Over three and a half years ago, I started going to the local going to the local Roman Catholic church. I’m still very fond of my Protestant roots. But faith in action is a key part of my devotion and my local parish demonstrated that in a very personal yet profound way. I was reminded of my why in Melbourne. In short they built a ramp.
I attended church throughout my childhood. As the “daughter of a Preacher Man” and with my mother as a strong woman of faith in action herself, it was kind of expected. I got a lot out of it. As an intense 12 year old I invited Christ into my life and thus began the lifelong “discussions and debate”. As a teen and young adult this continued, and became a great vehicle for my strong and ever-blossoming social justice and inclusion beliefs. Then through uni and into my (then) marriage to a high Anglican and throughout that time.
Then came my period of dovetailing and doubt. First my dovetailing. Then my wilderness. Then I came home again because of a ramp I never asked for.
Like other areas of my life, I’ve always had to make my choices with a strong bias towards the practical. Can I physically get in/around/involved without embarrassment, injury or fuss. Call me crazy but in my case I also wanted privacy and independence because it was about my ability to get into the house of my Lord.
With the exception of the chapel at the college I lived in whilst at university, all the other places of worship where I have been a regular communicant have ended up with at least ramp access to one door. That much is good. Until my current church, there was only one instance where the ramp preceded me. All others have been built as a response to my attendance. They were then used by many other parishioners.
Unfortunately, where ramps were built to side doors it became embarrassing because of the ramp; or more specifically the ramp management procedure. It was basically
oh ok, here comes Joanna,
unlock the side door, watch her like a hawk, hand her the hymnal and notices and quickly lock the door behind her.
After the service it was pretty much the same procedure except I had to ask to be let out. If I ever got emotional or wanted fresh air I couldn’t just walk out without a minor production.
There is a good logic as always. They can’t manage the two entries. I am the special case. Allowances must of course be made, but I’ll be the only one. So let’s welcome the outcast like this. Certainly as a teen I railed against this separate entrance stuff. I felt I was being ghettoed not welcomed. Like segregation of other types, I was to be satisfied with an entrance but not the same, main entrance.
Ed’s note. I’m not referring to any particular church here. It is a common phenomena in my life and the feelings are common. Also from the age of 10 Preacher was not my only parish minister.
Skipping to 2006 I wanted faith and community again. My desert days were over, but I was weak. None of my local Protestant communities were easily accessible. I wasn’t strong enough to go through the rigmarole I expected.
Something drew me to listening to Catholic podcasts and for a long time that was all I did. I was particularly moved by listening to the build up to the Easter celebrations. So soon after Easter 2006, I googled my local catholic church and emailed.
In typical form I asked the access question first. I was pleased with the content and thoughtfulness of the answer. They had a long ramp and a step into the church itself, but was assured after a coffee with the priest that it would be workable. I made no promises. Over the next 6 weeks I went three times, just watching mostly. I felt welcomed, not least by the fact that it was the main entrance that I used with assistance but no guilt or sense of obligation.
By my third visit some six weeks later, I was thrilled to see that the step into the sanctuary, the one I had needed help to mount had also been ramped. There was no fuss, or expectation. It just happened. Not just for my good, but “for the good of all Your Church” as we say each week. I felt accepted. I am one of God’s children, warts and all.
I have lapsed in my Sunday morning attendances somewhat for other reasons. My commitment doesn’t wain much though. I am part of a greater Church again and had a demonstrated example of welcoming to the Feast in Luke 14 (except not as a second order guest). The Church opened it’s doors and I came.
Same thing happened at church in Melbourne. I was staying two blocks from a church and felt a pull despite it being billed as their regular healing service (always scary for me). I rolled along and saw a small flight of three steps. But with it being a main church, a healing service I thought it was likely there would be a rear entry.
Sure enough there was an option. Through the front door even. By way of a Depak ramp…… One that had clearly not been well used but used with care and grace.
It’s so simple.
If you build it they will come (and back).
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