Disability

Many disabled people face barriers to getting in and joining in churches and communities. How can we unlock gates and open gifts? How can we change the church- where we are, with what we have?

Disability Conferences

Since 2012 this annual conference has held space for disabled people- to gather, to resource each other and the church. It's a partnership between St Martin-in-the-Fields & Inclusive Church, working #withnotfor disabled people.

The brand new booklet 'Something Worth Sharing' is now available to download! Here are ideas, responses and resources from our 2018 conference. Exploring access and theology, language and structures, communication and participation.

The booklet 'Calling From the Edge' celebrating the first 5 conferences is available here. These booklets have been made possible thanks to the generous support of the Westhill Foundation.

If you want to sign up to receive information about Disability Conferences each year, please click here to fill in the sign up form.



Conference Reports

  • 2019 Thinking Differently About God

Conference Contributions

Below you will find videos, texts and more from the speakers at the 2019 conference.

Fiona MacMillan: Introduction to the conference (video)

Fiona is chair of the Disability Advisory Group at St Martin-in-the-Fields and a trustee of Inclusive Church. After ten years managing innovative health projects Fiona studied at the School for Social Entrepreneurs, becoming one its first fellows. She has been collecting health and neurodivergent labels for the last 20 years, and combines these experiences in her writing and work on disability, lived experience and questions of social justice. Fiona coedited the booklets Calling from the Edge and Something Worth Sharing. She is a member of the Nazareth Community.

Dan Barnes-Davies: Storyteller (video)

Dan was born and raised in rural north Essex, but is also a Londoner by adoption. He started to help with these conferences as an Inclusive Church trustee years ago. He has pursued and received diagnoses of dyspraxia and ADHD in those years, deepening his self-understanding. Among these insights is a new perspective on his otherwise very privileged experiences, and to encounter (some) institutional discrimination.

Ann Memmott: Talk on autism and church (video) and Powerpoint presentation.

Ann is autistic and faceblind, lives with arthritis and has nerve damage from chemotherapy for past cancer. Having been unable to use spoken language to communicate for the first ten years of life, Ann sometimes uses technology to assist. Her experiences of encountering anxiety around autistic people in church contexts have led her to pioneer work in this field. The autism guidelines for the Church of England were written by Ann & her team. In her wider work Ann is a Director of an international autism advisory group and a Trustee of Autistic Pride Reading.

Sam Wells: Talk on the parable of the persistent widow - part 1 and part 2. Notes from Sam's talk are here and here.

Sam is Vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields, and a widely known preacher, pastor, writer, broadcaster, and theologian. He has served as a Church of England parish priest for 21 years. He also spent 7 years in North Carolina, where he was Dean of Duke University Chapel. Sam is also Visiting Professor of Christian Ethics at King’s College London, and a member of the Multi-Stakeholder Council that advises the G20 meetings. He has published 33 books, including studies in Christian ethics and explorations of liturgy, preaching, faith and mission. His most recent book is Walk Humbly (Canterbury 2019).

Rachel Noel: Storyteller (video) and text.

Rachel is affectionately known by the local press as the Pink Vicar. She had a particularly formational journey through curacy during which she was diagnosed with Bipolar, ADHD and Sensory Processing Disorder, with strong autistic traits; she is currently awaiting ASC assessment. Rachel lives and works openly with these conditions, and has been licensed as Priest in Charge of St Mark’s Church, Pennington. Her gifts and symptoms include high energy, enthusiasm, creativity and love of colour - especially pink! Rachel loves exploring her faith and spirituality through creativity, stitch, paint and contemplation, and is a member of the Community of Hopeweavers.

Bingo Allison, Sue Hartley, Krysia Waldock and Philip Hickman: Panel (video) and notes/ pdf presentations: Bingo, Sue(powerpoint), Sue (pdf), Krysia and Philip.

