We like to think that all our churches are welcoming and accessible. The truth is that those who are in your church are there because they feel welcomed. But what about those who aren’t in your church because they do not? If we are to truly engage with the Mission of the Church to make disciples then we need to look at ourselves as objectively as possible and do what we can that we truly are welcoming. There is always more that can be done.
There are a range of resources you can access which will help to make our churches more welcoming. The pages for the Diocesan Advisory Committee have resources which can help in this process.
Disability comes in so many different forms so there is a need to encourage accessibility. It begins with imagination. Putting a sign up saying to ask for help if you are disabled and need assistance is all very well, but unless there are the means to ask for help such as a bell to ring or a phone number then the sign is worthless. You need to imagine yourself in the position of the person with particular needs and approach the building as if for the first time.
We have a duty under law and the Gospel to welcome all. Not an exhaustive list but we need to be aware of the following - wheelchair users, visually impaired, deaf and hard of hearing, elderly and infirm, dementia sufferers, those with learning difficulties. Remembering the words of Jesus, "I was in prison and you came to me", we can also help those in prison and especially those released from prison to become integrated into society. No one is beyond God's love.
Similarly there should be no discrimination towards people on the grounds of race, gender, sexual orientation or age. Resources are available to help to encourage our churches to have a welcoming attitude in all these areas, but crucially it comes down to each individual to be as welcoming as possible and with the right attitude of heart. For a church with all the resources as possible in place it takes just one member of that church to show an unwelcoming attitude, witting or unwittingly, for a visitor to leave and never to return.