As the writer of Ecclesiastes noted, “There is a time . . .” for one option, and there is a time for its seeming opposite: to give birth, to die, to plant, to pluck up, etc. This is true of movements toward independence and and back to interdependence in our individual and personal lives as well.
But still, one may question the emphasis on independence as it is defined nowadays. “Independent living” and “self-determination” are all the rage now, especially in regard to residential issues. Its true, we must respect everyone’s free will, including persons with disabilities- yes, especially persons with disabilities, given the “we know best” tendency to make decisions for them that has been the general rule.
But Orthodox Christian theology defines personhood according to Trinitarian life: the Divine Persons of the Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are three Persons, and yet One. This is personhood defined in terms of unity and openness to others, finding one’s identity not in oneself alone, but in relation to others.
The term “Interdependence” expresses certain aspects of this understanding of personhood; but it does not seem to be an approach that is appreciated as it should be in American society or in the disability community at this time- surely because it is not understood according to its ultimate context, the Kingdom of God- which we are striving to realize in the Church. But if hard times come, perhaps more appreciation will grow for interdependence, life together, dwelling in mutual love- out of necessity.
Anyway, here are some online resources- far from complete, and admittedly lacking in residential options tailored to the specific interests of Orthodox Christians- on residential options for persons with disability:
(independent living/ supported living): http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/Woods/2869/links.html
An Orientation to Independent Living Centers: http://www.jik.com/ilcorien.html
Prayerful discernment, and consultation with one’s spiritual father is crucial for a God-please use of these websites.
It would be great if I could give some websites of Orthodox Christian group home systems in America, but I think that may have to wait until the various Orthodox Christian jurisdictions can find a way to work together to create this kind of ministry. There is a great need for real movement toward united Orthodox Church jurisdictional governance in our country- for many reasons, and this is one of them.
Of course there are ministries like the Eastern Orthodox Foundation EOF Home Page & St. Matthew House and some others, such as the Raphael House in San Francisco which provide housing for people in need (the first two focus on or explicitly mention persons with disabilities in their mission statements) but they are widely scattered. And none of them focus on persons with developmental disability. I believe the Challenge Liturgy Ministry has mentioned a goal of working with an already existing group home system to provide a home specifically for their people but I don’t know if they have realized this goal. All in all, these ministries show that a beginning has been made, but when the efforts are widely scattered, many Orthodox Christians who would like to participate in such ministries cannot. Even if they would move nearby, the ministries cannot handle the influx. Lord, my these good beginnings multiply! & the