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Monday, 9 July 2007

Ability and Disability issues amongst the clergy - (c) 9July2007

My wife is a teacher in a school for children with multiple learning difficulties, a small class where all the children are wheelchair users.

As she looked through the agenda for this July's synod, this item was the one she picked up on.

It is a bit difficult sometimes, with 'motherhood and apple pie' motions, to really engage with them. There were some moving and powerful speeches.

It reminded me of a friend, who if I remember correctly, went to university here at York. Well many do, so no surprise there. Except Alyn was born with cerebral palsy. In fact he was the star of billboard posters in the early 80s, sitting in his wheelchair, mortar board on head and degree in hand, with the slogan underneath 'They said Alyn wasn't worth educating..."

After his degree, Alyn wished to work for the church, and became a freelance missioner. I saw him in action many times, and he came on a mission to my own parish as a curate.

A number of years ago, he expressed a call to priesthood. He was initially turned down. He was told that as a wheelchair user, and with the shakes and twitches that sometimes come with CP, that as he would not be able to hold a chalice at the altar, he would not be able to be a priest.

My understanding is that important as it is to have a priest at the table, actually what God does in the eucharistic prayer is probably more important than what the priest does.

Now, many years later, Alyn has been ordained. He has given me fresh insights into call and ordination that I would never have had without him being priested. Brilliant.

Alastair GS101

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