Bingo (they/them) is a genderqueer, autistic, dyspraxic person working as a curate to The Order of the Black Sheep, a fresh expression of church in Chesterfield in Derby Diocese. They have been involved in disability activism for the last fourteen years and have contributed to various secular and religious discourse around neurodiversity and liberation, including as a storyteller in the Inclusive Church resource book, Disability. Bingo is also a performance poet who uses their poetry to reflect on their own experiences as an autistic and transgender person in the church.

Sue is a retired GP and a self-supporting priest in the Chelmsford Diocese. She is an Ignatian trained spiritual director with experience of leading individuals through the Spiritual Exercises. Other ministries include hospital chaplaincy and providing chaplaincy support to an independent secondary school for students with autism. Early in 2017, she received a diagnosis of autism. Since then she has been passionate about raising awareness in churches, and reflecting on the interface between autism and spirituality.

Krysia is an autistic PhD student at the University of Kent exploring autism within different beliefs, including religious and humanist systems. She also is a rotational panelist on BBC Radio Kent's Sunday Breakfast and writes a blog 'Musings of an autistic researching spirituality'. She has been campaigning for a more 'inclusive church' in her local Methodist circuit for the last 3 years. @krysiawally

Philip writes: 'As someone who has been identified as dyslexic I have had trouble with expressing myself with words. As a “Visual Theologian”, my aim is to minster to the effectiveness of the Christian Contemplative practice of photography and thus come to understand a deeper realisation of the divine nature of God. As someone who is identified with cerebral palsy, my work as a photographer helps me question my own identity and its implication to the wider world. Working closely with photography, contemplation and my identity, my research questions the less fortunate understanding of my identity and questions my own true self; that is to help me answer the question; “Who am I?”.

2019 Conference Eucharist: Liturgy and Poem

Workshop: Descriptions

Sunday morning: liturgy (pdf) and Ann Memmott's address (audio)

 

  • 2018 Something Worth Sharing

Conference Contributions

Fiona MacMillan- introduction to conference

Sam Wells (intro prayer) & Nikki Goodhew - storyteller

Sam Wells on practical theology

June Boyce-Tillman on language

Ann Memmott on access

Panel - introductory speeches

  • 2017 Just as I am

Conference Contributions

Ali Lyon YouTube film

Helen Tyers YouTube film
Notes of talk as PowerPoint (click save or save as to open)

Darius Traves YouTube film
notes of talk as PDF

Panel Discussion YouTube film

Sam Wells YouTube film

Donald Eadie YouTube film
notes of talk as PDF

Saturday Conference closing service as PDF

Tim Goode Sunday morning sermon - text as PDF

Sunday morning Healing service at St Martin in the Fields as PDF

  • 2016 Prophets and Seers

Conference contributions:

Donald Eadie. notes from talk PDF
Ann Memmott: notes from talk PDF PowerPoint (click save or save as to open)

Emily Richardson: Being a digital Prophet PDF. PowerPoint (click save or save as to open)

Videos of contributors at the conference are available on the Inclusive Church YouTube Channel

Sunday morning sermon by Jonathan Evens 'Reality Reshaped by Disability' available as a podcast here

 

  • 2015 Living on the Edge
    The conference had a number of contributors. Here is some of their material:
    Videos of contributors at the event are available on the Inclusive Church YouTube channel
    Sam Wells: Opening address

    Ann Memmott PowerPoint slides (click save or save as to open)

    WAVE PowerPoint slides (Click save or save as to open)

    Naomi Jacobs PowerPoint slides (click save or save as to open)   and Poster

    Susan Wolfe presentation

    Conference Report Conference Report here.
     
