Aside from theological inclusion, we need to look at the physical aspect of our churches. Can everyone physically enter your building? Here's a good reminder, courtesy of the Episcopal News Service.
Look around your building. Or better yet, if you are able to walk, sit in a wheelchair and try to enter your own church. What's that like? The parish I serve is just beginning to grapple with these issues once again. It's expensive and difficult, but if we mean what we say, the effort is an important part of our Christian faith.
[Canon Victoria] Garvey told ENS that when one considers the signs that point people to Episcopal Church congregations -- the ones that say "The Episcopal Church welcomes you" -- calling for the church to be accessible to all is a "no-brainer." The accessibility is possible in some parts of the church, Garvey said, but it must become the norm "all across the board."
That includes paying attention to what might be called unseen disabilities, she said. For example, someone with a heart condition may appear to be otherwise able but may not be able to climb stairs. Hearing difficulties, which are often not discernable by others, can prevent many people from truly participating in liturgies or program, she added, giving another example.
If part of the reason for the slow progress towards accessibility has to do with consciousness-raising, Garvey acknowledged that cost and the snowballing effect of making changes have been very important also. Given the way the ADA and other building codes work, if a congregation begins to improve its accessibility, it is usually expected to become completely accessible. "You do one thing and then you have to do 16," Garvey said.
"It's complicated," she acknowledged. However, "if we really believe what we say we believe, then we really have to think about our priorities in the coming year and our budget," she said of congregations who are trying to deal with the accessibility challenge.