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Inclusive Congregations Guide

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Introduction

Dear Friends,

Shelly Christensen smiling headshot

Shelly Christensen

We are excited to share our new Inclusive Congregations Guide! I hope your faith community will use this new guide to identify practical ways to encourage people with disabilities and those who love them to actively participate in all services, programs, and events. People with disabilities and mental health conditions and those who love them want to belong—like anyone else.

RespectAbility has been at the forefront of Jewish disability inclusion for nearly ten years. In 2022 I joined RespectAbility as the first ever Senior Director of Faith Inclusion and Belonging to lead our expansion to multi-faith disability inclusion. With the support of our Board of Directors and our generous donors, we established the Faith Inclusion and Belonging department.

I have been part of the growing faith community disability inclusion world for over 20 years. During that time, I have been active in many interfaith organizations. There are so many amazing organizations that embrace the importance of inclusion, providing webinars, toolkits, and other resources within a denomination or religious tradition. Our goal is to share what others are doing and work together to elevate the voices of people with disabilities in multi faiths. RespectAbility is a partner and collaborator. By coming together, we challenge stereotypes and fight stigmas to ensure that people with disabilities are seen, valued, respected, loved, and involved in their faith community as they wish.

This verse in Isaiah 56:7 illuminates why belonging and inclusion lead to a community for all people.

“I will bring them to My sacred mount
And let them rejoice in My house of prayer.
Their burnt offerings and sacrifices
Shall be welcome on My altar;
For My House shall be called
A house of prayer for all peoples.”

Together, we can create spaces where people belong. The Inclusive Congregations Guide will help you do that!

Warmest regards,

Shelly Christensen, MA FAAIDD
Senior Director of Faith Inclusion and Belonging
RespectAbility
[email protected]

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