Living Fully 2016…and Beyond
July 7, 2016 | Curtis Ramsey-Lucas
Living Fully 2016, a groundbreaking international conference on disability, culture, and faith, took place June 24-26 in Rome, Italy. Sponsored by the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Culture and The Kairos Forum, I had the honor of participating as a delegate on behalf of the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) and the American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS).
Attended by over 150 delegates of all abilities, a common theme throughout the conference was the need for churches to become communities of belonging as well as the ways churches continue to struggle to include people with disabilities in their worship, service, and educational opportunities. This insight and aspiration is not limited to the challenges and opportunities facing congregations in the Christian tradition, but can be broadly applied to congregations across faith traditions.
The conference included an address by the Right Reverend Paul Hendricks, an Auxiliary Bishop for the Catholic Archdiocese of Southwark, England. Bishop Paul noted that the encounter, discussions, and community experienced by delegates over the three days had been a joyful and enlightening time and stressed the need to stop assuming and start listening in order to better understand the perspectives of those seeking inclusion. He further emphasized the importance of friendship and cited Pope Francis’ recent comments that the Church is for “everybody or nobody.”
Members and friends of AAPD’s Interfaith Disability Advocacy Coalition were well represented at the conference, including Jan Benton, Executive Director of the National Catholic Partnership on Disability; Bill Gaventa, Director of the Summer Institute on Theology and Disability; and Mary Chute O’Meara, Executive Director of the Department of Special Needs Ministries, Archdiocese of Washington.
Cristina Gangemi, Director of Living Fully 2016 and Director of The Kairos Forum, closed the conference with a call to action addressed to all to continue to work tirelessly towards faith communities of belonging for people of all abilities.
Curtis Ramsey-Lucas is the Director of Interfaith Engagement for the American Association of People with Disabilities.