Sunday, 14 December 2014

Being Blind in Church

In a feeble attempt to explore concepts of privilege, I thought I’d spend a bit of time at church today with my eyes shut to try to experience a typical Church of England service from the perspective of a blind or a partially sighted person. Even having my eyes closed for a short while made me realise how difficult a church service must be for a blind person. I felt almost totally dependent on knowing the liturgy to make any real connection with what was taking place. When I had my eyes closed during those times when there was no set liturgy, I found it difficult to work out what was going on; for example, I couldn’t use a hymn book, and, during the readings, I found that every little noise distracted me from hearing Scripture read. But when we came to liturgically scripted parts – for example, the eucharistic prayer – I could join in, though only because I was already familiar with the liturgical texts.

With my eyes closed, I came to appreciate even more the importance of liturgy in our worship. It helped me participate in a way I couldn’t during the improvised moments. But, as I’ve already said, to participate in the service through the liturgy required me already to be familiar with the text, and, I suppose, to be familiar with the way a typical Church of England service is structured.

And with my eyes closed, I also came to realise just how excluding a typical Church of England service could be to someone disadvantaged in some way. (I’m picking on the C of E, because that’s my ecclesial tradition; but I’m assuming my thoughts apply equally to other traditions.) I could open my eyes at any time in the service and reorient myself; but others do not have that option, that privilege. So how can a local church, any local church, make its services accessible to someone who cannot see? Or to someone who cannot hear? Or to someone who cannot walk? Is it right and/or desirable to start special services aimed solely at people with particular disadvantages? Or should our existing services be tailored, or certain provisions supplied, to accommodate everyone, no matter their disadvantages?

No comments:

Post a Comment