Supporting churches to include people with Autism and Learning Disabilties

One church at a time

Those of you who have followed this blog for a while will have seen me agonise over leaving the Good News Group and struggling find a place and purpose in what God wanted me to do next. It is that leap of faith we need to take sometimes – but it isn’t very comfortable.

It has been a time of visiting other churches and finding one we could settle in. Each time we visited another church it was refreshing to look at what impression of accessibility each one gave us in that first visit. We finally settled into Buckshaw Village church – back in the CofE (I was surprised about that having been more comfortable in ”free’ churches in the past). It meets in a community centre and isn’t too far from where we live. It’s lively and I began to feel free enough to raise my hands in worship without feeling ‘weird’ again.

The Friday before shutdown happened, I plucked up the courage to meet with the minister, his PA and the children’s worker to share with them my story, my vision and my passion. I am very blessed to be in a growth group with the PA and Children’s worker so they knew what was coming 🙂

I shared my heart like I have done on other occasions. When I did this in my last church I was given a favourable response, but then NOTHING changed. I was left deflated and patronised. Like they’d sent me away with a pat on the head. It always felt like the Good News Group ticked their accessibility box.

But this time it was different. James, our minister listened. He made a couple of notes and listened some more. At the end of my passionate speech he said one simple word… “YES”. And he’d already written a plan of action.

And then on that next Monday, the country shut down. Church buildings shut down and work shut down. Suddenly we all had to rethink what we were doing and how. A few of us had attended a Makaton training day before Christmas and started to sign the memory verse at the front of church each week. Once church went online I was asked would I please continue this. So each week, I have filmed the Bible verse in Makaton and it forms part of our online recorded service.

Then we started including some signed worship songs. And we set up a Saturday signing for worship group. And bit by bit, Makaton signing has become mainstream in our church. Learning to sign worship songs has been a challenge, but aided by the wonderful Becky Makaton Tutor , my own worship in lockdown has been wonderful. I was able to use some of this in making the two Good News Group services that I filmed for them and put on You Tube. I have learned so many tech skills which opens up so many new possibilities.

As we begin to think about reopening our buildings, it is vital we do not close this online door to those who can’t get to our buildings. The lockdown seems to have given many people in our church time to reflect and see that being more accessible can be a very natural process if you let it be part of what you do. Buckshaw Village is willing and I have asked if I can write my blog about our journey. It’s one church, but I feel it can be a beacon for what other churches can do. We’ve done one thing and its made a difference. My friend who has learning difficulties says it makes him feel like he is welcome and part of the church family. The Makaton helps him understand the words.

And we were part of this WONDERFUL song

There is a lot about this church I love. I love its heart for people and its cultural diversity. I love how James, Rachel (the children’s worker) and others have preached in smaller chunks and made their words clear and easy to understand whilst covering some deep truths of the gospel. I love the prayer montages each week and miss all the people so much.

I think the next step will to be speak to the church leadership and see if we can gather everyone together in this. I have ideas and want to help everyone feel they are part of this. So please do follow our journey. We will be honest and share what works and what barriers we come up against.

And do pray. That what this one church does, others might try too.

Lynn x

Comments on: "One church at a time" (2)

  1. We too seamlessly transfered across from face to face to zoom virtual meetings with Dovetailers – a group of 6 people with learning disabilities. Some people said it wouldn’t work but we have actually found the opposite. We have one blind person in our group and the rest in supported living. Is it something all can do. No, it doesn’t suit some people. So we contact via old fashion phone on a weekly basis. We have also run a regional meeting in the South West with 30 people on the zoom call. Again, some were sceptical but it did work and they are keen to follow-up maybe with groups pairing up. So as an Assistuve Technologist I feel very much I was “born for such a time as this.” I wrote this article on LinkedIn which has gained some likes to read it click on https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/connecting-learning-disability-community-lockdown-pilling-ba-m-ed-/. Finally, keep up the good work! Maybe meet virtual at the Through the Roof event on June 20th

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  2. It fantastic to see what others have been doing, and as you said – it has been forced upon those that said it couldn’t work to see that it can. Yes, am looking forward to meeting people on the 20th. And that is possible because of technology now!

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