It was really timely that our Widening the Circle workshop on “Living Our Values in the World” and this amazing conference at Boston University School of Theology (BUSTH) on disability, embodiment, and theology both happened in the same week.
You see, one of the recommendations in the chapter of the Widening the Circle of Concern report is to “develop more theological resources to center our justice work in our faith and make clear the interconnection between action in the world and spiritual development.” Without a theological basis, the report writers argue, our justice work can drift from co-liberation and real solidarity toward hurtful models of paternalism and charity. Enter the “Accessing the Divine: Disability, Embodiment, and Claiming Joyous Futures” conference on Friday March 25 at BUSTH, organized by a team of grad students from the Boston Theological Consortium led by Michelle Eastman of BU.
During this conference, we explored not only how church buildings and spaces can be inaccessible to certain bodies, but also how certain kinds of worship and contemplative practices can be inaccessible to certain brains. We explored–with the help of Ben Bond from Yale University–-how the pandemic has been a time of “rampant ableism” and what a prophetic response from the church might look like. We wondered–with the help of Mary Page Wilson-Lyons of BU – what a more liberative reading of the Markan healing narrative of the withered hands could be, and why hope need not only be located in the action of healing, overcoming, or curing in some of these New Testament passages (and therefore the Christian, Protestant, or post-Protestant cultural imagination). And we were introduced to some Really Big Theological Ideas that come out of the lived experiences of the disability justice and fat activism communities; in summary–with the help of Dr. Sharon Betcher– a roadmap for how we might slowly migrate from the Big Economy (of capitalism) toward the Great Economy (of the interconnected web of life).
While this conference was about joy and joyous futures, the hard truth is that the disability lens is often left out of conversations about anti-oppression work, both within and without UU spaces. The Covid-19 pandemic has made all too clear that there is a very human cost of such an ommission. So, dear ones, let’s keep this conversation going at First Parish as a part of our ongoing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion work.
P.s. The recordings of lectures and workshops will be available to the general public and, once available online, I’ll be sure to share them with you all.