By Christy Odom
As I began to think about this article I thought about the story in Mark 2:3-5.
It’s the story of a disabled man and his friends who were trying to get him to Jesus so that Jesus could heal the man, but in order to get this man to Jesus his friends had to go and put a hole in the roof so the man could be lowered because the house was full.
My question to you is, are we willing to make our churches accessible for our disabled sisters and brothers in Christ?
I have been in many churches all across South Georgia and I have to say that some of them are not very wheelchair friendly. Because they’re not accessible, I have to rely on other people to get places in many churches that I should be able to go by myself. Some of you who know me know that I am able to walk some and that I’m not dependent on my wheelchair all the time, but what about those who are? If I came to visit your church in my wheelchair, would I be able to come in the door? I was not able to get in my church independently until they had accessible doors installed recently. I can’t tell you how much that meant to me. To know that I am able to get in my church independently said to me that I am welcome and that my congregation wants me there.
Recently I was in Atlanta for the Summer Institute on Theology and Disability. One of the things we did was visit St. John Neumann Catholic Church. The thing that really impressed me was how accessible this church is. There was not anywhere I couldn’t have gone in my wheelchair – the church was fully accessible. I could have parked my wheelchair in various places throughout the church because they had cutouts for wheelchairs. They also had a ramp that went on the stage and the pulpit was adjustable so it could be adjusted for someone in a wheelchair.
Are we going to be like the friends of the disabled man in Mark and make “holes” (ramps, cutouts for wheelchairs and accessible doors) so that our disabled friends can come and meet Jesus? Would I and my other disabled friends feel welcome without losing our independence in your church? I think that we need to make sure that our churches are accessible for all of God’s children. That may mean that we have to spend our money on ramps, cutouts for wheelchairs and accessible bathrooms so that our disabled friends feel love and accepted in God’s house.
Christy Odum is a member of the Conference Advocacy Team and a member of Living Grace United Methodist Church in Columbus, Ga.