A place for all…

What does it mean when we say (as followers of Jesus) that there is a place for all at the table? I’ve been thinking about that the last couple of weeks–musings inspired by events both within and outside my own faith tradition.

It’s a relatively easy comment to make, but much harder to live out. Here’s one example of what I mean…

I attend a congregation whose focus is on reaching out to the hard-living, to those who have been (or are) struggling with addictions of various types, whose families are dysfunctional, who have never been “churched”… That’s not the background I grew up in–or what I’ve experienced most of my adult life. So this has been a new experience for me.

Recently my husband and I have been working specifically with someone who has had a really hard life…who has made some poor choices that have resulted in a significant familiarity with the police and the courts. This individual, however, has been accepted in our congregation and is really working on making significant life changes, and we’ve been part of the support group. That involved going to court this last week and standing as support as the individual received a one-year suspended sentence.

But there are other challenges that we face as a corporate body.

My faith has members in many countries worldwide, which means that there are many languages spoken. How do we make resources available to all of them? Right now we are attempting to do that by providing resources in three of the major languages of the world–English, French, and Spanish. It’s not a perfect solution…but in at least some of those countries, there are individuals who can translate from those languages into the local languages.

Yet there are still challenges for those who speak any of the three major languages…and we have not yet figured out how to meet those challenges.

I’m talking about those who have difficulty hearing. Some have been deaf since birth…some have lost their hearing due to illness or accidents…and many are losing their hearing due to advancing age.

It seems as though the assumption is that if a person can speak English, French, or Spanish, that providing resources in those languages meets their needs. That’s true, if they are printed resources. But since we live in an age when videos and/or live streams are an important source of information, we need to seriously consider how well these meet the needs of those who cannnot hear.

Without captioning, they don’t…and they leave large numbers of individuals feeling like second-class citizens and as though they do not have a place in the community.

Interestingly enough, an article on this website makes these comments:

In fact, if your organization is covered by ADA requirements, Section 508 regulations, accessibility requirements handled by the U.S. Office of Civil Rights, or similar legislation in many other countries, then the requirement to provide captions at a quality level that is on par with the quality of your video content could be seen as a legal obligation. Here’s why: ADA Title III requires that people with disabilities “may not be denied full and equal enjoyment” of the good and services provided to others who use those services. Most subsequent legislation and court decisions have supported this tenet of “full and equal enjoyment.” This means that if you provide high quality educational content but mediocre quality closed captioning, you’re not treating all of your customers equally, opening your organization up to potential lawsuits.

There are always going to be gaps in what we are able to do…but my father used to say “Your actions speak so loudly that I can’t hear a word you are saying.”

It’s never going to be easy, whether we’re talking about our experience as individuals or as a corporate body, but if we’re going to say that there is a place for all at the table, then we need to do our best to truly make it so.