We had a very encouraging meeting on 14th May. As we shared, we realised that three churches have made a very good start on their journey towards ‘full involvement of disabled people and their families’. Each has started a group within the church who are actively looking at what is happening and what could be different.
- One church started by wanting to ‘categorise’ all the different disabilities in their church, but our network member wanted them to avoid just ‘analysing’ and asked them to ‘get started’ by talking to a family with two children on the autistic spectrum. The group took this a step further and each person identified someone in the church they could approach. This church is starting ‘by listening’ to the people who can best tell them what is needed.
- Another church started by looking at who ‘isn’t coming’. They realised there are many people with disabilities connected to their community who weren’t coming for practical reasons. For instance, a significant number of people with hearing and sensory issues that didn’t like sitting in an echoey hall for prayer meetings. Our network member was worried about ideas of running ‘an inclusive service’ rather than making services inclusive generally. We discussed how many principles that benefit one person actually end up benefitting many people.
- Lastly, a church expressing its heart to actively reach out to people in their local community who are isolated by disability/illness admitted that they are having difficulty making contact with people DUE TO THEIR ISOLATION! We discussed seeing ‘church’ not as a building to get people into, but as ‘where two or more are gathered’ (Mt 18:20). The church are already ministering through visiting individuals and running fellowship in a nursing home. We talked about the value of fellowship and being in a witness in residential settings where people have such difficulty getting to a church, but welcome contact in other forms.
We prayed blessings over each church and thank God for stirring people to act in love. We know these churches will be enriched and blessed on this journey by the people they come to know and involve.