(This week’s mid-week devotional is from Janine Kanagy)
Dear Weavers Congregation,
Thanks for loving Henry.
When Phil and I began attending Weavers ten years ago, I was delighted to know that Henry Brenneman attended here. Henry was part of the community-based program with Pleasant View Inc., where I have worked the past 13 years, and I was his case coordinator at that time. Occasionally in his planning meetings, Henry talked about Weavers, and it was apparent that he was very committed to his church, and to attending worship and Sunday School weekly, and that it was a place where Henry felt he belonged. Henry looked forward to special events like fellowship meals and our annual church campout. He especially liked observing the creek-baptisms. Henry truly felt like this was his church family and that he was a part of us. Thank you for making a place for him, for making him feel included, and helping him feel like family.
This spring I audited a class at Eastern Mennonite Seminary on “Spirituality and Disabilities.” One of the many things we talked about in that class was evaluating how well our faith communities integrate persons with disabilities—both in attitude and in accessibility of our building space. As a couple of classmates shared of church buildings and worship gatherings that were less then welcoming of persons with disabilities, I became even more grateful for the way that Weavers has made a home for Henry. Many of you provided transportation for him to and from church for many years. Others have welcomed and integrated Henry into your Sunday School class, and many of you greeted him weekly and welcomed him to church, even though you probably struggled to understand his attempt to return the greeting or to converse at length.
Throughout the semester as our class looked at the faith development of persons with disabilities, we all agreed that even though their understanding may be limited, for many persons with disabilities, their simple trust, deep love for God and others, their lack of need to judge, and their joy in the small things, is truly a faith that is authentic. And faith communities would be blessed by acknowledging that, and making an integrated space for them within the gathered community.
The bulk of my career has been serving and advocating for persons with disabilities. It’s a population I love and am committed to minimizing their sense of marginalization. I believe Weavers was a gift to Henry, and Henry was a gift to Weavers. He will be missed. That back pew will look empty without Henry munching on his mid-morning snack before the worship service began. Thank you Henry for blessing us with your commitment to us, and for your gracious, gentle presence. Thank you Weavers for taking the time to know and love Henry.
“In as much as you have loved the ‘least of these’, you have loved me.”