Archive for August, 2010

Euthanasia and futile care

Here are the four posts of the series on Euthanasia and futile care from 2009; you may access them from their titles below:

Euthanasia and futile care: stories & commentary

Euthanasia and futile care: Orthodox Christian Hierarchical commentary

Euthanasia and futile care: Commentary by Orthodox Christian Priests

Euthanasia and futile care: further Orthodox Christian commentary by physicians, scholars, etc.

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family life

Dr. Albert S. Rossi, PhD

A good family life, with a father who is present and strong in Christian faith, in which both mother and father who are in harmony and love one another, is the key to a child’s socialization according to Dr. John Boojamra of blessed memory in his book Foundations of [Orthodox] Christian Education.

Dr. John taught at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Seminary in Crestwood, NY.

Dr. Albert S. Rossi, PhD, has written an article for the Orthodox Church in America’s Resource Handbook for Lay Ministries: Family Life Section, entitled Family as Garden.

Families with members with disabilities are gardens, too, and each “plant” is important.

To access: http://oca.org/resource-handbook/familylife/family-as-garden

Picture from St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Seminary’s Faculty Page: http://old.svots.edu/Faculty/Albert-Rossi/index.html

from within and without, love for the Russian people

From within:

The sisters and brothers of the Monastery of St. Martyr Grand Princess Elizabeth in Minsk, Russia, are challenging the rest of us to take seriously Christ’s mandate in Matthew 25:31-46 by their care for those in great need in their region- without government assistance or even regular funds from the Patriarchate.

See for yourself: http://www.obitel-minsk.by/welcome_text-1_mid33.html

From without:

St. Gregory’s Foundation for Russia addresses the following needs in Russia (click to access):

An Orthodox Parish’s support for a disability ministry: LOUFEAT

St. Matthew the Evangelist

St. Matthew the Evangelist

A parish in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, St. Matthew the Apostle Orthodox Church,  is providing support for a ministry to persons with Autism- LOUFEAT. (LOUISIANA FAMILIES FOR EFFECTIVE AUTISM TREATMENT)

Here’s a noteworthy quote from a 2007 Parish Blog post:

As Orthodox Christians, we believe that all things in this life – our joys, sorrows, victories, and defeats – are given to us that through them we may work out our salvation. Learning to love, accept, nurture, and teach children with profound developmental disabilities can be a fearful and daunting task. But through such works of mercy, we grow in our love of God and neighbor, reflecting the Light that is Christ Jesus.

Here’s the URL of that post:

http://ocabatonrouge.blogspot.com/search?q=Serving+our+Community…+with+LouFEAT

And here’s the URL of LOUFEAT‘s blog:

http://loufeat.blogspot.com/

Sunday of the Paralytic

 A Homily for the Sunday of the paralytic

by Archimandrite Tikhon (Shevkunov):  

http://www.pravmir.com/article_949.html

He begins:

Today is a feast day for all of us paralytics. Today, brothers and sisters, we to a certain degree are meeting our name-day, our feast day. Who among us can boast that he is strong, courageous, bearing all the misfortunes of this age, fulfilling all of Christ’s commandments? Deliver us, O Lord, if such a person stands in our midst — one cannot imagine a worse righteous or strong man! The Apostle Paul says: “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Cor 12:10). But the Apostle did not deprive himself of one thing: strong faith and undoubting hope in the Savior. “The power of God is made perfect in weakness!” . . .

In the “disability movement” some consider the assertion “we’re all disabled” as a trivialization of the situation of persons with disabilities. Nevertheless, this is the understanding of the Orthodox Christian Tradition.

Most human beings would like to think we fall into the”normal” camp. But this is self-deception.

The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart He will not despise.” (Psalms 50, LXX)  

We don’t get there by pretending we’re OK. And so we sing, in our liturgical worship,

Kontakion in the Third Tone
I am grievously paralyzed in a multitude of sins and wrongful deeds. As You raised up the paralytic of old, also raise up my soul by Your divine guidance, that I may cry out, “Glory to Your Power O Compassionate Christ.”

This homily and the icon shown above were discovered at this site: http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/

Accessible Church

From the Orthodox Church of America’s online Resource Handbook for Lay Ministries’ Parish Development Page , by Permission:

The Accessible Church by the Very Reverend Father John Matusiak  – Rector of St. Joseph Church, Wheaton, IL; managing editor of the publication “The Orthodox Church;” and secretary of the Orthodox Church of America’s Diocese of the Midwest.> (at the time this article was written)

Parish Development – Volume I, 1983
The Accessible Church
By Fr. John Matusiak
The rights of people with handicapping conditions first received the support of federal law with the enactment of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Title V, Section 504, prohibits discrimination against qualified persons with handicapping conditions in federally-assisted programs or activities solely on the basis of disability.During the years immediately following enactment, administrators and advocates learned that non-discrimination is more difficult to practice with the disabled than in cases of racial or sexual discrimination. The reason is that people with disabilities may need different treatment than others for equal access to public life. That realization prompted demonstrations at Health, Education, and Welfare offices across the country and led to the development of the Section 504 regulation in 1977.For the most part, churches have ignored the needs of the disabled, and many church buildings are virtually inaccessible. Steps, pew placement, inaccessible washroom facilities, and insensitivity to the needs of the disabled in general have posed problems for decades. Yet as we consider the means by which the Orthodox Church in America can effectively evangelize, grow, and reach out to everyone — including the disabled — we should consider accessibility one of our top priorities, as every parish can expect that one out of four of its members will be handicapped at some point in life.

