Disability can be a barrier to developing your spiritual life. Travelling to a place of worship can make it challenging to join with others – but at Keefield Close in Harlow, Livability’s residential care home for disabled adults, the local church comes to them, in the form of vicar Barbara.
Once a fortnight, Revd Barbara Aylett arrives at Keefield to a warm welcome from the people who live there. Anyone who wants to join in gets together in one of the large living rooms for a short worship service.
Keefield is home to ten adults with profound physical and intellectual disabilities, and residents cannot communicate verbally. For Barbara, this does not limit the joy or relevance of meeting together to share in worship and ‘be family’: ‘I’m always banging on about how everyone is made in the image of God. Everyone here is an individual and if we don’t include all individuals, we become insular as a church and really miss out.’
Residents who attend the session visibly show what they most enjoy: Michael has a favourite hymn, and Nicola loves to join in with percussion instruments. Says Keefield manager Sandra Wilson: ‘Livability has a broad and inclusive Christian ethos and we support people of all faiths and none. We believe in the equality and unique value of every person. It’s important for people to realise that just because a lot of the people we support are non-verbal, this does not mean that they do not express themselves in other ways. Our staff are dedicated to understanding each individual’s wants and needs – and this includes spiritual needs and the way that the people we support respond to this.’
When he can, Michael likes to attend church nearby, where ‘we try to be as inclusive as we can,’ says Barbara. ‘The more we exclude people, consciously or unconsciously, the more we lose.’ Michael is a valued part of the church family: ‘He’s always got people asking how he is – he’s got a big fan club!’ Barbara says.
Barbara, a former nurse, first visited Keefield when she was in training as a curate ‘and I love the people here, residents and staff. It’s such a happy place to come to. And I’m very impressed by the standard of care.’
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