In 2017, Upstream Arts was delighted to partner with Wayzata Community Church to offer a summer camp residency with the members of their Parables group. As part of our time there, Upstream Arts and photographer Jeff Cords facilitated a photography session with the participants, each taking a self-portrait and a picture of a peer. These vibrant portraits are now on view at the church through June 30, 2018. Rev. Leslie Neugent, who leads the Parables Ministry, wrote the following article for her church newsletter regarding the photography exhibit.
Known By Name – by Rev. Leslie Neugent
And the Lord said to Moses, ‘I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and know you by name.
Names are powerful. They set the stage for how we will be addressed by the world for the rest of our lives. And in biblical times, names took on even more profound importance—names were used to express the essence, the identity and the character of a person. In ancient times, a person’s name pointed to their destiny in the world. Being “known by name” matters.
In the world of disabilities, it’s easy for people to lose sight of our names… to use shorthand to identify us by our diagnosis and not by our name. The “Autistic boy”, the “Down’s girl”, the blind man, the handicapped woman. And when this happens people with disabilities lose more than their name—they lose their personhood, their humanity. In psychological circles these are known as “totalizing descriptors” …naming a person by their diagnosis, rather than by who they are in totality. The girl with DS is not just a “Down’s girl”… she is Mary, she is a pianist, an athlete, a daughter and a student. The “Autistic boy” doesn’t just have autism… he is John, he is an artist, a comic and a chef. The “Down’s girl” is actually a girl with Down syndrome. We call it using “person-first” language. The person is always first… the diagnosis is always just a part of who they are. It may surprise you to learn how often this kind of “totalizing” language is used to describe people like those in the Parables community. It is rampant and most of us don’t even realize we are doing it. But when we do it, we do harm…
Because when we shorthand the identity of others by defining them by only one aspect of themselves, we do an injustice—we cut them off from being known for all that God created them to be. Being known by name matters.
So during the entire month of May [and June], I’d like to invite you to come and view our Faces of Parables Photo Gallery in the hall right outside the Chapel. This Photo Collection was inspired by the experience that 20 of our campers had during our 2017 Parables Summer Camp. Come learn who we are as people, learn about our gifts and passions and most importantly come to “know us by name.” It matters.
Hope to see you there!
Blessings, Rev. Leslie Neugent