In 2016 St Stephen’s Church gained the Diocese’s award for being a Disabled Friendly Church.
We knew that our church was accessible for people with mobility issues and babies in prams.
Betty came to live in Formby to be near her daughter Judith who lives in Hightown. She was becoming increasing immobile so used a wheelchair. Because our church has chairs, two could be removed so Betty’s wheelchair could easily be placed in church alongside other people. Betty felt welcomed and enjoyed coming to St. Stephen’s. She did express an opinion that we used too many pieces of paper - but that’s a different story! We were pleased that we could accommodate Betty.
This year our Disabled Friendly Church award needs to be updated. This time we are asked to consider how we are accessible for people with mental health issues. This is challenging us at the moment. How do we support people with mental illness?
Vickie lives in Hightown and worships at St. Stephen’s and sometimes suffers from anxiety. Occasionally, she finds it difficult to leave the house, especially first thing in the morning. And occasionally, when in church, it becomes too overwhelming and she needs to leave.
What can St. Stephen’s do to help Vickie and others who are sufferers of mental illness?
Vickie has suggested:
We do not comment on how she looks. Talk to her but avoid personal comments or questions about her illness. She just wants to be Vickie not Vickie with a mental illness. Vickie says the two worst questions you can ask someone with a mental illness are:
1. You look well, are you doing better?
2. How are you?
Both questions are impossible to answer - it’s not like physical illness; it’s difficult to explain.
It’s fine to come to church late and leave early. It’s fine to miss church this week knowing that if she comes next week no comments will be made, she will just be welcomed.
We will listen and support people like her. And pray for her.
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
What do you think about these four items of how St. Stephen’s can help people with mental distress come to church?
What’s missing - this is a serious question, and if you can suggest other items please email/text me.
We will be discussing these in our church council in September.
- Revd. Jan Ashton
Vicar of Hightown, Liverpool