Synod Disability Inclusion Advocate Rev Andy Calder told a presentation ceremony in the US that he was visibly shaken when he learnt he was to be honoured with the Henri Nouwen Award in recognition of his work with people with disabilities.
On Tuesday 21 May, Andy became the first person outside of North America to accept the award, which is given by the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD) Religion and Spirituality Division.
At the presentation, which was held at the Summer Institute on Theology and Disability in Holland, Michigan, past president of the AAIDD Neil Cudney said Andy had “demonstrated unswerving commitment to supporting people with disabilities.”
Neil read out a long list of Andy’s roles and achievements that convinced the judges he was a worthy award winner.
“We realised Andy embodied the spirit and intention of the Henry Nouwen Award,” Neil said.
Andy told those in attendance at the Hope College auditorium that it was “indeed a great honour to be this year’s recipient”.
“It was most unexpected and will be deeply cherished,” Andy said.
“When I received Neil’s email (telling him he had won), I felt very honoured and also somewhat trembly.
“In the minutes after reading the email my wife said I was literally shaking
“I think much of that trembling can be attributed to the deep respect I have for Henry Nouwen and for the extraordinary person he was.”
The award is named after Catholic Priest Henri Nouwen, who served as a pastor at the Canadian L’Arche Daybreak community for people with intellectual disabilities and their carers and loved ones.
Andy said that he had more than 10 of Nouwen’s books and used them to help shape the clinical pastoral education programs.
“Nouwen’s book The Wounded Healer with its theme of vulnerability in ministry continues to speak powerfully into my experience as a survivor of road trauma and my subsequent call to ordained ministry in the Uniting Church in Australia,” Andy said.
“In 1986, I was hit by a garbage truck and this proved to be my road to Damascus experience, which returned me to my church.”
“I am so indebted to my own Uniting Church for its historic and continuing commitment to ministry with people with disabilities.
“Whilst this certificate has my name in it, in a very real sense, I feel that I am accepting it on behalf of so many people in Australia and New Zealand, all of us Down Under, and throughout the world who are striving to listen to and embrace people who continue to experience exclusion.”