Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Can you read this? - Some thoughts on accessing church services.

Why do some churches assume everyone in church can read? I am well aware there are a large number of adults who cover up the fact they can just about read enough to get by. In 2003 a survey  declared that one in six people had literacy levels below those expected of an 11 year old. I work with children who  struggle with their literacy and  I know how quickly they become damaged and cover up the fact that they don't quite understand or can't quite keep up with what has to be read. Now apply that to one in six of your congregation in church. How are you expecting them to follow the service - in a service book,  or even worse, - on a screen at the front of the church? Do you know how difficult it is to look like you can read - if you have to look up - rather than bury your head in a service book or hymn book? But may be our churches are not meant for those people who cannot read. 

The Curate has just attended a course where he was addressed by a number of disabled people who discussed the difficulties of accessing church services. What about the partially sighted and the blind?  Do we cater for them? The chances are that you will know if there are people with these disabilities in your congregation and provision may have been made for them. What about those who have English as a second language? What about those who have the hidden disability of being unable to read? How do churches tackle this? 
The bible was intended to be heard not read because very few people could read. The book of Common Prayer says the people are to repeat after the priest. Hymns that have repetitive choruses  are more easily learned but some churches reject modern chorus type songs. Do churches presume people who can't read (for what ever reason that might be ) - don't go to church? 

THE TORCH TRUST is a Christian organisation with a worldwide vision for people with sight loss.

1 comment:

PeterB said...

It's rather ironic that efforts to move away from the traditional language are often done in an effort to be more inclusive (which is entirely laudable), but can cause problems like this.

There is real value in saying the same prayers every week, you just don't realise it until many years later!