The gifts of Christians with disabilities have been “overlooked” in the Church of England, says a vicar who suffers from chronic pain.
Rev Zoe Heming, a wheelchair user, made the comments while leading the Church’s weekly online service.
With churches forced to move services online during the pandemic, she said this had benefited Christians with disabilities by enabling them to fully participate in worship for the first time.
“We know that coronavirus has hit the most vulnerable members of the community the hardest. It has changed so much about how we live and how we worship together,” said Rev Heming, a vicar in Shropshire, in the Diocese of Lichfield.
“For so many people who were already living in a more permanent lockdown and isolation through disability and long term illness – and often through inaccessible church buildings and services – like never before, previously overlooked and wasted gifts have been set free to be a blessing to our church.”
Rev Heming shared her own experience of becoming a wheelchair user as a result of her chronic pain.
She said it had been a “painful journey of faith” but one which has allowed her to “discover new gifts and my own prejudices and the things and barriers that exclude people like me from being able to fully participate and belong to the Church.”
She added: “The Christian faith teaches us that everyone is made in the image of God.”
During the service, lay minister Peter Philips, who has motor neurone disease, said his condition had not changed the calling on his life to share the Gospel.
“My health has deteriorated over the last 18 months or so but what has been more remarkable is that my life has been completely changed – for the better,” he said.
“I believe that through each one of us God is working and calling us to get out there and proclaim His Kingdom here on earth.”