A major attitudinal barrier to overcome is the idea that people with disabilities are people in need. As Orthodox Christians we should strive to see people as having abilities instead of disabilities, capable of offering leadership and a host of other talents to the Church and community. The parish which truly seeks to evangelize as Christ commanded will welcome all people, as Christ Himself did.

Building Language

Let’s consider a few facts.

The disabled persons are not necessarily handicapped. A handicap exists when the disabled person cannot overcome a barrier. Therefore the responsibility for accessibility is in those who create barriers or who should remove such barriers once their presence is recognized.

Buildings send messages in what might be termed “building language.” The message that church buildings need to say is “welcome.” A church building or parish hall with countless steps, inadequate sound systems, or inaccessible facilities surely does not extend a warm invitation to the disabled.

We may fool ourselves that proposed structural changes are planned only for the permanently disabled people. Not so. At any moment many able-bodied parishioners are recovering from illness or are temporarily in casts or on crutches. Further, every parishioner is growing older. These are all conditions which benefit from “barrier-free” access to our church facilities.

One of the purposes of the Church is the maintenance of Christian fellowship. We assume that it is a person’s desire to continue active involvement in worship and in fellowship as long as life will allow. On the other hand, every parish has its list of homebound parishioners who are no longer active. The decision to be homebound is theirs. They perceive that, given their disability, to leave home and enter the church building or hall is too difficult. If every church building could be barrier free, the greater part of the perceived difficulty will have been removed.

Assessing Needs

An Accessibility Audit is one of the easiest ways of discovering architectural barriers, and considering the different ways in which these barriers can be removed is usually quite simple.

Determining costs, procedures, and the time involved in removing physical barriers is more difficult. But with such information in hand, decisions, plans, and implementation take place at whatever pace a particular parish accepts.

Awareness-building might proceed more quickly if able-bodied parishioners used a wheelchair or crutches to tour their parish facilities in order to experience first hand some of the problems faced by disabled persons.

It is also essential to recognize the fact that we are long past that time when the need for accessibility developed. The long list of those now considered shut-in makes that self-evident. We need also to remember that removing existing architectural barriers will not, of itself, return to active parish life those who are comfortably established in their home-bound lifestyle. Those for whom we are becoming barrier free are, primarily, those who are presently active and those becoming active as time goes on, the one out of four who will become disabled at some point in their lives. Our goal should be to extend their time of active participation for as long as possible.

What Is An Accessible Church?

An accessible church is one that has overcome:

The physical or architectural barriers that make it difficult for people with handicaps to enter or to participate fully;

The attitudinal barriers that keep them from feeling welcome. Of the two, the attitudinal barrier is the most difficult to overcome. Once awareness, sensitivity, and understanding are achieved, the removal of physical barriers becomes an easy task.
Attitudinal barriers might be more easily overcome if we kept the following points in mind:

People with disabilities also have many gifts and talents given to them by God. We are all called to be stewards of our own gifts and to encourage others to share theirs as well.

Disabled people should be included in parish leadership roles. When planning programs, learn firsthand the needs of the whole parish.

Parishioners may have relatives with handicapping conditions who are anticipating or experiencing attitudinal or physical barriers. Listen to their fears or anger and involve them in the process of change.

To assure that people with visual disabilities can fully participate in liturgical services, contact your local society for the blind. For little or no cost they will gladly assist you in producing prayer books and other religious literature in Braille or large-type.

Christianity has a long and unfortunate history of excluding hearing-impaired persons. St. Augustine, an early Christian writer, declared that deaf persons could not be Christians because they could not “hear the Word.” Past mistakes do not justify continued insensitivity. Since it is generally impossible to offer services with sign language interpretations, consider better sound amplification, which can be accomplished by installing a “loop” system in the pews. Your local society for the hearing-impaired will provide information about mechanical means of access.

Non-sighted persons will want to move around parish facilities independently. Ushers or greeters can express their welcome by orienting them immediately to steps, doors, and corridors.

Several modifications may need to be made for equal access by those in wheelchairs. Can they move freely around the church? Are some pews shorter than others thereby allowing persons in wheelchairs to be part of a row rather than an appendage of the worshipping congregation?

When your parish has learned to integrate people with handicapping conditions into its life of service, you may want to explore new opportunities for outreach and evangelization by noting in parish publications, phone directory listings, and advertisements that the church building is accessible to the disabled. It is a proven fact that the disabled will more readily join churches which are accessible.

Because of its history of barring those with disabilities, the Church is challenged to seek out people with handicapping conditions and invite their participation in a common ministry. Elimination of architectural barriers, as vital as it is, is not enough. An on-going ministry to the disabled should be an integral part of every progressive parish.

Hopeworks: On the realism of optimism

Elder Paisios

Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain, (1994) of blessed memory, emphasized positive thinking. See the following three web pages for some of his thoughts on this subject:

http://www.pigizois.net/agglika/paisios/07.htm

http://www.pigizois.net/agglika/paisios/08.htm

http://www.pigizois.net/agglika/paisios/08.htm

Hopeworks Community is a disability blog, and the following is a post similar in aim to the ones by Elder Paisios displayed above. Now this blogging community was the winner of the 2008 DSBA 1st year chapter National Service Award. DSBA stands for Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance: http://hopeworkscommunity.wordpress.com/2010/02/26/second-look-on-the-realism-of-optimism/

And here is their current page, with lots of resources on their blogroll to the right: http://hopeworkscommunity.wordpress.com/


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