Friday, 14 November 2014

Empowering or Humiliating?

Anyone who knows me will know that I’m normally a happy, placid and contented person. It takes a lot to ruffle my feathers!

But over the last couple of days I have managed to get my feathers ruffled…. a lot. 

And what has caused this amazing ruffling of feathers?

A holiday booking. (And if you read on... a worship event too)

Someone kindly gives us a gift to cover the cost of a holiday, and we really appreciate it. So we make sure we get the most out of it…. as you do. We were also happy that we were able to book almost a year in advance - giving us a better choice of the more accessible accommodation.

We had checked on accessibility whilst on our last holiday, having found somewhere that fitted the bill perfectly.

Then the battle began to get the travel company to confirm we could have a ground floor room. Apparently they couldn’t confirm before our arrival that I could have one of many ground floor rooms, despite the fact I told them I was a wheelchair user. They blamed the hotel, so I emailed the hotel direct, and they said “Of course you can have a ground floor room!!”

There followed a to and fro of emails with the travel company - if you follow me on Facebook, you will have seen the updates on the progress of my complaint.

I had also raised a few other issues that concerned me…. they didn’t bother answering those at all.

Begging for what you need is humiliating - I didn’t appreciate it.

All this came after a whole catalogue of access issues - here’s just a few of them:

There were conferences I wanted to go to but couldn’t because either the building was inaccessible or the route to it inaccessible (Financially inaccessible due to the need for a taxi - why do all conferences have to be in London?). Apparently Christian leaders don’t have extra access requirements

A major note taking app’s support team refusing to talk simple font accessibility, despite repeated requests from thousands of people. (Now swapped to another one who have recently updated their accessibility - Thankyou OneNote!)

Struggling with web sites who just don’t do accessibility and don’t see the point in it, thus meaning it takes twice as long to get info or read articles (Excessive use of Java/instant video freezes my screen reading/clipping service)

As I said before - begging is humiliating.

Out there in the real world are millions of people, adults and children, who have to go through the de-humanising act of having to beg for basic access to their world. Even in their daily living. Even in church, and for me - even in trying to attend useful conferences.

At least I know what to ask for and how. Many others don’t. 

At least I have a myriad of friends and supporters who walk with me through some of these issues and cheer me on from the sidelines.

My own organisation, and the other main organisations I work with are brilliant in making sure I can access what I need: the staff at head office provide me with accessible format notes for meetings, other organisations do the same, and pay for taxis to London based meetings as well as seeking out accessible venues to accommodate me…. even if it is only me that needs it. 

I don’t feel humiliated with them…. I feel empowered.

I tend to write, and then ‘sit’ on my posts for a while, and then make sure I want to post what I have written.

During the time I was letting this post settle I got my feathers ruffled even more!

I went to a Rend Collective concert in Derby. It was fantastic!

The ‘Big Church Night In’ people had organised it really well, and the accessibility was great. Those with wheelchairs and those who needed to sit where given a taped off area at the front so we could see and not get squished……well… that was the plan.

I was ok, just. But many in the wheelchair area were left staring at the bottoms of able bodied people who decided there was some space in the accessible area for them to stand and see….in FRONT of those seated. Many were backed into, knocked and jarred. The people were standing there, worshiping with their hands in the air with absolutely no regard to those disabled people who couldn’t see sitting behind them.

Let me tell you how these accessible areas work for most, by explaining how helpful I find them.

When people knock my chair it’s painful. Any jarring motion sets off spasms, so I really appreciate having a space where no one is going to lurch into me. I can position myself so I can move my legs around if any random spasms hit. These areas mean I am close enough to see and not worry about trying to see around the crowd.

The empty spaces in these areas are there for a purpose - they are not there for able bodied people to utilise as a dance floor.
At the sides of these areas many youngsters had gathered, and were edging onto the front near the stage, and were moving in front of some of the older people seated there. They didn’t notice they were in the way, and the adults with them couldn’t see the problem either. But they were all worshipping heartily - blocking the view of lyrics on the screen for those who needed to be seated

Most folk who accompany disabled relatives and friends in these areas know not to stand…they realise it will be a problem to those behind.

You may be asking why we didn’t ask them to move…. well… we did! Many times. Those behind me didn’t and I could tell why. It was what I said earlier in this blog: It’s humiliating having to beg. It’s even more humiliating when you’re having to beg your fellow Christians to think more (and have basic manners).

When a Christian appears to think their worship is more important than their fellow Christian, who happens to be disabled, there is something very wrong.

It’s not exactly empowering.

Here’s a couple of questions for you… does your church empower those with additional needs and disabilities - Children and Adults? Could it do more to empower them?

Wednesday, 29 October 2014


Last week I read Sheridan Voysey's book 'Ressurection Year'.

I wanted to read it for a couple of reasons:
  1. Due to disability, I've had to and will have to let a lot of dreams go. I wanted to hear how others  have coped with the pain of having to release dreams back into God's hands.
  2.  The question of suffering - or as Sheridan's wife, Merryn says "Is God a meanie?" I have strong opinions on this, but I'm always interested in hearing what others think.

I don't want to say much about what the book says and the conclusions it comes to…. go buy the book if you want to know that!

