Bishop Malcolm experiences church from a wheelchair user’s perspective
Have you ever considered what it’s like to go to church when you’re a wheelchair user?
Bishop Malcolm recently met Reader Lynda Herbert from the newly formed Disability Inclusion Action Group (DIAG) at St Giles Church in Marston Montgomery where she is a regular worshipper.
His plan was to get an understanding of the challenges faced by wheelchair users, both leading worship and as a member of the congregation.
So, Bishop Malcolm became a wheelchair user for the duration of the meeting.
Bishop Malcolm said: “I was quite surprised by the number of challenges I faced while using a wheelchair.
“Slopes and steps are obvious barriers, but I also learned that it’s not always easy to get around inside churches due to tight corners.
“And using a wheelchair also means you only get one perspective of what’s going on – you can’t stand and sit like non-wheelchair users and sometimes the only place you can go is at the end of a pew. All this means that your view can be restricted.
"I am thankful to Lynda for inviting me to experience church in a new way.”
Lynda is a Reader in the Dove and Derwent and Carsington Deaneries, where she regularly leads services including morning prayer, evening prayer, family services and funerals. She said: “What I wanted to demonstrate was that even small (and often free!) changes that any church can make could greatly benefit disabled members of the local community and could increase service attendance.
Examples include removing a pew to allow more space for wheelchairs, utilising chairs where possible instead of pews – and even a simple change of language (e.g., saying “if you are able, please stand” rather than “please stand”) would help wheelchair users feel more included.”
The DIAG will be releasing more details in the weeks ahead to inform and support our churches and parishes.
If you would like to find out more about their work, or indeed to join the group and help to structure the pathway ahead, please contact Carl Veal at firstname.lastname@example.org.