
●     Personally invited?
●     Present in all of aspect of congregational life?
●     Experiencing a warm welcome whenever they arrive?
●     Well known throughout our faith community?
●     Accepted without condition or caveat?
●     Provided the support they need to participate fully and meaningfully?
●     Receiving care in ways that enable them to flourish?
●     Developing friendships with others in the congregation?
●     Seen as needed and indispensable to the thriving of our community?
●     Loved deeply and unconditionally?
 
How might the attitudes and actions of clergy, ministry leaders, congregation members, and others promote each of these aspects of belonging? What are you doing well right now in this area? What could you be doing better? What should you do entirely differently? And what are the next best steps your church should take to be a place where everyone truly belongs?
 
To learn more about the research related to these dimensions of belonging, read the articles “A Place of Belonging: Research at the Intersection of Faith and Disability” and “Being Present Versus Having a Presence: Dimensions of Belonging for Young People with Disabilities and Their Families.”
 
Part 1:  On Belonging
Part 2:  Dimensions of Belonging
Part 3:  More Dimensions of Belonging

 
About the Author
Erik Carter is Professor of Special Education at Vanderbilt University and a researcher at the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center. His research focuses on helping congregations and communities receive the gifts, faith, and friendship of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. He co-leads the Collaborative on Faith and Disability and is the author of Including People with Disabilities in Faith Communities: A Guide for Service Providers, Families, and Congregations

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