The dreams Sheridan and Merryn have had to let go are different to mine - but also similar in a couple of points: Children and ministry

I made the decision before I married Steve that having children would not be a good idea. As a teenager it was my dream to be a mum, but with my own health, medical history and the risk of passing on my health problems, I could see it wasn't a good or a safe dream.
It's been a difficult dream to release, not helped by unthinking comments and people feeling they can share their opinions on my decision. But it was right to do so.  It's taken a long time - but I'm at peace with that decision. I don't bite people's heads off for making silly or insensitive comments any more either!

I've had my moments of asking if God is a meanie, but I know without a doubt He's not.  Just read back over some of my blogs and you will see behind them the wrestling I've done and the fight I engage in to protect children from some very dangerous theology on suffering.  (See one of those blogs here)

But this book was about broken dreams and knowing when to leave them behind.

That’s a hard one - the one about having kids was a hard one emotionally, but in every other way it was a 'no brainer'. The hurt of no kids vs the pain of watching your child suffer in a multitude of ways, and not have the physical ability to care for them…… yep - no brainer.

I know there will be people from the miracle brigade who will vehemently disagree with that, telling me I have no faith - I should have had a child and trusted them to God….. Yes, people actually have said stuff like that. Well, bless you for sharing your thoughts I say…… but this decision was between me, Steve and God.  It was right to let the dream go.

People with disabilities have to let many dreams go, and so do parents of children who have additional needs and disabilities. Many of the things you have longed for and hoped for are gone either in a moment, or wrapped up and thrown away in a slow decline.

It's not a case of choosing to let these dreams go - it a decision that's been made for us.

At the moment I'm looking at what I do as a children's worker and a consultant. More work is coming my way that I am gifted for and able to physically achieve - but it means having to choose what to let go. That means looking at many long held dreams and seeing which ones to release.

Although I can 'do' all of the things I do, the physical energy expended on some of them means I have to do less of other things to balance out my energy. I need to work smarter - which means I need to dream smarter too. (At the moment I'm dreaming of getting my regular days off back!!)

Some of my dreams I can release to others, and enable them to fly with those dreams whilst allowing them to adapt the dream into their own way of working - this is good and healthy.

Others, I have to accept will be laid down permanently, unless God chooses to lay them on someone else's heart.

I'm at peace with all this - yes, really!

If you too are facing having to lay down a dream, 'Resurrection year' may well be a help. For me it was a moment of feeling God's hand squeezing my shoulder and Him saying "yes, I know…. Yes, I care, and yes I'll be with you and guide you as pass some of your dreams on to another" I also had the assurance of a fresh vision/dream to take forward - still as a kids worker and consultant… but working and dreaming 'smarter'.

Keep dreaming my friends.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Returning to Blogging.... In One Place

It's been a while since the last post hasn't it?!
Life has been rather chaotic with lots of different writing projects, conferences, assemblies, camps and Children Worldwide stuff. Sadly, when life gets so busy, the first thing that has to go is the blogging!

My hubby and I also have a ministry blog - that we never seem to have time to keep updated...... mainly because I'm not good at describing what is going on in our life and ministry. Plus, the system we were using wasn't very accessible visually, so I was finding it difficult to use. I tweet constantly about what we are doing and tend to hope people follow that.... but not everyone does twitter!

Whilst on the last week of Hungarton Camp we had an email to say the servers where our ministry blog is held had been hacked.... did we still want the blog? We made the decision to close it before we checked if our blog had been affected, it hadn't, but we still feel it's a good decision.
So.... Having tried extra pages on here, I've now decided to have another Blogger site under the same title as the previous blog "The Morgan-Gurrs" - much easier to administer (Bigger font and accessed more easily from the systems I use!)

Meanwhile - I have the basis for a few 'musings' blogs going around in my head!

Currently I'm pondering the question: Have you noticed that most children's teaching about serving God has "God will reward you" as the central reason for serving? Should we also be saying "Do it just because you love God so much, and because your service is worship"?

I will continue to ponder!

Friday, 23 May 2014

Amazing Stories About Some Amazing Young People

I’ve been thinking through what I’m going to say at the new “Neos” conference - a conference designed to "Equip all for family, youth + children's ministry". 

Aside from some sessions in the Additional Needs Alliance stream, I’ve been asked to do a 7 minute “Quick Insight” on additional needs.

What can I say in 7 minutes? 

What I want to do is to be positive!

Then I felt a blog post ‘coming on’. It wrote itself whilst I was in the bath…..! (I do some of my best thinking whilst in the bath!)

Friday, 2 May 2014

Choosing Speakers - Regardless.....

There’s loads of tweets and posts out there on conferences only having white male keynote speakers.

Do I support this campaign? Absolutely I do! 
I am blessed to know many gifted female speakers and speakers of a different ethnicity, and I am happily cheering them on from the sidelines. The conferences who don’t use them are missing out on a huge blessing.

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

A Cold & Broken Hallelujah

I’ve thought long and hard about writing this blog post.

It’s a vulnerable one…. and I hate being vulnerable.

But it keeps screaming at me to be written, and this is my third attempt at writing it!

It stems from a seminar that Steve and myself did at Spring Harvest called “Coping With the Onset of Disability”. I wasn't totally sure about doing it, but as I've quoted in another post - God appeared to think it was a good thing!

Friday, 25 April 2014

Stolen Dignity

Dignity: “The state or quality of being worthy of honour or respect.”

We use the word dignity in many ways, and as a result its real meaning has been eroded a lot over the years. 

I'm often described as dignified - but by that most people mean I don't complain much (they don't know me very well!)