There has been a positive side to the Covid-19 crisis.
The following positivity is not meant to ignore the massive difficulties that have hugely increased for many children, adults and families who live with additional needs and disability. Outside the church the crisis has widened the chasm to the extreme for many, creating lots more obstacles to overcome - especially for those with complex multiple needs.
But when it comes to church - there has been a much needed explosion of inclusion. Sadly the majority is due more to serendipity than well thought out planning, but hey, I'll take it!
Yes, there are a few disabilities still not supported adequately, but with a little thought, this too could be looked into and rectified.
The positives I'm hearing are:
Families who have been asked not to bring their additional needs kids to church are telling me that their children are now connecting with online church far better than they used to connect with physical church, and they (the parents) are able to take in spiritually too - something they haven't been able to do for years.
People who cannot get out because of disability or illness can now access church. Their churches now have whatsapp groups and a phone call rota so they have talked to their church friends more than they have ever done before.
The stuff online is far more accessible for many disabilities, where as physical church is often not accessible on many levels. There are services with BSL, Makaton and speech to text - rarely available before the crisis.
Yes, there are a few disabilities not supported, but with a little thought, this too could be solved.
Even our elderly members have had more phone contact than ever before and all the live streams recorded to dvd, cd and tape, or the ability to phone in and hear the live streams via a designated person.
Disabled people are being allowed to minister and use their gifts too! Worshipping in this way is a great leveller...
This is an oportunity to lower that figure of disabled people being the most unreached people group - 94% unreached with the gospel.
From a church point of view, this crisis has levelled the ground for disabled people like never before.
I have never seen anything like this in all my years of ministry.
But one huge worry prevails in the disability community within what was once a hidden church: What will happen when the crisis is over?
Will the church move on and once again forget those who have lived this 'isolation thing' for many years before we'd even heard of Covid19?
Will the things they have been asking for and been denied for years before the pandemic once again cease to exist?
We cannot go back! We need to move forward realising that a huge swathe of what has previously been an invisible church can and should move with us.
Disabled people need to be in that conversation to make sure it happens well. They were the ones doing this well before the church had to move online. They can teach us how to make the local church the place of belonging it should have been before this virus hit us.
We have the opportunity to be better community, and I think now is a good time to act.