A webinar held 22 October gave space for persons with disabilities to share their reflections. Entitled “From Lamentation to Transformation,” the event, first in a series of webinars on COVID-19 perspectives, highlighted hope through stories, practical support, and social change as experienced by persons with disabilities.
Rev. Dr Gordon Cowans, moderator of the United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, served as moderator for the gathering. “We seek to connect the concerns of our people with the people of the world everywhere,” he said. “We hope to identify potential practical actions that Christians and people of God everywhere are able to take together for the sake of all humanity.”
Gertrude Fefoame, a member of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana, spoke about communications challenges experienced by persons with disabilities amidst COVID-19. With physical distancing and other COVID-19-related safety protocols, “our lives therefore became difficult,” said Fefoame. “Many of us went hungry both physically and spiritually.”
Rev. John Naude, an ordained priest with the Church of England, shared some of the challenges of churches in the UK and globally—and also shared that some churches were able to truly connect with people with disabilities, not only serving their needs but using their talents. “And in many respects this has been done creatively in reaching out and recognizing what the needs are of those unable to leave their homes,” he said. “This could be done by asking those with disabilities to be involved with some of the pastoral care by making phone calls, for example.”
Rev. Helen Setyoputri, a pastor with Gereja Kristen Indonesia, has a 10-year-old son with an intellectual disability. “We know that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed our world in so many ways,” she said, citing physical distancing, mask wearing and many other COVID-19-related safety measures. “All those things were not in our daily routines a year ago,” she said, and this has been a particular burden for people with intellectual disabilities and their caregivers. “Routines are very important for them,” she said.
Fabian Corralles Gutierrez, a special education teacher and a member of the Baptist Church of Costa Rica, urged people to embrace a vision of unity and engagement. “The understanding that people with disabilities are relegated to a minor role in society in the world we live, is most of the time true in the world of the church,” he said—and that needs to change. “Everyone is important,” he said.