Our Place @ New Wine

–        A reflection

A young man I knew in Cork received the sacrament of Holy Communion through a door at the side of a church, his presence in the building was not wanted. A young girl of 14 in England was asked not to attend the monthly healing service anymore as she was not a good advertisement. A person recently was told at a petrol station, “Boris will sort you disabled ones out, get rid of you all.” (this bears no relation to the new Prime Minister’s stance on disability and the choice language has been removed). The disregarded and discarded of our society need to hear about the saving grace of Jesus and learn & grow in their faith.

This summer as part of the formation studies at Edgehill Theological College I have embarked on a placement with Biblica. One of the reasons was I wanted to explore the new Accessible Bible they have developed with partners (Livability, Torch Trust and Urban Saints).

As part of this placement I was introduced to Our Place, a space for adults with intellectual disabilities to worship God, learn about being Christian and have fun together. Our Place meets every day during New Wine (apart from Wednesday, “the day off”) for 2 ½ hours. They used the NIrV Accessible Edition of the Bible in the teaching and memorizing of scripture.

In the first few minutes of the initial meeting I observed friends reconnecting from the previous year and garnered an appreciation of this special space. The format was structured and everyone was clear about what was happening and when it would happen. The conversations were about life, faith and God. One of the participants led the praise section and got us all up on our feet dancing and singing.

My last day, Thursday, was marked by a gathering for food together in the evening. It was lovely to see how everyone there was included in the gentle ribbing and chat. Later that night in one of the venues I was able to see some of the participants worshipping and listening to some teaching.

In a time when inclusivity should be the buzzword which image most fits:

Our Place a designated space or 
two young men feeling comfortable to join the main event?

From my experience at this conference I would say both. Listening to D. share his new faith (2 weeks) gave me goosebumps and could only have happened in a small group setting. Equally the encouragement received during the week in the small group enabled the participants to join in the main celebrations.

I am looking forward to visiting some churches that have an ethos of inclusivity and seeing what that looks like in the practicalities of a Sunday morning worship service and equally become acquainted with the small groups that are formed outside of the Sunday gathering. The Accessible Bible, with its unique font, page colour, shorter sentences, simpler language and easy navigation is one part of the jigsaw of making church accessible for all.

On a side note: volunteering at New Wine was epic; meeting up with old friends and making some new ones, the camaraderie of volunteering and the sharing of stories. 

Originally shared through IMYC and Inclusive Church