Just as no one is excluded from the offer of life in Christ, so no one should be excluded from our church families, from the communities we build together.
Over the last couple of days, I’ve sat in Gosport and Southampton, listening via Skype while a dude named Eric, who I’ve never met, played in a studio in Rochester, New York, recording drums on a bunch of my songs. This strikes me as somewhat crazy. While I’d rather be in New York – who wouldn’t rather be in New York than Gosport? – this is a pretty good deal. It’s meant that the EP I’m working on has had the drummer who fitted it just right play on it. It’s also enabled us to welcome Eric, and Brian, who engineered the session and entertained us royally, into the community that is building around the songs and the vision behind them.
Writing and recording songs has been one my favourite things to do since I started in bands around the age of 18. There are loads of reasons, but one of them is that the moment when you realise that you have a good song on your hands is unlike almost anything else. A good song is a good song, whether it’s written by the latest production line pop strumpet, or a grizzled veteran. When it comes to music, the fact that I’m a wheelchair user is of no consequence at all. If my songs are good, they’re good. If they’re not so good…
My cerebral palsy is a big part of my life, but it does not define me. I’m not Haydon, the disabled ordinand (trainee vicar), or Haydon the wheelchair singing guy (although I’ve been called that before). I’m Haydon, the son of God. That’s the whole of it. Not a mention of disability anywhere in that identity is there? We’re identified first, foremost and only by the loving action of God, through Christ, in our lives. Nothing more. Nothing less. It’s funny in a piece on inclusion to say something like this, which you, the reader, may perceive to be exclusive. Sorry about that. For my part I’ve found that every label other than son of God that either I’ve used, or has been used about me to identify me gives me, or others, the opportunity to either think of myself as better or worse than other people. All are equal in the eyes of God. All. No one is better. No one is worse. That is inclusion. That is an enabled society. Anything else is a pale reflection of God’s intention for society.
I strongly think that we, in this country at this time, have a key role to play in the development of a new kind of society. Not only can we be primary movers in social change, so that the loving kindness and justice of God can prevail in our broken society, but we need to learn to live, love and act in such a way as to make our communities real and whole. Just as no one is excluded from the offer of life in Christ, so no one should be excluded from our church families, from the communities we build together. Whether that means you change physical elements of church life, open up to the possibility of people around you being depressed (there will be some depressed people that you know, whether you are aware of their depression or not) or you consider what an inclusive, enabled community that features people from all the parts of God’s glorious creation might actually look like, this is something that we need to get stuck in to, in this place, in this time.
Let me not be known as Haydon the wheelchair singing guy (please, not that). Let me be known as Haydon, the son of God who abounds in loving kindness and partners with God in bringing about His kingdom. Let us be remembered in history as the generation marked out by our abandoned love for Christ and all of His beloved sons and daughters, including those who our society and, God forbid, our Church, currently disables.
Image by Creationswap