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Author Topic: Does the Orthodox Church adequately support their members with disabilities?  (Read 3785 times) Average Rating: 5
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Thomas
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« on: October 17, 2008, 09:03:14 AM »

After several recent incidents that I have seen, I have come to the point of asking myself  "Does the Orthodox Church adequately support their members with disabilities?".  I am not talking about the broader community but how well does the Orthodox Church serve those who are members of the Church who have physical and mental disabilities.  The following are three examples of what I have recently seen in various parishes I have visited:

1) An elderly man in his sixties with Alzhiemers was brought by his wife and two friends to the Lamenation Service this year in hope that it would help him to remember and be part of Pascha.  They sat in the back of the Church out of everyone's way.  During the service as the Lamenations were being sung, I saw him brighten and begin to respond as he had in the past.  Now the parish he was visiting only uses English, but he recognized the hymns and began to sing along with the congregation, in Greek.  After the service the priest reprimanded the usher for not silencing the disturber of the service. How sad that an opportunity to bring some joy and remembrance to one with Alzhiemers was not recognized, a reawakening as it were of his faith in memory that he held locked away in his Alzhiemers.  The family left his name and the name of the NH but there has been no follow-up pastoral visits.

2) An elderly woman following a stroke, attends church about every two weeks in the winter, more frequently is the warmer weather.  She is wheeled to the church door in a wheel chair and with great effort makes her way by walker into a seat in the church near the door. When the time for the communion comes, she must struggle to walk the 75 feet to the front of the Church where the priest stands to give communion, no effort is made to commune her where she is at. There have been times she could not make it all the way to the front for communion and the priest tired of waiting just returned inside the altar to continue the service, she went uncommuned.

3) A child with known ADHD and Bipolar illness serves on the Altar. During the service it become apparrent to the young server that he made a mistake as he realised that he was too hyper/manic that day to go to the Altar and that to stay would be a disservice to the Lord and the Church. He asks and recieves permission to leave the altar from the priest as does any altar server who becomes ill on the altar.  The Deacon after service goes to the family of the server and tells them to read the altar server's book and states that the boy left the altar on a "whim" and reminded them that only "really sick"  altar servers should ask to leave.

In view of these and many other situations that I have  viewed over the years, I pose to you, how well does the Orthodox Church serve members who have disabilities?

Thomas
« Last Edit: October 17, 2008, 02:32:54 PM by Thomas » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: October 17, 2008, 09:14:26 AM »

I am not talking about the broader community but how well doesthe Orthodox Church serve those who are members of the Church who have physical and mental disabilities. 

Hi Thomas,

I think this question cannot be address in the broad sense of the Church but must be looked at vis-a-vis the individual parish and priest.  Sadly due to the construction of our parish and historical nature (first Orthodox parish in our area - 1907), plus lack of funds, we are unable to make our temple handicap accessible at this time.  That being said, speaking of our parish and priest, I believe we serve those whose cross is a disability well under the circumstances.

We have had several elderly parishioners who cannot walk the length of the church to approach the chalice, thus Father brings the chalice to them where ever they are seated.  We have a young woman who is mentally challenged and she participated in Sunday school for a couple of years.  We have a young man who is obviously ADHD and he is continually invited to serve in the altar but for his own personal reasons chooses not to.

I think it helps that our parish priest has training as a Hospice Chaplain and that is his secular job.  He is very, very good with pastoral care concerns. 
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« Reply #2 on: October 17, 2008, 10:22:21 AM »

At my GOA Church, I have never seen a priest directly commune a parishionier where they are seated.  For those parishioners in wheelchairs, they rarely go up for Communion.  We also have a former chanter who occasionally chats the Liturgy from his seat and that doesn't bother anyone.  Finally, a homeless person with addiction issues helps out during coffee hour.

About 20 years ago, an elderly gentleman would occasionally be communed by one priest on the solea after the other priest continued the liturgy.  I've received Communion when my Sunday School class was late to Church.

The Church has an elevator for transporting those in wheelchairs and the elderly.  There are wheelchair ramps for transporting people from street level to the Church entrance.  Nearly every GOA Church in MD is ADA compliant.
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« Reply #3 on: October 17, 2008, 11:26:23 AM »

Thomas, Each of those situations make me ill.  It saddens me that anyone would be treated like that (I only pray that the three situations didn't all happen in the same Church!).  I've never encountered such behavior; of course, any places that would be likely to treat people in such manner I've avoided.
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« Reply #4 on: October 17, 2008, 11:53:35 AM »


2) An elderly woman following a stroke, attends church about every two weeks in the winter, more frequently is the warmer weather.  She is wheeled to the church door in a wheel chair and with great effort makes her way by walker into a seat in the church near the door. When the time for the communion comes, she must struggle to walk the 75 feet to the front of the Church where the priest stands to give communion, no effort is made to commune her where she is at. There have been times she could not make it all the way to the front for communion and the priest tired of waiting just returned inside the altar to continue the service, she went uncommuned.


