Saturday, April 3, 2010

SPIRIT & PRIDE: Re-Imagining Disability In Jewish and Christian Communities


June 8-10, 2010 at the Leaven Center in Lyons, Michigan

Spirit and pride are powerful forces in the disability rights movement and in the lives of many people with disabilities –– calling forth a radical wholeness and a passion for justice. All too often, however, theological traditions of pity and charity shape how Christian and Jewish communities treat people with disabilities. There are prayers for healing that aim to “make whole the broken,” scriptural passages that describe disabled people as “blemished,” and religious images that depict disability as spiritual deficiency: “I once was blind, but now I see.”

Yet religious communities can provide powerful resources in the struggle for a more inclusive and just society. Bringing together theology and activism, Spirit & Pride invites disability activists, students, members of congregations, clergy, and others to a three-day process of self-reflection, study, and dialogue. Spirit & Pride draws upon ancient and emerging traditions of liberation to help participants become more effective catalysts for change where they live, work, and worship.

Enrollment in Spirit & Pride is limited to 25 people to make in-depth conversation possible. Whenever possible, we encourage participants to attend in teams from congregations or organizations.

During these three days, there will be time for personal reflection, journaling or creative writing, text study, and small group conversations. We will draw upon poetry, music, videos, case studies, and stories that re-imagine disability in ways that are liberating for people with disabilities. Together we will explore:

• interpretations of disability in Christian and Jewish traditions, practices, and sacred texts.

• the histories and cultures of people with disabilities and the disability rights movement.

• the writings of Jewish and Christian scholars, theologians, and spiritual mentors with disabilities.

• how individuals, congregations, and community organizations can work together to challenge ableism and enhance justice for people with disabilities.

LEADERS: Rabbi Julia Watts Belser and Rev. Melanie S. Morrison

DATE: June 8-10, 2010

TIME: Tuesday, 9:30 am to Thursday, 4:30 pm

LOCATION: The Leaven Center near Lyons, Michigan ( The main floor of the Lodge and Guest House are barrier-free.

COST: $190. Cost includes program, materials, lodging, and meals. Partial scholarships available.


Julia Watts Belser is a rabbi, scholar, activist, and anti-oppression educator with a passion for racial justice and disability rights. She holds a Ph.D. in Jewish Studies from the University of California, Berkeley and the Graduate Theological Union, and she is Assistant Professor of Judaism in the Religious Studies Department at Missouri State University, in Springfield Missouri. She co-authored A Health Handbook for Women with Disabilities, published by Hesperian Foundation and distributed to grassroots groups and health workers around the world. Her articles, workshops, and lectures address disability rights, feminist theology, and Jewish thought.

Melanie Morrison is a pastor, Executive Director of Allies for Change, and an anti-oppression educator who is passionate about working with individuals and organizations to better understand the connections between racism, sexism, ableism, and heterosexism. Ordained in 1978 to ministry in the United Church of Christ, Melanie has served three congregations. As an ally, she is committed to learning from, and joining with, colleagues and friends with disabilities who struggle for a more accessible and inclusive world. She holds a Ph.D. in theology from the University of Groningen and is the author of three books including The Grace of Coming Home: Spirituality, Sexuality, and the Struggle for Justice.

FOR INFORMATION about Spirit & Pride or about partial scholarships, contact Melanie Morrison by email: or call 989-855-2277.

BROCHURES for Spirit & Pride can downloaded from the Leaven Center website:

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