Pilgrims: a selection of personal stories from members of St Philip's
by Tracy Barralett, (from Anglican News, 2014)
A lively group of people with an intellectual disability, their families, friends and carers gathered at St Philip's on Saturday 3 May 2014 for a special ceremony of the Faith and Light organisation.
This group has its origins in the late 1960s, and its formation stemmed from a desire to help people with a disability and their families to be included and supported in a religious setting.
The occasion brought together many people from a variety of backgrounds and locations who wanted to celebrate God’s love and the teachings of Jesus in an all-inclusive environment. The afternoon included singing and prayers with a mood of celebration and joy among the participants, and a reflection by St Philip’s Deacon Andrea de Vaal Horciu.
Those with an intellectual disability were actively involved in leading worship including singing and prayers. There was an atmosphere of great joy among the people who attended.
As a parishioner at St Philip's—a very inclusive parish—I attended this event to support our Deacon Andrea De Vaal Horciu who was giving the reflection. The reflection used 'Godly Play' to tell the Bible story. I was enthusiastically welcomed by all those who belong to Faith and Light. As a person with a physical disability I was a little unsure what I would encounter having been involved with other disability faith communities in the past. But I was very impressed by the inclusion of all people with an intellectual disability in all aspects of worship. The afternoon included a worship session, fare-welling of the outgoing coordinator and recognition of new coordinator, followed by afternoon tea.
The Faith and Light afternoon was an example of the ongoing commitment St Philip's has to welcoming and supporting people with a disability in the community.
The church is involved in a number of outreach programs, including the Black Mountain School's pastoral care program. Deacon Andrea De Vaal Horciu has been serving as the school's chaplain for over three years. Andrea provides ongoing support to students, families and carers through the happy times as well as the challenging times that the community faces. Black Mountain School members, including the Pastoral Care Coordinator, have written of Andrea's compassionate and unwavering commitment to her role. The school community has identified the services that Andrea provides as essential, and services that they would otherwise be unable to provide.
The Faith and Light gathering was a wonderful afternoon to celebrate diversity and inclusion in the church community, and St Philip's was an ideal venue to host such a joyful celebration of God's love.