  • 2014 Transforming our Vision Conference Report
  • Inclusive Church in partnership with St Martin-in-the-Fields  held its 3rd Day Conference in October 2014. Speakers: Professor John Hull. Emeritus Professor or Religious Education University of Birmingham, Ben Allison, Anne Duffin and Stuart Lee.
  • 2013 Places of Belonging Conference Report
    Places of Belonging was a day-long conference on disability, mental health, inclusion and God hosted by Inclusive Church and St Martin in the Fields at the church in Trafalgar Square.  It brought together 75 people from Greater London and beyond – to pray, to reflect, and to envision new ways of being a community in which everyone’s abilities are valued and shared. Read More »
  • 2012 Opening the Roof Conference Report
    In October 2012 in partnership with St Martin in the Fields, Inclusive Church held a national conference: Opening the Roof: Opening the conversation about disability. Read More »

Disability: The Inclusive Church Resource

The Inclusive Church Resource book series is published by Darton Longman and Todd.

Designed as resource books for churches, each book has an introduction, theological reflection, stories from lived experience and a practical resource section

There are 6 books in the series.
Disability by John Hull
Mental Health by Jean Vanier and John Swinton.
Sexuality by Susannah Cornwall
Poverty by Susan Durber.
Ethnicity by Michael Jagessar
Gender by Rosemary Lain Priestley.

The book on Disability has an introduction by Clare Herbert, formerly trustee of Inclusive Church, now Tutor in Contextual Theology and Mission for the South East Insititute of Theological Education.
The theological reflection is by John Hull, Honorary Professor of Practical Theology at Queens' Birmingham

The resource secion is by Wendy Bryant, currently Disability Advisor for the Diocese of Bath and Wells.
Stories from lived experience are from:
Susan Wolfe, an American social historian living in London. Susan writes about her experience of epilepsy.
Fiona MacMillan, chair of the Disability Advisory Group at St Martin-in-the-Fields.
Rachel Wilson, Priest in Charge of St Thomas Southborough. Rachel writes of her experience of living with cerebral palsy.
Ben Allison, a curate in the diocese of Derby. Ben writes about his experience of living with autism.

This is a really exciting project for Inclusive Church and we are proud to be working in partnership with DLT.

A comment in from someone who has read the first 2 books:

"Have just received the first books, and dived into one of them. They are excellent, and all churches should have them for the clergy, and PCC."

Books can be ordered from the publishers, or download an order form here

Buy Now

Video Resources

External Resources

Links and resources

No-one should have to deal with disability-related issues in the Church alone; find below a selection of the many great organisations who exist to support the disabled through their faith practices:

  • The Committee for Ministry of and Among Deaf and Disabled People (CMDDP) of the Church of England seeks to support and encourage the ministries of Deaf people, people with disabilities and the ministries of all those who work with them. 
  • Anglican Health Network provides a forum by which Anglicans everywhere can share their experience in health and healing. It offers opportunity to collaborate to strengthen Anglican health mission, especially amongst the most vulnerable.
  • Deaf Church is a useful resource for anyone interested in Church and Deaf people.  It provides news, forums and information about Deaf people and Church around the UK.
  • Do you use British Sign Language in a Christian setting? Are you learning BSL? Are you an interpreter? Are you a Deaf person who needs to understand Church language better? Do you work alongside Deaf people as an ordained or lay minister? Signs of God can help you!
  • GoSign! - a Christian ecumenical organisation offering support for Deaf and hearing Christians working in partnership.
  • Christian Signs - the organisation which is undertaking the 'Bible Translation Project' translating the Bible into British Sign Language (BSL).
  • The Torch Trust - is a Christian organisation with a worldwide vision for people with sight loss.
  • The Diocese of Oxford has produced a free guide, 'Welcoming those with Autism and Asperger Syndrome in our Churches and Communities'.
  • Through the Roof - is a national, pan-disability, Christian ministry who seek to ensure that the good news of the Christian message is accessible to everyone.
  • Causeway Prospects - offers Christian support for people with learning disabilities.
  • Churches Together in England (CTE) - an ecumenical organisation which seeks to help different Christian denominations work together for common aims.
  • Churches for All - a partnership of UK Christian disability organisations helping to create a better church environment for disabled people.
  • Disability News - round up of news relevant to disabled people in the UK.
  • Livability - the UK's largest Christian disability charity.