Pandemic Learnings: Emily Richardson speaks at the General Synod launch of the booklet ‘Something Worth Sharing’

It feels strange to be speaking about this booklet here and now. I had to go back and read the contents, including things I had written. We took this booklet to Greenbelt in 2019. It feels like another world. Gathering, mingling, sharing in person.

And yet, when I reflect on the last two years, I realise how so much of the little nuggets of wisdom in this booklet have kept me grounded, given me hope, inspiration and direction. Whether consciously or not I have taken in these ideas and shared them with my church, with my friends and integrated them into my life. Ann Memmott’s chapter on Access was vital when not having a ramp was the least of our worries, as church doors were closed to everyone. The rush to get church online was a question of access and Ann’s reflections on what good access looked like were helpful when making difficult decisions.

And then there’s theology. I have had to deeply question lots of my theology in the face of covid, whether it’s suffering, embodiment in a world and church of isolation or the mission of a church to a world in need. Sam Wells’ words in this chapter have inspired and challenged me, as have the wise people I have encountered through the disability conference. The disability community is rich in theologians even if many, like me are reluctant to use such words to describe ourselves.

And the same goes for the other sections: June’s reflections on liturgy have been important as we have had to overhaul and rethink our gathered worship. Tim and Fiona, here today, have expertly laid out the practical aspects of how we can inspire change through our structures of leadership and modelling disability-led initiatives like hte Disability Advisory Groups.

And I am still working out my calling in communication, writing more, listening and engaging in the debates as we tentatively try to emerge from these strange times. And in everything, I am taking inspiration from those who have so graciously shared their experience and wisdom as well as encouraging others to spread the knowledge. Sharing is caring.

Had we known what was coming, I am in no doubt this piece of work would have been very different. I’m sure each of us could write and rewrite the lessons we have learned. My chapter was written when I’d never even heard of zoom. But this was and still is a good starting place to dream a church where all are welcomed, valued and can share their wisdom and knowledge.

Emily Richardson is part of the planning group for the annual conference on disability and chuch, a partnership between Inclusive Church and St Martin in the Fields. Something Worth Sharing is based on the 8th conference. The booklet can be downloaded from this page of the website.