How enabling is your church?

First published 25th June 2013

The Church needs to learn from the experience, insight and gifts of disabled people, writes Revd Canon Gill Behenna, Chaplain with the Deaf Community in Bristol and National Adviser for Deaf Ministry.

A day conference on 6 July 2013 at Holy Trinity, Westbury-on-Trym will enable us to do just that.

Over the last few years we have all become accustomed to thinking about access needs for disabled people in our churches. For example, most churches now use a loop system regularly and produce service sheets in large print as the norm.

But many people would consider that the Church has still not gone far enough and, especially, that we havent truly listened to what disabled people have to say, or appreciated the gifts they bring to the Body of Christ. Disabled people are not simply passive church attenders but bring the possibility of different insights into faith and creative ways of worshiping that need to be shared with the whole church.

The Enabling Church Conference will seek to help us to do just that. It will be a great chance to learn from disabled people about what works for them in church and what they can contribute to church life. I have no doubt that we will be challenged and resourced by this event and I do encourage you to attend and make sure that your church is represented.

The event is being organised by Churches for All, an umbrella organisation that represents various Christian Disability organisations and is supported by Premier Radio.

Ive worked with Churches for All on many occasions and am always impressed by the events they organise and their inclusion of disabled people in everything they do. Im especially glad to be attending this event as one of the Sign Language interpreters and pleased that one of the members of Bristol Deaf Church, Janice Silo, is contributing. Im looking forward to what she has to say about making the church accessible to Deaf people.

One of the main speakers is Roy McCloughry who has just been appointed as National Disability Adviser for the Church of England. Roy is a well-known theologian and writer in the area of disability and Im very much looking forward to working alongside him in my role as Deaf Ministry Adviser for the Church of England.

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