About the Conference

“...[Y]ou are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.” (Eph. 2:19, NAS)

Communion: To dwell together in oneness. Church, as that communion which is the Body of Christ, is to be where welcome, access, and accommodation are central features of life together. It is the Body through which all members “have the same care for one another” (1 Cor. 12:25), where barriers and “dividing walls” are destroyed (Eph. 2:14-15), and where everybody's gifts are received with thanksgiving (Rom. 12:4-5; 1 Cor. 12). What would this type of communion look like in our churches - a deep communion that draws on the contributions of everyone in our communities, including people with disabilities and their families?

Motivated. Encouraged. Equipped.

Whether you are a person with a disability, a family member, a student or a scholar, a church leader, or simply interested in the intersection of disability and faith, we hope that you will join us May 4, 2019 at Emmanuel College in Toronto as we seek a deeper communion with families of all abilities. An engaging lineup of speakers, practitioners, and authors will guide our conversation theologically. Workshops led by key ministry leaders and notable organizations will equip us with practical resources to be leaders in models of accessible ministry and education. Students and academics will have the opportunity to share their work and research in a constructive and encouraging environment.

  • To inspire theological reflection and reimagine communities with people with disabilities
  • To meet passionate and innovative ministry leaders and foster partnerships and relationships
  • To offer emerging scholars the opportunity to present and discuss their research

May 4

Toronto, Ontario
Emmanuel College



Speakers and Workshop Facilitators

Andrea Foster

Andrea is a Christian mom, speaker, writer, and wife to Kirk. They live in Brampton, Ontario, Canada where they are parenting four teenagers. Their two youngest are 15 year old twin girls who both have Tuberous Sclerosis Complex. Andrea guest lectures at Bible Colleges and Seminaries, consults with and trains leaders for disability ministry, and writes articles for various publications. She holds her MSEd (Disability Studies/Ministry) BTh and ECE. Andrea is passionate about equipping leaders for ministry and empowering special needs parents for the battle.

Chantal Huinink

Chantal is a motivational speaker, author, and social justice advocate who lives with cerebral palsy.

Chantal serves as Coordinator of Organizational and Spiritual Life with Christian Horizons. She has a Masters of Social Work and a Masters of Divinity through Wilfred Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario and holds a BA in Psychology and Human Development from the University of Guelph as well as a certificate in Disability Ministry from the International Disability Center in California.

Chelsey Zylla

Chelsey sees her mission as an advocate for persons with disabilities. She has spoken in churches and other conference venues on her experiences of growing up with Spina Bifida and the challenges and opportunities of independent living as a person of faith. Chelsey has a baking business, “Bite Me Baked Goods by Chelsey”.

Cynthia Tam

Cynthia is an ordained minister with the Christian and Missionary Alliance. She is a pastor at The Living Room Church and the national coordinator for disability ministries for the C&MA.

Cynthia is also a PhD student studying under the supervision of Prof. John Swinton of University of Aberdeen.

Outside of church and study, she is involved with the Village Eulogia for Families with Special Needs, an organization that focuses on strengthening families affected by disabilities.

Greg Lannan

Greg and John Guido are members of L’Arche Toronto who have been friends and companions in the journey for over 30 years. Greg is a visual artist who has lived in L’Arche since 1980. He has worked at Valumart for over 30 years. He lives with intellectual and physical disabilities and is an institutional survivor.

Greg and John will present a TED Talk on "Companions in the Journey: A spirituality of friendship and belonging embracing difference."

Heather Morgan

Heather is a disabled writer, speaker, coach and advocate with a lifetime of experience in the disability and church worlds (www.poweredbylove.ca). With personal and family experience of autism, mental health issues, severe genetic conditions, wheelchair dependence and an undiagnosed degenerative condition shared by herself and her children, Heather brings a unique perspective on disability. As a disability coach and advocate, her experience extends beyond the personal into our healthcare system, communities and churches. As an elder at Vox Alliance Church in Barrie, she is privileged to be part of leading a church that fully includes, embraces and welcomes all to the Table.

