As the humanitarian catastrophe in Europe unfolds before our eyes, signs of hope for more vulnerable people are more important to our emotional survival than ever. So here’s one you may not have spotted yet.
It’s been about 12 years since I 'came out' as a visibly disabled person, when using either sticks or a wheelchair was my only option if I wanted to start ordination training in the C of E. I found out for myself how many ways church is tough for people with disabilities - they simply weren’t designed or run with 'us' in mind. There are loads of reasons for that but this blog isn’t about that - I promised you hope and I meant it! If ever there was a need for a unifying mission across Anglican churches, it seems we have found one!
Fast forward to now and it seems that finally there is a new energy to begin to address the barriers which have always prevented 1 in 5 people (yes it’s AT LEAST that many!) from getting and joining in, let alone playing an active part & feeling at home in the shared 'Body' we claim we are.
It took a global pandemic to wake up to this, but in the last 2 years the church has moved forward about 100 years! We’ve finally got the memo that people aren’t banging down the doors to join us! Where previously 'going digital' was unthinkable (except for the coolest & richest churches) now loads of us are at it in some form or another! Taking that step seems to have made more of us braver about what else we can creatively change so that whoever wants to be part of our faith communities actually can be!
This isn’t a 'woke agenda' for a 'snowflake generation', this is about Doris. After 2 years shielding from the worst of COVID, she’s become frailer (age does that!). Shutting her out now would be unthinkable.
If she weren’t able to sit comfortably with friends in her wheelchair, with her hearing aids, book light, magnifier & use of our roving mic so she can still read the Gospel, she would be put back into isolation again. She’s even learned to Zoom (without the internet, via her landline) and was delighted that even if she’s having a bad day, she can still do the prayers on Sunday, join the midweek groups & meetings, just as she has for the 40+ years she’s been part of this church family. She’s invaluable & we need her.
At last we are learning that church wardens doing their backs in through mauling those lethal, temporary ramps in and out of doorways isn’t the best way to send out the clarion cry that ALL ARE WELCOME! It just doesn’t need to be that hard any more. We’re being creative in how we use what we have, but most importantly we are getting better at enabling PEOPLE to be at the heart of where, how and why we gather. Even General Synod are talking about it!
It’s never been easier to join this particular party. If you are part of a church or group in the Lichfield Diocese, just send an email to email@example.com and join the growing network of people who are brimming with stories and ideas to share what has worked for them. I am happy to come and visit your church/group if it helps you get that “spring” back into your step (or better yet, your ramped access!).
It’s been a real slog over the last couple of years but now is the time to invest in the hope that really is beginning to 'spring eternal'! Not there yet? Join in with us - there’s plenty to go around at last!