During Notices on 14th January in response to Peter Blair’s reflectionThe call to discipleship’, Janet Reus-Smit shared her reading of Andy Calder’s Faith column from the Age.  Andy shares the article here.

Peter and I met in 1980 while participating in a camping program auspiced by Noah’s Ark Toy Library. In that era, it provided outdoor programs for ‘‘ handicapped children’’ . While the language is now dated, the intention was open and welcoming.

As a recreation officer , my task was to oversee the camping program. Peter was a ‘‘ camper’ ’ and I was a ‘‘ helper’’ . The library was established in large part by the vision of Peter’s mother, who was determined her child would have the fullest possible experience of life.

Over the decades, our periodic contact has included sharing family gatherings, phone and coffee catch-ups and attending events devoted to exploring the intersection of disability and spirituality.

Peter says: ‘‘ As a young boy I was forced to face the reality that I was different, and for a young person, being different is never easy. Having a disability is neither a blessing nor a curse – it’s a state of being. This simple truth has helped me realise that everything I’ve learnt comes from being who I am.’’

He goes on to say: ‘‘‘ Why me?’ was a painful question until I realised the more I understand, the more questions I find . What my faith ultimately gave me was simply the right questions.’’

A highly anticipated annual event is receiving Peter’s Christmas card. He takes pride in producing distinctive cards and in a dwindling practice of Christmas card exchanges, his usually arrives first .

Each year provides wisdom from his exploration of different faith traditions; holding in his heart the pain of earthly sufferings and concluding with these signature words: ‘‘ Let us give thanks for our conquered tribulations, grace received and the lessons learnt. May your good tidings bring harmony and peace. Universal blessings, and may you find your question.’’

In classic traditions, friendship was a great gift and treasure and a human pathway to the divine. In the Christian tradition, friendship reveals the grace, love and call of a caring God. God’s friendship is the gift that precedes friendship and makes it possible.

In the relationship between Jesus and his disciples, the switch from being servants to friends is most significant for their relationship. Theologian Jurgen Moltmann believes that in the fellowship of Jesus, the disciples experience him in his innermost nature as friend.

Long gone is the ‘‘ camperhelper’ ’ relationship. In its place is a cherished friendship of mutual care, enjoyment and conversations about the questions our lives give rise to.

Andy Calder, Disability Inclusion Advocate, Director Uniting CPE
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