In the fall of 2010, Marilyn Ferrel, a woman who all her life has battled the physical challenges of cerebral palsy and the emotional challenges of a society that did not understand her condition, was found to have an inoperable brain tumour. A member of The Church of the Holy Trinity, an Anglican parish in downtown Toronto, Marilyn was supported by a group of friends from that community as well as other friends and her ex-husband, Michael, as she moved into palliative care.
A few years earlier, Marilyn had embarked on an ambitious program of reading a number of contemporary Christian theologians and responding to their ideas out of her personal experience. It must have been an arduous process, physically, for Marilyn to type out many passages from these works, adding her comments of agreement or questioning particular interpretations of Scripture or broader theories of science and human nature. Some of these reflections took shape in dialogue with others through Holy Trinity’s online discussion list, or in face-to-face conversations. The reflections offer insights into Marilyn’s theological perspective as well as her convictions about disability and inclusion. For her, the two were inextricably interwoven.
Marilyn’s hope was to publish her reflections some day. When the progression of the brain tumour made that dream impossible for Marilyn to carry out, a group of her friends decided to gather a number of those reflections to share with others. The title we chose – The Great Flaring Forth– is borrowed from Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry’s book which had a significant impact on Marilyn’s thinking.
We wanted our friend Marilyn to understand that we honour her as a woman with a deep
curiosity, determination and faith who wrestled with age-old questions of suffering and what it means to be a person and a people of faith in our age. We wanted to honour her unique perspective and to acknowledge the woundedness she has experienced in her lifetime and the courage she has shown in challenging attitudes and practices that devalue and marginalize those who do not fit neat definitions of ‘normal.’ We value her insights. We are challenged by them, and we hope that the wider community will learn from them.
Editorial team – Jim Houston, Vivian Harrower, Marilyn Dolmage, Victoria Wilcox.