Some years ago, I was asked to assist the Board of Trustees at a former parish to complete an accessibility survey of the church facilities. The large church plant included several buildings constructed from the 1930s to the 1960s. Stairways and landings were scattered throughout the buildings. A single person
elevator no larger than a small closet had been installed in one building, but because of the layout of the building one had to go outside to get access to the elevator from the main sanctuary. And only one door to the sanctuary lacked at least one step up. We discussed each barrier in turn and explored options, many of which seemed impractical or prohibitively expensive.
Toward the end of our survey, the Trustee, Charlie, sighed and said in exasperation, “I don’t know why we’re bothering with this, we don’t have anybody in a wheelchair who even comes here.”
I looked at him with surprise and asked, “Charlie, have you ever wondered why?”
What Charlie had not considered is that a large multi-touch independent living apartment building was located just two blocks from our downtown church. The apartments were designed for adults with handicapping conditions. Many were in wheelchairs and in fact some did venture down the street to join us for worship but obstacles prevented them from participating widely in the life of the church.
This story has haunted me for many years. It is easy to get so comfortable in OUR church, in OUR building. We know where the restrooms are. Doesn’t everyone? Though our facility at Seaside is widely accessible, can a new visitor find their way without help? Are you willing to do more than nod hello and instead to show them around?
Some churches invite individuals who do not attend their church to visit anonymously and grade the church on its welcome.
Rev. Donna Claycomb Sokol took a summer Sabbatical this year and visited dozens of churches. Her reflections are interesting and challenging for us. It’s worth your time to read it.
“Donna Claycomb Sokol: What would happen if your church was reviewed on TripAdvisor?” http://feedly.com/k/17XS16U