Faith4All grew out of our frustration finding little welcome (or even entrances) in several faith communities on account of our disabilities. We experienced this subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) rejection, finding only awkward acceptance, in several local faith communities of different natures, in different states, over decades of time. We just wanted to worship and grow like everyone else who attends these services! Despite our professional abilities while living with our disabilities, many years of experience trying to "fit in", and find welcome in local churches were frustratingly unsuccessful. Faith4All was formed in 2013 as an interfaith organization dedicated to increasing the opportunities for people living with disability to find a generous welcome in the local faith community of their choice.
The pursuit of the Divine should exclude no one!
Kelly entered the world missing parts of all 4 limbs, visible differences at once integral and irrelevant to her sense of self. Labelled "severely crippled" at birth, Kelly has traveled alone overseas, obtained a B.A. in Sociology at Colorado College, parented two daughters (her deepest joy), and received recognition in public speaking. Kelly has also come to know acquired, invisible disabilities, including traumatic brain injury, chronic pain, and the eventual failure and removal of her unique lower legs.
Kelly repeatedly hears strangers young & old invoke the divine when they encounter her on the streets of downtown Denver. "God bless you!" is common. She sometimes even hears, "There but for the grace of God go I." In response, she ponders, "Does not God’s grace extend to me?" Kelly’s most painful social experiences have been rooted in church communities. The members of one suggested that God would not heal her due to her sins. Another church moved to an inaccessible location 26 years post-ADA passage, leaving behind some of the church’s "least of these", in contrast Kelly’s understanding of the heart of the Christian gospel.
If you should refer to Kelly as "inspirational," be prepared to hear her challenge you to discover within yourself that we realize/bring forth our deepest /most profound emotional, physical, intellectual, and spiritual selves not only in spite of our challenges but more often because of them-- if only we befriend/confront our most terrifying/threatening demons (or choose to linger in our darkest shadows with our eyes wide-open.) Then our greatest losses & deepest wounds lead to our most centered realizations, our most profound joys
Dr. Kevin Pettit serves as a congregational consultant for Faith4All. Kevin is especially concerned with the faithful inclusion of people who, like him, live with invisible disabilities. He felt a call to this service after feeling unwelcome in various faith communities following his 1998 severe traumatic brain injury (TBI). Kevin considers significant his accomplishments of being commission as a minister by the Metropolitan Denver Association of the United Church of Christ, attaining a Masters of Arts in Specialized Ministry from the Iliff School of Theology in 2010, working as a physics professor at Carleton College both before and after acquiring his TBI and consequent disabilities, attaining a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana in 1996, and (most especially) raising his son Andrew — an accomplishment of which he is most proud!
Dr. Pettit has chosen to understand the reason for his incredible recovery to be so that he can help people living with disabilities by helping institutions learn to better invite, embrace, include, and empower people with disabilities into active faith community life.
The origin and impetus of the organization Faith4All was Dr. Kevin Pettit’s experience in churches in Colorado and in Minnesota following the severe Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) he survived on October 27th, 1998. Although his family and the family of his in-laws received a full measure of support from their churches while Kevin was in a coma and though he was given an adequate level of spiritual support while he was an inpatient at Craig Rehabilitation Hospital, his experiences at churches following his injury showed him how people with disabilities are often subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) made to feel unwelcome in houses of worship. This surprised him because, like most everyone, he presumed that churches are a helpful place for people in dire straits, difficult life situations, and even disability. Though most churches offer considerable support and prayers for a family experiencing a broad range of difficulties in life, these institutions wrestle with welcoming people who live for a long time or permanently with disabilities. Perhaps, it is for this reason that the several studies have determined that people with disabilities are considerably less likely to attend religious services than those people who live without disabilities.
When Dr. Pettit’s disabilities were more apparent than they are today, he found that people avoided speaking with him in the fellowship time after church. Conversations with friends who live with disabilities have evidenced that this situation is rather common: people with disabilities are often subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) made to feel uncomfortable and sometimes even unwelcome to worship with faith communities of every religion.
Originally funded by a grant from the First Congregational Church of Boulder, CO, Dr. Pettit was able to file the appropriate documentation and register Articles of Incorporation for a Nonprofit Corporation with the State of Colorado. This application was approved in 2013 and an Employer Identification Number was attained at that time, as well. Amended foundational documents for this organization were signed in 2014 and are available for any viewing requested. In 2016 Faith4All was determined by the Internal Revenue Service to be a 509(a)(3) public charity that is tax exempt under section 501(c)(3).
Supporters and sponsors of Faith4All include:
- First Congregational UCC Church of Boulder
- Community United Church of Christ of Boulder