Lay Minister Janet Leckie reflects on Disability Sunday, which churches across the Diocese celebrated on 5July 2015.
When I heard that 5July was designated as Disability Sunday, I thought how apt as I am on the rota that day to lead, preach and pray at morning prayer. Not only am I disabled, I learnt BSL as my response to the Decade of Evangelism, and it is twodays before my 68th birthday.
Ideas began whizzing through my brain on ageism: (dis)abilities, awareness and opportunities. So often people assume disabled or elderly people are not able to contribute much to society when actually they can demonstration how the weak can show God's strength and that with him all things are possible.
When I started using a wheelchair 15years ago , I found that some people started treating me as stupid and ignored me, spoke instead to whoever was with me assuming that I could not answer for myself. Attitudes are changing, although I do still meet people who treat me as being stupid just because I am in a chair and talk over my head.
Or you get the patronising sort who say things in a sort of condescending way, like can you manage dear?" or poor you but not often, and certainly not a second time when I have growled at them the first time.
(Sorry God, forgot my self control, 2 Tim 1:7.)
Do you treat the disabled as being unable instead of just having different abilities? Do you recognise their abilities and the contribution to the life of your church that they can bring? How do you speak to them? What do you feel when you meet a disabled person always remembering that some disabilities cannot be seen visually?
Many places have improved their access but there are still some that arevery difficult to get into and you need to call for help for a ramp or doors to be opened wider, or the facilities are not adequate.
There's one large church I know where accessing the toilet facilities is difficult and to reach the chapels one has to be followed by a steward to put up and take down ramps.In many churches I cannot get to the altar to take communion and have to take it on my own at one side or by remaining in the pew area of the church.
This singling out can make you feel uncomfortable, although where there are others who cannot get to the altar you can at least get together in one place so the idea of being part of the fellowship still exists.
How do the old, infirm or disabled feel in your church? Are they isolated or feel part of your fellowship, one body because we share one bread? What do you do to make disabled feel part of your fellowship in Christ? Has anyone tried learning BSL or have deaf awareness training? Do you have hearing loops, and ramps? Do you make sure doors are open ready to allow wheelchair access? Are presentations in an accessible colour, font and size for people with poor eyesight or reading problems? Are there large print copies of all material available? Has the congregation had awareness training to let them know how and when to offer help.
I like to think that my disability has not impeded my ability to carry out my role as a lay minister.
Sometimes I am told I do not have enough faith, that if I did I would be healed. Yet our reading 2 Corinthians 12: 2-10 for today, reminds us that the weak are stronger because they show God at work, and Mark 6: 1-13 reminds us that we may not recognise the abilities of those around us as we are too familiar with them.
I pray that churches have used thisDisability Sunday to be open to recognising that all people have gifts and abilities: DISABILITY IS NOT INABILITY.
Irrespective of age or apparent disability, let us see and encourage all to share the news that God loves everyone and can use anyone. After all, He uses me and if He can use me He can use anyone.