With coronavirus restrictions easing significantly in England in July and in Wales in early August, people are keen to return to on-site church meetings. When asked what they were missing about their church, members of our Chaplaincy group said it was “seeing my friends again”, “being able to volunteer and help with the children”, singing and being “the people of God in the house of God”. One person shared it was “just seeing anybody who isn’t the same faces I live with every day”.
Back to Church?
But disabled people in social care settings face more barriers to returning to church than others do. These included the difficulty of getting practical assistance while maintaining social distance, and using public transport feels overwhelming now they’re out of the habit of it. Until we ask each person, we don’t know.
There are simple practical ways that churches can remove barriers:
- It might be introducing more welcomers who can meet people outside
- A video or leaflet to show how things look different and where you have to go
- If disabled people use a separate step-free entrance, checking that it also has hand sanitiser at the door
- Do not assume that everyone has easy web access or understands your email instructions – phoning around those people who you miss to let them know it’s time to come back
Not all about Sundays on site
Online church has opened up access for so many disabled people who otherwise wouldn’t get to a church meeting. Whether you keep the Zoom rooms open as a separate congregation, or go “hybrid”, mixing on-site and online groups in the same gathering, digital ministry is (we hope) here to stay. Midweek, smaller gatherings on-site can be more accessible too – with fewer people it’s easier to spread out, and a small group can make the time to listen to each person.
As we reconnect with our community and realise how different our experiences of the pandemic have been, a new app is available from the mental health charity Sanctuary, to help colleagues, families, groups of friends, and churches get back together. The Sanctuary App features “Together Again” a conversation game to help us reconnect as we ease out of lockdown. Together Again offers a series of questions and conversation prompts to help us talk through the challenges we’ve felt during the pandemic, the anxieties we may be feeling about society reopening, as well as our hopes for the future.
The Sanctuary App is live now and will have further features and content added in the coming months. It can be downloaded from all the usual outlets and is available free. Visit https://www.sanctuary-group.co.uk/
Do you have a great relationship with a care setting near you?
We’re curating a resource to help churches and care settings connect with each other, in preparation for this year’s Ability Sunday. If you and your church are connecting well with people who live in social care settings, please get in touch to share your story. We’ll co-produce the resource, with churchgoers whom Livability supports and their staff, over a few Zoom workshops in late September.
To share your experience of connecting care settings and church, contact Elizabeth on firstname.lastname@example.org to book into one of the co-production workshops.