Disability research, training and consultancy

Category: inclusion

Statement on the Church of England’s Covid guidance to churches (July 2021)

by Naomi Lawson Jacobs, Emma Major and Katie Tupling

We were pleased that the Bishop of London recognised the work of disabled Christians in her recent address about changes to coronavirus restrictions in churches. In the address, Bishop Sarah Mullally called for Church of England churches to think about justice and care for all, as they make decisions about Covid safety. We were glad to see the bishop’s focus on justice, and her acknowledgment that vulnerability is created by those in power.

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Shut Out of Church (Again): COVID-19, Disabled Christians and Justice

Picture of a road in the desert. Overlaid is the text: "In that day," declares the Lord, "I will gather the lame; I will assemble the exiles and those I have brought to grief. I will make the lame my remnant, those driven away a strong nation. The Lord will rule over them in Mount Zion from that day and forever." Micah 4:6-7 NIV

This is not the blog post I wanted to be writing today. I had planned to write about some recent research and theology coming out of the disabled Christian movement. I’ll be back soon with some of that. There’s a more urgent issue today.

On Monday night, I cried when I realised that I may not be able to go back to church for the foreseeable future. I’ve been back twice so far, and it’s been such a joy. I finally returned to church in 2020, after about seven years away – and about a month later, I started shielding. For over a year, I only left my house for short walks (and occasional outdoor meet-ups). Online streaming kept me part of my church community, but it hasn’t always been fully accessible to me. So I’ve been beyond excited to be back in the building. That was just one of the reasons I was hoping against hope that the UK government would make sensible decisions and safety measures would stay in place – so I’d feel safe to keep going to church. In my anger at the opposite decision, on Monday night I went to Twitter – where many of my disabled Christian community were saying similar things. Once all Covid restrictions are lifted on 19th July, we won’t be safe to go back to church, unless the church makes a very different decision from the government. It was a mixed blessing to hear and share in the community’s grief. It made me feel less alone – and more angry.

Desperately hoping for some critique of the decision from churches, I went to see what church leaders were saying. Many were celebrating the return of singing… which spreads Covid. There was happiness about the return of religious “freedoms”… for those who feel safe. Senior church leaders spoke about how churches and their members have made sacrifices… but said less about the sacrificed lives of 128,000 people (to date), and how many more might follow now.

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At The Gates? Inclusion vs Justice for Marginalised People in Churches

This week was Inclusion Sunday in churches that wished to mark it. My new church, a wonderful place with a growing focus on equality for all, held a service on this theme. But I’ll admit it now – even though I knew the people talking, I nearly didn’t stream the service. I almost went out for a walk instead. The concept of inclusion in churches is one that fills me with dread.

In the end, the people involved were all speaking from lived experience, and they were wonderful. But I’m interested in why the idea of ‘inclusion’ is such a difficult one for me – especially in churches.

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