Exploring Disability Mission and Ministry in Shrewsbury

Meeting July 2015

Present: Phil Ramsbotham; Adrian Struve, Fr Jeff Leach, Patricia Leach, Ellie Forrester, Jenny Knapp, Tim Wood

Apologies: Niall Evans, Agnes Evans, Tom Evans, Heather Trewick, David Primrose, Sarah Thorpe, Zoe Heming, Ruth Burtonshore 


Jeff - laying down church ministry to see where God is leading; doing hospital chaplaincy which includes many people who have lost touch with church who don't visit.  He has been appointed the Chair of Churches for All.  He is continuing to research how the Equality Act impacts disability access in religion.

Phil - has been on a spiritual journey and been involved in initiating an accessible project in his church and is doing fundraising for it.  He is exploring ‘reasonable adjustments' in access audits.

Ellie - Was successfully elected to her church PCC to advocate for disabled people.  She has devised a 14-point plan (to be circulated).


Positive examples of inclusion of disabled people in church life

  • Starting a discussion within church meeting/PCC and developing it
  • Seeing more people with disabilities in the church
  • Home-made ramps and large-print notice sheets
  • Welcoming - service sheets in larger print and announcing it's okay to sit when others stand
  • Ellie joining Christ Church PCC and at first meeting scribing for a small group discussion on developing the Church community, and reporting back EXCELLENTLY
  • St. Peter's - disabled access, easily-moved seating, disabled toilets, welcome, large-print sheets available
  • Shrewsbury Abbey - Disabled access, Disabled toilet, Loop system, large print sheets available, bus collects people
  • Messy Church adapted to include families with additional needs
  • James is severely disabled. His congregation encourage him and he knows them by name. He can play the Lyre and played it during the carols and has been asked to play during the hymns


Challenges of including disabled people + suggestions (in italics) offered by group

  • Older people no longer visited (Needs to be whole church approach, so need a co-ordinator, perhaps as part of a Pastoral Care Group to ensure people in church are ok, or flag up those at home, and can draw in those who don't come to church)
  • Everyone asked to ‘stand' ("Please stand if it is comfortable to do so")
  • Need to embrace their talents
  • Need to use Makaton in service (Jenny and Ellie to talk to Condover group to ask if they would like Makaton)
  • Sat in separate areas of church (Get to know, go to speak with them, lead by example to show others how to communicate. Look at Fire Risk Assessment to clarify the issues re the spacing of chairs - it is able to be changed)
  • Loop system not functioning
  • How do we find the people with disabilities (including those who would appreciate Makaton) in our parish of 6000? (Contact groups, schools, sheltered housing etc to assess the needs of the community and adapt pastoral care)
  • Making the service accessible for all i.e. visual, loop, Makaton
  • Issues over start time of service due to Minister having to cover service at another church (Prayer)
  • Church doesn't identify that disability is part of a person
  • How can we get ‘into' churches to tell the good news of gifts that disabled people have?


What next?

The Network to write to churches to offer a 5-10 minute presentation and/or video to their PCC or congregation to share our learning of issues over the inclusion of disabled people.  We have something to offer to enrich the church through the involvement of disabled people.

Action: Through the Roof to produce a video, with contributions from disabled Christians in Shrewsbury, to demonstrate the gifts that disabled can offer to enrich church life.

Next meeting: Saturday 24th October, 2.00 - 4.30pm, venue TBC

18th April, Lecture Hall, Shrewsbury URC SY3 7BJ

Attendance: Phil Ramsbotham; Adrian Struve, Fr Jeff Leach, Patricia Leach, Niall Evans, Agnes Evans, Tom Evans, Ellie , Heather Trewick, David Primrose, Tim Wood

Apologies: SarahThorpe


The group shared how they had become involved personally and/or professionally with disability mission/ministry.

Fr Jeff Leach explained about the piece of work he is currently doing, looking at the Equality Act and its influence/impact on church life.  He invited people to contribute their experiences to him of examples of where the law has fallen short for disabled people.

The concept of a Disability Network and the Roofbreaker project

Tim shared from Job 29:14 - 16.  In the passage Job is appealing to God and says he ‘was eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame' - an advocate for disabled people.  Roofbreakers is a project that supports people willing to be advocates for disabled people in their church.  It provides a starter kit, monthly news and the opportunity to meet others at an Area Network.  Sign-up at www.throughtheroof.org/sign-up-to-become-a-roofbreaker/

Partial access audit and church tour

Phil explained the process he had undertaken in enabling the church to improve access.  At first there was a reticence to change but eventually after several years the church has implemented a partial access audit so that it is now equipped with a loop system; has removed the step up to the pews in the sanctuary so the floor is now raised to have level access to the pews; and installed accessible toilets including a changing unit.  Phil reports that the key elements to success were: perseverance; providing the information to the decision-makers; and keep persisting for disabled access to be on the agenda.

Open prayer

The group shared together in a lovely time of open prayer, asking God to lead the group forward, and committing one-another to the Lord.

What next?

There was a positive feeling of unity amongst the group and of wanting to continue to meet together as a Christian disability network to update, share ideas, encourage one another and pray.  It was agreed to meet again on Saturday 18th July, 2.00 - 5.00pm and Christ Church, Bayston Hill was mentioned as a potentially good venue and would be approached.