Child by Child: Supporting Children with Learning Differences and Their Families. By Susan Richardson. Church Publishing (2011).
Book review by Jason Greig.
In Child by Child: Supporting Children with Learning Differences and Their Families (Church Publishing, 2011), Episcopal minister Susan Richardson has written a thoughtful yet practical book on integrating people with various disabilities in the faith community. Richardson’s primary audience is pastors and laypeople working in congregational religious education. The book’s slender size (97 pages) is ideal for the busy pastor or church volunteer searching for tips on how to fully include in the church congregation those children who often do not "fit the mold."
Richardson provides many good suggestions in the first half of the book on building relationships with these children (and their parents). She includes a handy chapter on getting to know various learning "differences." Along with practical tips, the author also provides solid theological grounding. The pastor should not miss Richardson’s reflections on ministerial leadership, as well as an excellent final chapter on the theology of differences and disability.
A basic theme throughout Child by Child is the importance of basing all integration of people with disabilities in the congregation upon relationships. Instead of beginning with a plan that will deal with all contingencies, Richardson wisely counsels first seeking "the child’s strengths, while being aware of his or her limitations or growing edges" (21). Accompanying this focus on relationship needs to be an intentionality in the building of a congregational culture that hosts the person with a disability in a mutual way.
When the church can faithfully grow in a "culture of acceptance" (7), Richardson asserts that a ministerial "preposition progression" can take place: from ministry to those with disabilities, to ministry for them, to ministry with them, to ministry by them (72). The commitment to faithful hospitality is nothing less than “the basic biblical premise of opening ourselves to be changed by another - especially someone who seems strange to us” (88).
In her insistence on seeing the church as the saving community of God’s people, Richardson has given us a book that can help us all move toward the welcome of all of God’s people, no matter their "difference" or ability.
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