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Golders Green Parish Church – Newsletter
5 August 2020
Introduction from Sally
This week we have a guest contributor to our newsletter.
Fiona is a long-time friend and colleague where we were trustees of Inclusive Church (IC), a national organisation that works for equality for all groups who are marginalised and on the edge of the Church (www.inclusive-church.com). Fiona chairs the Disability Advisory Group at St Martin-in-the-Fields as well as serving on Inclusive Church. She leads the planning team for their annual partnership conference on Disability & Church, now in its 9th year. Fiona is a member of the Nazareth Community, a group of lay and ordained based at St Martin-in-the-Fields, committed to vows of living a monastic life while in their everyday lives. (If you want to know more about it you will find information in, “The City is my Monastery”, by Revd Richard Carter who is its founder). Fiona writes and speaks a great deal on living with disability and issues to do with Inclusion and the Church.
Renewal from the Edge: Thinking differently about disabled people
Historically the church was amazing at caring for people on the edge of society. For centuries it practised faith in action by feeding, housing and caring for people who would have suffered or died through poverty, sickness or prejudice. Many great institutions, hospitals and charities began with people living out their faith, particularly in the 19th century.
Yet for 50 years now the disability rights movement has campaigned for greater autonomy and while society is changing, the Church has been slower to respond. Disabled people are seen as an uncomfortable presence in a society that lauds strength. But in a Church professing the Gospel paradox of weakness we're seen more as objects for pastoral attention rather than agents of change. We're often treated as a healing opportunity, a learning point or a problem to be solved or endured.
The church needs to move on from welcoming us as an act of grace and treat us with as much right to be there as anyone else. And society needs to move on from treating people as either vulnerable recipients or economic units, as the worthy or the work-shy poor. Because work isn't always good for your health and human worth can't be measured in money. Disabled people need neither to be pitied nor to be viewed as what the late comedian Stella Duffy called “disability porn”. We're not in the supermarket to make you feel better about your life: we're just there to get some shopping!
What might disabled people be able to sense, see or say from the edge that can't be said from the centre?
Living on the edge can be difficult and is often painful. As theologian Anthony Reddie1 says, there's a difference between visiting the margins and being marginalised, or between being edgy and being edged out. There's also a difference between living with 'a disability' and being disabled. Disability is a shorthand which is meant to simplify but more often confuses because it covers a huge range of conditions, impairments and distinct differences. These may limit energy or create pain, restrict movement or mobility, or lead to shorter lives. We may sense the world differently, communicate differently, think or feel differently. But being disabled is about living in a society and church which are set up for and run by the well, made up of places where it's hard to get in and join in. Why? What is it that we're valuing?
For the last 9 years I've been part of an amazing team running annual conferences on disability and church - uniquely by and for disabled people rather than about disability. Often isolated by experience or geography, we come from across the country to share experience and ideas, to resource each other and the church. We're not waiting to be included. We're living on the edge - responding where we are with what we are and know and have. We're responding to theologian John Hull2's challenge – that disabled people have a prophetic ministry to the church*.
Disabled people live with knowledge of our own weakness, our dependence on each other and on God. Some are bed-based activists, focusing on the tiny things of life that work or don't work. We're in the business of noticing need: - our own, other people's or society's. Many find creative ways to take part - not just despite our health or circumstances, but despite the barriers confronting us. Some learn to dive into our places of pain and find – as the Methodist minister Donald Eadie3 says, 'My world cracked open, and life broke through.' People see disability as being broken, our presence as a reminder of death. But there is a crack in everything: that's how the light gets in.
The edge of church and society can be a very particular place - like the edge of the forest. There, things which would struggle to live in the middle find light and freedom on the edge. There's room to grow in different ways that simply don't fit in the centre. It's possible to see both outside and inside, and to connect the two. The edge is also a place of protection for things which would be in danger on the outside, providing shelter, shade and a sanctuary. The edge is a place for things to grow – and by their very presence to change the shape and nature of the forest itself, shifting the centre outwards.