This one truly boggles my mind.  At my Ruthenian Catholic parish, our pastor regularly communes those who have great difficulty walking before communing the rest of us, even walking to the back of the church for a couple of our more elderly parishoners. 

I suppose we all have seen and heard things that are truly upsetting in regards to this issue.  But I'm sure there are also stories of priests and congregations who truly exhibit the Light of Christ in going out of their way to accomodate those with special needs. 
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« Reply #5 on: October 17, 2008, 02:35:06 PM »

Thomas, Each of those situations make me ill.  It saddens me that anyone would be treated like that (I only pray that the three situations didn't all happen in the same Church!).  I've never encountered such behavior; of course, any places that would be likely to treat people in such manner I've avoided.

Luckily these were in diferring parishes, that is why I wonder how well we minister to the disabled. Do we only  do "what the ADA law requires" or do we truely try to minister to the blind, the crippled, the disabled?

Thomas
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« Reply #6 on: October 17, 2008, 05:02:35 PM »

Thomas, Each of those situations make me ill.  It saddens me that anyone would be treated like that (I only pray that the three situations didn't all happen in the same Church!).  I've never encountered such behavior; of course, any places that would be likely to treat people in such manner I've avoided.

Luckily these were in diferring parishes, that is why I wonder how well we minister to the disabled. Do we only  do "what the ADA law requires" or do we truely try to minister to the blind, the crippled, the disabled?

Thomas

I can only speak from my own experiences, but...

I have seen many priests come down from the solea and commune those who could not come up to receive.  And every parish I've been a member of has been wheelchair accessable.  I agree with you, Thomas, that we need to be doing more to minister to our disabled then just meeting the requirements of the law. 

My husband has an active hospital/disabled ministry, and it is something he feels very passionate about.  We have a lady in our parish who is blind and brings her dog with her to church (Sahara is the dog's name and she's extremely well behaved, she sleeps through liturgy in the choir loft while her owner sings!).  I have to say it was kind of a surprise the first time I ever saw a dog in the church, but when I realized she was a seeing-eye dog, and when I met the lady (who is SUCH a kind lady and has a beautiful voice), I was touched by how God ministers to the disabled, and by the overwhelming acceptance and outpouring of love that this lady has received from parishioners.  There is always someone stepping up to help her-- whether it's to help her find the right bills to put in the tray, or to lead her to the chalice, or whatever the case may be, she is always well attended to and greatly loved. 

Your stories are terribly upsetting, and I only pray that this is NOT the norm in the Orthodox church.  I hope my little story gives you a little hope!

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« Reply #7 on: October 17, 2008, 05:11:56 PM »

I can only speak from my own experience, as someone with what would probably qualify as a couple disabilities. I can say that sometimes the consequences of a disability are not apparent to people, and that changes how you are dealt with. People generally mean well, but sometimes they rush to judgment/action without having all the information.
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« Reply #8 on: October 18, 2008, 01:16:28 AM »

We have a young man with Spina Bifida who attends pretty often in his wheelchair.
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« Reply #9 on: October 18, 2008, 07:29:46 AM »

Thomas,

It's hard to believe those stories are true, yet I know from experience that there are people who misunderstand illness, especially mental illnesses like Alzheimer's and bipolar disorder.

That said, we do have a paralyzed man who was in an accident with an eighteen-wheeler who used to attend Liturgy every other week when he could get a ride from a disabled transport service. Just a few weeks ago, though, the service went out of business, and he has come rarely. We all like to see him, but unfortunately none of us has a vehicle capable of taking him to church, and he has to live too far away to take his chair.
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« Reply #10 on: January 31, 2010, 01:55:11 AM »

That right there makes me mad that people aren't watching out for the Handicapped and the babooshka's of the parish... If I saw something like that and the priest didn't do anything I would talk to the priest and if he blew it off I would talk to the Bishop... The Elderly and the Handicapped should always get priority and especially when getting communion!! At my parish I have taken all of the elderly under my wing and I watch over them and if any need help I quietly help them out. I find it a shame that more people don't help out the elderly.....
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« Reply #11 on: January 31, 2010, 03:09:46 AM »

I believe all clergy should recieve some training on minstering to folks with various physical limitations. As far as communing someone in a wheelchair, maybe an usher could check with them beforehand and verify that they wish to recieve and let the priest know. Some folks don't recieve every Sunday.
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« Reply #12 on: August 03, 2010, 05:36:41 PM »

Not all parishes are like that. 

