Disability Awareness Sunday 20 June 2021

16 June 2021
The Disability, Spirituality and Faith Network Aotearoa New Zealand marks Disability Sunday this year by launching the Creating Welcoming Churches e-book version and a ‘Stand or sit?’ campaign.  The nationwide launch will take place on Zoom at 2pm.
The Creating Welcoming Churches book was first launched in 2014 in Auckland and Wellington. A large-print version was launched in Dunedin in February 2016. Now we are celebrating the launch of the e-versions of Creating Welcoming Churches: A disability resource for faith communities. This resource has been created by disabled people and allies who are active members of faith communities. Many people have commented how accessible and useful it is for churches who want to become more inclusive.
‘Stand or sit?’ is a campaign to encourage conversations in churches about standing and sitting in worship. The practice of asking the congregation to stand during worship can exclude people who use wheelchairs and those who find standing difficult.
Phrases such as “Stand if you are able” might sound sensitive to people who cannot stand; however, they only highlight the issue for people who find it difficult to stand or who cannot do so. It would be good to be able to get to the stage where it is acceptable to simply say “Stand or sit”.
Those who go to a particular church regularly may feel comfortable and even encouraged to sit when others are standing. Churches are urged to have conversations about standing and sitting and do what is comfortable for people. While some may feel okay about being told they do not need to stand, others may see this as patronising and would like to be asked for suggestions about wording.
Many people will only go to church occasionally and as the Church, we are to welcome the stranger and the alien (Leviticus 19:34). Imagine how unwelcoming it feels if the first thing you are told to do is to stand when you find it difficult or unable to.
Often it is tradition that dictates practices such as standing in church, and we think these cannot be changed. However, our practices and traditions do change over the time. Many churches now see kneeling as optional where once it was seen as compulsory. The process of greeting has been radically altered in the last year due to COVID-19.
There may be good theological reasons for standing, but these need to be weighed up alongside being inclusive of all people. We encourage every part of the Church to participate in this discussion and come up with some creative solutions round standing and sitting.
Join us on Disability Sunday 20 June at 2pm on Zoom to celebrate making churches more inclusive. The Zoom link can be found here.
Information provided by The Rev’d Vicki Terrell, Disability Community Chaplain