Church Times Article on Churches and Disabled People – Key Points in Simple English
1. Coronavirus and Disabled Christians
Because of coronavirus, churches have to change what they do. They have to reach people who are at home. Churches are meeting on the internet.
These changes have made it easier for some disabled people to belong to a church.
But disabled Christians have been asking for change for a long time. They have been asking churches to make it easier for them to go to church.
Churches have not listened to these disabled Christians.
Churches often make decisions for disabled people without involving us.
Fiona MacMillan is the Chair of the Disability Advisory Group at St Martin-in-the-Fields Church. She says that in churches, disabled people are often looked after. They are not always seen for their gifts and talents.
2. My Research
Last year I did research about disability and churches. I interviewed 35 disabled Christians. I also visited church projects. These projects were run by and with disabled people.
These disabled people had their own stories to tell. They said that they want to be full members and leaders in their churches.
I talked to:
- blind people
- Deaf people
- people who use wheelchairs or mobility aids
- people with long-term illnesses
- people with learning difficulties
- autistic people
- people with mental health problems.
Most of them found it hard to go to church. Some people could not get into church buildings. Other people could not join in because of how the services worked.
These disabled people wanted to do church differently.
The leaders of these churches did not mean to stop disabled people from taking part. But they did not think about how to include disabled people.
These disabled people said that they are the experts about their needs. They said church leaders should ask them how to include them.
“We become our own expert.”Zoe
They said church leaders should listen to us.
“Christ often asks, ‘What would you like me to do for you?’ Does the Church ask us what we’d like the Church to do? Not so much.”Charlotte
Because of how churches work, some people cannot not take part.
Hazel and Victor are blind. It was getting harder for them to take part in church services. They asked church leaders to send them songs to learn at home. The church leaders could not do this. They didn’t decide what songs to sing until that day.
Hazel and Victor wanted to help their church to include disabled people. But the church was not listening to them.
Sometimes disabled people need support to join in with churches.
Deirdre cannot leave her bed because of an illness. She belonged to a church. A friend sent her tapes of the talks. Deirdre wanted to be part of the church by praying. But the church found it hard to include her.
She might be feeling more included now. Church can come to her!
Andrew is Deaf. He was training to be a church leader. He found it hard to take part in services. His church did not have the money to pay for subtitles for talks. But subtitles would have helped Andrew to keep going to church. It would have helped other Deaf people. Andrew left his church.
Because of the way church works, people can be left out.
Not all change costs money. We can change how church works. This can help more people to take part in church.
People often have to stand up at church. Susanna finds it hard to stand up. Her church leaders said she could stay sitting down. This helped her to feel included.
“At the church I used to go to, the minister would say ‘Stand if you’re able, or sit if you prefer.’ That just makes such a difference.”– Susanna
John Hull was a disabled man who wrote books about church and God. He said that disabled people have important things to teach churches.
Some of the disabled people I talked to felt like they were forgotten by churches. Churches could learn from them.
Zoe said that churches should see the world like Jesus did. She said Jesus cared about different things. He cared about poor and disabled people.
Susanna said that churches should care about poor people. They should care about people who have been forgotten.
3. Disabled Christians Helping the Church
Many disabled people are isolated.
This means that some disabled people find it hard to go out and meet other people. Some disabled people have to stay at home. Some disabled people find it hard to go to church.
Because of coronavirus, everyone has to stay at home now. Disabled Christians can help other people who are staying at home.
We can still have church at home. We can use the internet to meet. Disabled Christians can help with this.
Some disabled Christians use the internet to meet. One group is called YouBelong. They want to show churches how to use the internet. This will help churches to reach everyone.
Laura set up YouBelong. She says disabled people are important. Laura says that even when church meets on the internet, it is still church.
Because of coronavirus, churches have to change. They are learning how to reach people at home. This might make it easier for some disabled people to go to church.
It is important that churches do not forget about disabled people after coronavirus.
Some disabled people will always be isolated. Some of us will always find it hard to go to church.
Churches should listen to disabled people about how to include us.
If churches do not change, disabled people might stay in our own groups. We might not want to go to church.
By Naomi Lawson Jacobs
I am a disabled person and I am autistic.
In this article I have only shared the views of disabled people.