The parish that I attend has several disabled people.  The ushers assist people getting into their seats and if needed people assist in the communion line.  Their is one man who cannot stand and the priest administers communion while he remains in his seat.
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« Reply #13 on: August 03, 2010, 05:48:46 PM »

I have often seen my priest walk with the chalice to commune those who could not come to him.

I do think that there should be training at seminary for how to minister to the disabled. I think there might already be.

Many times, it's hard to tell if someone is disabled, and a priest might not know if someone is not making it to the chalice unless he is informed. A lot of times, I think, it is assumed that people have someone to take care of them, but that is not always the case. It is assumed the priest will make a visit, for example, but was a visit requested? I agree, there has to be initiative, but one must also advocate for oneself or for another person. It is, unfortunately, the same way in our health care system, and even with advocacy, they don't listen to you.
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« Reply #14 on: August 03, 2010, 06:29:39 PM »

I recently communed at St. George's on West 54th in NYC while visiting the city. There is a young gentleman from a group home that attends St. George each Sunday. I was very touched by his participation, and the parish includes his picture on their website.
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« Reply #15 on: August 03, 2010, 07:13:26 PM »


2) An elderly woman following a stroke, attends church about every two weeks in the winter, more frequently is the warmer weather.  She is wheeled to the church door in a wheel chair and with great effort makes her way by walker into a seat in the church near the door. When the time for the communion comes, she must struggle to walk the 75 feet to the front of the Church where the priest stands to give communion, no effort is made to commune her where she is at. There have been times she could not make it all the way to the front for communion and the priest tired of waiting just returned inside the altar to continue the service, she went uncommuned.


This one truly boggles my mind.  At my Ruthenian Catholic parish, our pastor regularly communes those who have great difficulty walking before communing the rest of us, even walking to the back of the church for a couple of our more elderly parishoners. 
 

The last two Greek parishes I have been in have done the same thing. The only time the priest did not commune the elderly or handicapped first was when there was a baby just baptized or a person just chrismated in which case they and their God Parent communed first followed by the elderly and those with handicaps followed by children and then everyone else. I am shocked and sorry that you have experienced these things. Its not like that in all parishes but it shouldn't be like that in any parish.
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« Reply #16 on: August 04, 2010, 04:46:44 AM »

The Holy Orthodox Churches Are aware Of the handicap, The St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Monastery Church Libertiville Illinios ,Put A Wheel Chair Ramp for the Handicap several years Back, also it comes in handy when rolling coffins in and out of the church ....... Grin
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« Reply #17 on: August 04, 2010, 12:58:05 PM »

it comes in handy when rolling coffins in and out of the church ....... Grin

how you can put a smile at the end of that really boggles me... Huh
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« Reply #18 on: August 04, 2010, 01:05:17 PM »

it comes in handy when rolling coffins in and out of the church ....... Grin

how you can put a smile at the end of that really boggles me... Huh


My Parents Rolled Up and Down that ramp ,Its Part Life Brate ,Death..Why are you So Bothered By My use Of this Smiliey...... Grin Grin Grin Grin
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« Reply #19 on: August 04, 2010, 01:18:56 PM »

My parish is accessible to people of limited mobility.  We do not, as yet, our sound-system specially adapted for the hard of hearing (of whom I am one), but we do have a member who can sign, and who has signed the Agape Vespers Gospel at Pascha for several years now.  Were we to train a corps of signers, we'd have enough to assign a pair to do each Liturgy we serve, and perhaps, some of the other services as well.

We are working on making our TV-Audio equimpent in the temple capable of live-streaming, so that eventually, we can offer live streaming of services over the Internet for our shut-ins, etc.

We have a group that visits shut-ins once a month, and I daresay there isn't a home-/institution-bound Orthodox in the county who isn't known to our clergy.
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« Reply #20 on: August 05, 2010, 08:22:58 PM »

I'm glad this thread was resurrected. The man I mentioned above has since found a new transportation service, and is once again a regular at our parish.
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