St. Stephen's Church Hightown

....part of the local community.

JanAshtonHi All,

If you read (and remembered!) what I wrote in last month’s magazine, you’ll know our church was re-applying for the Diocesan Disabled Church Award for another three years.

I’m pleased to say we were awarded this.

Three years ago we thought about how to make our church friendly for people with mobility issues. This time we had to think about how to make our church more accessible for people with anxiety, stress or any mental conditions affecting their life. We came up with four suggestions:

St Stephen’s Says:

  • Come when you can; go when you want
  • We will not comment on your personal appearance or ask difficult questions
  • We will listen and support and pray for you
  • We will treat you as every other parishioner; you will not carry a label

At the end of my letter I asked you if there were things we’d missed out. Very kindly someone emailed me and raised the following points which I will comment on. Let’s call this person Chris:

Chris says…

Is the “ peace or memorial” garden area accessible at all times, so someone could sit there in calmness and not be asked to move? When troubled, it’s often helpful just to sit and contemplate away from your own home surrounding. Yes, Chris, the memorial garden (this is what we call it) is open all the time, in fact it can’t be locked. Anyone is welcome to come and sit and be peaceful.

Chris also says:

Set aside a corner area inside church, near the entrance, so someone may enter at any time, minimally disturbing the service. You don’t want heads turning to look at you coming in, it’s unnerving and uncomfortable.

Chris has a point here; going inside a church you don’t know very well isn’t easy. Just over ten years ago, my husband, also a Chris, went through a difficult time, and started going to another church. They had one corner near the door where new people could come and ‘try’ church. He says, he couldn’t have coped with lots of people speaking to him and this corner helped him attend church. St Stephen’s doesn’t have corners where there’s chairs but we do have a back row. St Stephen’s people how about leaving the back row free for new people ‘trying’ church?

Next Chris raises ‘the collection’.

If someone is feeling low or preoccupied they probably wouldn’t have money on them or be able necessarily to give much and feel embarrassed. Instead of having to give money in the collection moment, rather simply leave a box or vessel aside in church so people can give when able.

It’s worth knowing, that in Church these days, regulars often give money to the church by Direct Debit so many people don’t put money in the collection.

Chris finishes by saying:

I think Jesus wanted the church to be inclusive, and not just be for worship, but be available for all those who feel they need support, whether it be spiritual, the physical company of others, practical advice, or just to be still and feel more rested and calm in order to take back some control over bad times. This would help someone feel stronger for going there and readier to cope.

Thank you Chris for sharing your thoughts.

It will help us when we further discuss this topic in September.

Are there anymore of you with ideas you’d like to share?

Do get in touch.

- Revd. Jan Ashton
Vicar of Hightown, Liverpool

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