|Photo Description: Central United Church in Barrie, surrounded with snow and announcing a pancake breakfast on sign in front of the church.|
As I said, I've spoken in a lot of churches and attended a lot of churches over the years. For the longest while Joe and I, when in another city on a Sunday, would attend church in that city. We've been in beautiful spaces, taking the time to be quiet and to listen. It's a nice way to spend time when away in another city. As we've got older, though, that's trailed off. Sleeping in became much more attractive and option.
As I said, we've been to a lot of churches.
Accessibility became an issue immediately upon becoming a wheelchair user. Finding a church that one could get it was a challenge. And, there were some interesting conversations about it. Once, at lunch with some folks attending a conference I was presenting at, I spoke to a woman who professed to be a Christian, about the difficulty of finding a church in our area that we could get into, the all had stairs. She looked at me and said, "You know why they have stairs, don't you?" I was startled by the question but said, "I'm guessing it's because they were built in a time when accessibility wasn't even considered as a need or an option." She said, "No, it's because if you were really a Christian you would get out of your wheelchair and walk up those stairs."
But it was very different yesterday. I was able to easily get in the church and then I rolled into the sanctuary. I saw it but it took a second or two to sink in. The pulpit was ramped. A long, beautiful, wooden ramp, with hand rails on either side, spaced perfectly for me to pull myself up. The floor of the church was carpeted, not with thick pile, but with pile that was easy to roll on, but there was no carpet on the ramp. May I say, Hallelujah!! Can I have an Amen! I was easily able to get up onto the platform and give my lecture from where a sermon would be given.
Most churches that are accessible, in my meagre experience, don't consider the possibility that someone with a disability would ever need access to the pulpit or the choir loft. Ever.
It was amazing.
Buildings can community welcome or exclusion.
Yesterday, I was full and warmly welcomed.