John Guido

John and Greg Lannan are members of L’Arche Toronto who have been friends and companions in the journey for over 30 years. John was welcomed to L’Arche by Greg in 1985. After 20 years in senior leadership, he currently works on the Outreach and Communications team for L’Arche Canada.

John and Greg will present a TED Talk on "Companions in the Journey: A spirituality of friendship and belonging embracing difference."

Maria Truchan-Tataryn


Myroslaw Tataryn

Maria and Myroslaw live in Waterloo, ON and are parents of three adult daughters, two of whom have labels of disability.

Maria has authored papers in disability studies, while Myroslaw’s focus has been Eastern Christian theology.

Their two areas of study and their family life inspired their co-authored book: Discovering Trinity in Disability: A Theology for Embracing Difference.

Miriam Spies

Miriam Spies currently serves as the Communications and Volunteer Specialist for CRC Disability Concerns and Safe Church.

She is an ordained minister in The United Church of Canada.

Miriam lives with Cerebral Palsy and is usually accompanied by her dog guide (and oversized lap dog!) Wendell.

Phil Zylla

Phil Zylla teaches pastoral theology at McMaster Divinity College in Hamilton, Ontario and is the VP Academic. He is author of The Roots of Sorrow: A Pastoral Theology of Suffering. He has been active as an advocate for persons with disabilities in the church, encouraging and writing about how congregations can be more tuned in to the needs of families.



Sue Riley

Pastor Todd and Sue Riley are passionate about doing church and life together in a Bible based and inclusive community. They have served for over 20 years at Islington Baptist Church in Toronto. Sue is also a Paediatric Occupational Therapist and Todd along with pastoring the church, is a volunteer Chaplain for the Toronto Fire Services.

Tom Reynolds

Tom teaches theology at Emmanuel College, of Victoria University in the University of Toronto, and he is also Vice Principal. He is parent and advocate with a son diagnosed on the autism spectrum. His book, Vulnerable Communion: A Theology of Disability and Hospitality, reflects on this experience and seeks to envision a church wide with welcome. The book was shortlisted for the Archbishop of Canterbury’s “Michael Ramsey Prize.” Tom is presently working on completing another book on theology of care. He also enjoys playing piano at St. Andrew’s United Church on Sundays and performing with jazz groups.

Event Schedule


Welcome and Plenary Talks

Tom Reynolds, Miriam Spies, Cynthia Tam


Conversations with Students and Scholars

Jason Greig & Tom Reynolds




TED Talks

Chantal Huinink, Greg Lannan & John Guido


Trinitarian Community

Myroslaw Tataryn and Maria Truchan-Tatyrn


Blessing & Benediction

With L'Arche (followed by Hors D'Oeuvres)


Select an insightful and encouraging workshop session:

  • Hearing from families and advocates: Doing Life Together: Episodes in the Life of a Father and Daughter
  • In this session, Phil and Chelsey Zylla will discuss key life experiences in our family and how they have shaped our journey with others in Christian community. Chelsey will share episodes from her life at various ages (5, 9, 13) and Phil will also share (from a father’s perspective) episodes from the same life periods. The fusion of the horizons emerges in the telling, along with insights into how faith communities may support families affected by disability. The workshop will conclude with a framework for “seven habits of reciprocal communities.”

  • Stories and Strategies from Churches
  • In this workshop, we will begin by giving a brief introduction to “The 5 Stages: The journey of disability attitudes.” The 5 Stages is a resource developed by Elim Christian Services for churches and other communities to use for inclusion of people with disabilities. After that, we will hear from two churches on practical strategies that they have used to move towards a deeper communion with people with disabilities.

Conference Partners

Event Location

Toronto, Ontario
Emmanuel College
75 Queen's Park Cres E, Toronto, ON M5S 1K7