Using different ways of learning in church means everyone can take part. That was the message from people from the Livability community, who took centre stage at the ONE weekend event at Lincolnshire showground.
Livability provides an extended programme for adults with intellectual disabilities at ONE, organised by Ground Level Network, which draws 4,000-plus churchgoers from across the UK. ‘Many families are able to access the event because of this provision, and book in advance from year to year – this is the tenth year of running this programme,’ says Jennifer Rowlands, Livability’s Church Partnerships Manager. As well as inclusive celebration times, the programme includes a daily seminar for people who are seeking to make church more welcoming and accessible for people with disabilities.
Four speakers, who are part of Livability’s inclusive, church-based ‘ministry groups’ and who are intellectually disabled, spoke in the seminar about learning styles and skills they had gained. This included Kim’s recent IT course, Michael who spoke of learning to be a DJ in Sheffield by watching others do the job, and Bryony who trained herself to tutor in wheelchair sport boccia.
‘These speakers’ testimonies had a powerful impact on the audience,’ says Jennifer. ‘Attendance at the seminars was high and many were stimulated to ask questions, stay behind for conversations and express interest in starting a work for people with intellectual disabilities. In church we often expect people to learn by sitting and listening, but for a large proportion of the population, this isn’t the way we learn.’
The weekend is an amazing opportunity for people to connect with each other from different communities and backgrounds, Jennifer finds. One connection stands out for her: ‘Michael, the DJ, was on the Livability team and invited a woman to come to one of the celebrations – and she never really left for the rest of the weekend! She’d not had any previous contact with people with intellectual disabilities and was really impacted by the participative worship and the fun we had together. She said her next step was to talk to her pastor about inclusive church.’