Mission to make church more accessible for disabled people
Published on 1 April 2022 3 minutes read
A woman who is leading a new form of ministry in Ayrshire has spoken about her work to ensure that congregations are more welcoming and accessible to people with disabilities.
Katrona Templeton is a Mission Pioneer worker and leads the Presbytery of Irvine and Kilmarnock's Reachout Together disability inclusion project.
She and her team work alongside and in partnership with parishes – urban and rural – to build bridges between the disabled community and the church and create new worshipping communities.
Mrs Templeton said: "We support anyone who has an impairment or a disability which makes them feel that they can't get the most out of worship on a Sunday.
"We find that it is little things that are alienating people with disabilities from coming into the church so following conversations with people with disabilities, we have developed a three-point programme to help congregations."
Speaking from St Marnock's Parish Church in Kilmarnock which she attends along with her family, she revealed that she was diagnosed with autism six years ago when she was 36.
She said she fully understands what it's like "to be part of a church but not feel 100% that you belong to it".
The mother of two, who is also a member of the Ayrshire Mission for the Deaf, said: "When this post came up I thought I might as well apply because I know what it's like to be a person with a disability in a church and even though I spent most of my life not knowing that I had a disability.
"The church is a great place, it has a lot to offer people with disabilities just as they have a lot to offer the church.
"It is simple things that can make churches a lot more inclusive and I thought this is a good opportunity for me to try and get that message out."
World Autism Acceptance Week runs from the 28th of March to the 3rd of April and seeks to create a society that works for people living with autism, a lifelong developmental disability which affects how people communicate and interact with the world.
According to the National Autistic Society, one in 100 people are on the autism spectrum and there are around 700,000 autistic adults and children in the UK.
Deacon Barbara Urquhart DCS is registered blind and a member of the Reachout Together group.
She said she is "delighted" that the presbytery is working hard to ensure that people with disabilities are fully immersed within the life of the church.
Mrs Urquhart said: "Jesus said I've come that you might have life in all its fullness and really as a group, we are there to show everyone - disabled people and their families - that God is here for them, that he loves them too."
The aim is to establish a witnessing and worshipping community in the Kilmarnock and Irvine localities in the next 10 years.
The Mission Pioneers are Ministries Development Staff (MDS) and the posts are part-time over fixed terms.
Rev Jill Clancy, Moderator of the Presbytery of Irvine and Kilmarnock, said: "The presbytery is at the forefront of pioneering a new form of ministry.
"It's not about us expecting bums on seats, it's about going out into the community and working where the people are at which is the way ahead.
"It's really exciting and I hope that the example of what we are doing will be shared wider across the Church of Scotland so people can see how valuable it is."
Last night, the Mission Pioneers met with the Moderator of the General Assembly at Fullarton Parish Church in Irvine to tell him about their ground-breaking work.
Lord Wallace is currently on a 10-day Presbytery of Kilmarnock and Irvine tour to learn more about the life of the local church and offer encouragement and support.