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Sunday, 12 July 2009

Opening Doors - especially to those with Learning Difficulties

I have always loved watching the signing for the deaf at Synod, and have posted on this elsewhere. Sunday afternoon has a debate on those at church with Learning Disabilities, and the the things that affect them, following a report called Opening Doors.

My wife trained as a teacher of those with learning difficulties, and still teaches them. I love the phrase 'Special Education', however pejorative it is sometimes misunderstood to be. These are special people. Before university, I worked on one of the large 'mental institutions' (as they were then called) set outside London - one that was so secure, that it was used as the film-set for the 70s sitcom 'Porridge'... How glad I am that many of those people are no longer 'imprisoned' but free to be in the community.

Churches, in my experience, 'collect' 'interesting' people. People with various learning difficulties have been members of every church I can remember have had 'special' members of the congregation. We have at least 3 'care in the community homes in our parish.' Should I have spoken today, I would have talked of:
  • Neil, who knows all the cricket scores form yesterday's matches, and can recite massive lists of kings of England, or programmes on the tv tonight, or the order of saints days of the year;
  • Mark who comes faithfully each Sunday for our service, and sings and joins in with responses loudly, even if he cannot read the words for them. One day when we used an old chorus, Mark knew every word by heart. He asked me recently "My dad's gone to be with Jesus. But he's not died has he?"
  • Ewan and Carol come to our Wednesday service each week. Ewan is dying to be thurifer for us - even though it is not our tradition, especially on Wednesdays. 
I love these characters, they add much unexpected colour to our services (I have changed their names, but our congregation will know who they are!). Each has faith in their way, and in the words of the DVD that came with this report, help teach us to pray. Several speakers have said: "We have much to learn from people with learning disabilities". May we indeed have Opening Doors to these members of our communities. A report warmly received.

Alastair Cutting GS101

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