I'm going to end with an example of what to change and why, using an example from Psalm 139. We believe we are all 'perfectly and wonderfully made', made in the image of God and for God's delight. So it follows that being blind or Deaf isn't willful avoidance or sinful action. And if they're your lived experience you really don't want to be where people sing that, however catchy the tune. If you are neurodivergent – if your brain is wired so you think differently, feel the world differently, communicate differently - you too are perfectly and wonderfully made. And you don't want to be somewhere where people call you disturbed or difficult, demanding or possessed by demons!
Disabled people are as much a combination of needs & gifts as everyone else. Some people's needs may be less obvious, some people's gifts may be more hidden. But we are all a combination of needs & gifts and when our needs are met our gifts can flourish.
As Christians, we are called to to follow the One who was broken in order to be shared, yet we fear being broken open. We are called to practice radical hospitality, yet we are slow to welcome the gifts of the stranger. But if renewal comes from the edge we must learn to look to the edge not through the lens of lack but with the eyes of abundance.
Further reading : Two booklets Calling from the Edge (2017) & Something Worth Sharing (2019) are both available as free downloads from
* Professor (Emeritus) John Hull was professor of Religious Education at the University of Birmingham. He was an inspiration to so many of us especially in developing our understanding of the Bible in the context of disability and blindness. He wrote an important book on the experience of going blind early in his life and taught us how to think of the meaning of the use of “light” and “darkness” in Biblical texts. It is true to say, too, he was a social reformer and was loved and respected by many.
Thank you Fiona
Daily Hope - The Church of England Phone line church service - is available 24 hours a day on 0800 804 8044 – has been set up particularly with those unable to join online church services during the period of restrictions in mind.
Please continue to pray for those who have asked us as a community to pray for them
Okey Jnr, Margaret, Yvone, Anna, Jason, Ian, Eva, Juliette, Ivor, Myfanwy, Tim and Dorothy
We at Golders Green Church will continue to offer a number of ways we can and will keep in contact though emailing and phoning each other, the use of Facebook and the website, sending out updates by supporting those who need shopping, prescriptions fetched, letters posted and anything else you may need if you are isolated at home, whether you are in the over 70-year-old age group, or, have underlying health conditions.
The important thing is, PLEASE LET US KNOW. We are drawing up a list of volunteers we can call on to help. If anyone wants to add their names to this, please email Rex firstname.lastname@example.org
Radio, Television and Online Worship
You may wish to join in worship during this time through television and radio.
Check online, in the Radio Times and elsewhere for details:
Songs of Praise BBC 1, Sunday afternoon, variable times
Sunday Worship BBC Radio 4, Sunday, 8.10am Choral Evensong BBC
Radio 3, Wednesday Daily Service
BBC Radio 4 (Longwave only), weekdays, 9.45am
Big Sunday Service Premier Christian Radio, Sunday, 7am, 8am, 10am Easter Sunday Eucharist A service is usually broadcast on the BBC on Easter morning
Free 24 hour telephone church service 0800 804 8044
Online resources Church of England Daily Prayer https://www.churchofengland.org/prayer-and-worship/join-us-service-dailyprayer
https://mailchi.mp/b9d86a4acdc7/coming-up-from-st-pauls-cathedral-1274047?e=377e26b1db St Paul’s Cathedral have a number of resources available for us to use.
Church of England Online Resources during this time https://www.churchofengland.org/more/media-centre/coronaviruscovid-19-liturgy-and-prayer-resources
Go On-line to " ps://www.achurchnearyou.com", put in Area or post code and find a local church that broadcasts Worship.
Prayers from Christian Aid https://www.christianaid.org.uk/pray/churches/coronavirus-prayers
https://pray-as-you-go.org/ Pray as you Go (a short service each day in the Jesuit Tradition)
LICC have some great resources on their website https://www.licc.org.uk/
Especially on Covid-19 https://www.licc.org.uk/ourresources/prayer-journeys/presence-pressure-purpose/
YouTube - Worship Video of the week
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WP0LcrQzkfo hat A Friend I've Found - Hillsong Worship & Delirious?
Do you have favourite worship songs? Please email them to Rex at email@example.com
1 Keynote at 'It's Al Church', HeartEdge conference, Lambeth Palace, Sept 2018
2 Keynote at Transforming our Vision, London 2014
3 Vulnerability as the Heart of Transformation, keynote at Calling from the Edge, London, 2016