Better together: how Gwenda’s gifts make a Welsh church complete

Livability Unique Gifts campaign;

Gwenda is a busy and committed member of Emmanuel Church in Llandudno, where she has worshipped for 25 years. Bilingual in Welsh and English, Gwenda regularly gives the Scripture reading in the service, helps to count the offering, seeks out visitors to welcome them, takes part in prayer ministry and is a regular member of a midweek Bible study group.

Appreciating Gwenda’s unique gifts

Gwenda’s participation is encouraged and valued by the church family – but she might not have been given the same responsibility in another church. Gwenda has a learning disability and profound hearing loss and for some disabled people, this can disqualify them from being able to truly participate in church life. Not so at Emmanuel Church: her gifts are much appreciated, says her friend Chris Dean, who leads worship at the church.

‘I value Gwenda’s loyalty, her thoughtfulness for others, her singing – she loves the old hymns and sings with real gusto, especially when it’s in Welsh – and her very special reading of Scripture,’ says Chris, whose family give Gwenda a lift to church every week. ‘She has a very clear and measured delivery and makes the reading fresh.’

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Gwenda’s faith and caring for others doesn’t stop at the church door. She is supported to live independently by Livability, sharing a house with flatmates Ivor and Carol. ‘‘Gwenda is a very generous giver of her time and resources to those she lives with,’ says her Livability support worker Gregory Morris. ’She’s a very caring, compassionate person who goes out of her way to affirm and strengthen others.’ With a Livability team, Gwenda volunteers to run the local hospital café and says she prays privately for people she meets who are going through challenging times.

Sharing faith and support

Gwenda’s faith is absolutely central to her life: ‘My faith began when I received the Lord Jesus Christ as my Saviour and was baptised in water at a Pentecostal church in Leeds many years ago. I have kept on running the race ever since.’  She’s recently been through some testing times, when she was seriously ill and when she lost a close friend last year. ‘My faith has kept me going in the good times and the bad times,’ Gwenda says. ‘God has carried me through in the power of his Holy Spirit when the going got tough.’

Livability’s Ability Sunday, happening this year on 8 September, invites churches and community groups to run a day of inclusion and participation, with special consideration for the needs and gifts of disabled people. ‘Our church would lack so many things if disabled people weren’t truly part of it,’ says Chris. ‘The whole would be missing, not showing the different facets of God. We’d be less complete in terms of our life together.’

Gwenda couldn’t imagine life without her church family at the centre. Naming various friends, she says: ‘All these people have supported me in my Christian pathway and taken care of me, physically and spiritually. I’m pleased to share responsibility for important things at church and to take part in the ministry.’

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