Embracing All God’s Children: Orthodox Theology & Disability – Implications for Ministry with Special Needs Youth in the Orthodox Church

Wendy M. Cwiklinski: Embracing All God’s Children 

Mr. Rogers

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61 pp.

Matushka Wendy Cwiklinski’s thesis “Embracing All God’s Children: Orthodox Theology Concerning Disability and Its Implications for Ministry with Special Needs Youth in the Orthodox Church” begins with stories, and proceeds to a definition of both disabilities in general and also invisible disabilities. Providing Scriptural and patristic support for the importance of blessing and caring for children, she notes the ambivalent attitudes toward children, especially those with special needs, in society.  She quotes Thomas Reynolds, who notes, “Despite being loved into being by God, people with disabilities are excluded or trivialized as social nonentities in ways that mar their sense of being created in the image of God.” (pp. 10-11) Cwiklinski defines and discusses various forms of invisible disabilities, and illustrates inclusion with stories from L’Arche, a place community “with” persons with intellectual disabilities, which “bears witness to the reality that persons with intellectual disabilities possess inherent qualities of welcome, wonderment, spirituality,and friendship.” (p. 18)

Cwiklinski cites leaders from the pages of Holy Scripture who had disabilities, and yet succeeded in their God-given ministry. She then tackles erroneous theologies and beliefs which serve to hinder inclusion of children in our Church and in society. The wonderful mindset and ministry of Mr. Rogers, the creation of all human beings (including “the least of these My brethren”)  in the image of God, and our call to community, as set forth in the Scriptures, such as St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians chapter 12, are discussed. The Orthodox Church baptizes infants, and allows them to receive the body and blood of Christ; “there is no intellectual impediment to membership.” (p. 39) Contemporary concerns, such as the widespread practice of aborting unborn children, are addressed; “Fr. John Breck gives us the pastoral imperative for the Church: ‘Today, as fully as in Byzantine times, the Church must act as the conscience of society, through evangelization and moral persuasion.’”  (p.43) Cwiklinski asks, “What does that perfection entail? It does not meet any standard of worldly or material success,no IQ level or accountability for all of one appendages or faculties, but an embrace of God’s Will.” (P. 46-47)





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