Physical Challenges to Church Accessibility

The questions from Church Alive have offered interesting insights into what issues Branch Churches are dealing with. Most have been mundane, how to improve community outreach, how to increase membership, and then there was this one:

Week 26: “Could you give me some ideas on how a church can include those who are physically challenged? Our church has a chair lift in the hall but that’s about all. There’s a tendency to think that if we put in some structural aids, we might be accepting the physical difficulty, and not encouraging healing. What are other churches doing in this regard?”

The fact that the issue of church accessibility for those with physical challenges is even an issue is simultaneously heartbreaking and infuriating. “Physical difficulties” are very real, limiting access to a church by making it nearly impossible to get into does not “encourage healing” it drives people away.

The second commenter sums up my reaction to this question nicely:

I find this week’s question somewhat “mind-boggling”. It is difficult to imagine that any branch church would seriously be grappling with this question. How could you deny physical access to the church service based upon the individual’s inability to walk up the steps to the sanctuary if it were possible for the church to build some kind of ramp or other means of entry? It would be like saying that a person could not use reading glasses because this would be recognizing a physical limitation. How absurd! If this really is an issue in some branch churches, then it is not difficult to see why the Christian Science church is in such a diminished state today. This attitude is not genuine Christian Science, it is not even Christian!

I think the “Spiritual Experts” got the answer mostly right. Expert 1:

In the Bible in the book of Mark 2, you’ll find an account that directly addresses this question. As church members, are we like the four friends who loved their friend with the palsy enough to take down a roof and lower him into a building where Jesus was? They knew the presence of the Christ was there to heal their friend. Shouldn’t we also be willing to remove the stumbling blocks for our fellowman, so they can experience healing in our church services?

In the definition of Church in the Glossary of Science and Health, it says that Church “affords proof of its utility” (see p. 583). If anyone and everyone can’t get into the church building, that surely isn’t the highest sense of usefulness we could offer the community.    (emphasis mine)

In the Book of Mark 2, the friends took off the roof to get their physically challenged companion to Jesus, today, he’d likely be in a wheelchair, and the roof would get to stay put. Would it really that difficult to install a ramp and some hand rails to accommodate someone who is actively attempting to attend a church service?

Expert 2 suggests praying about it. I’m going to take it a step further and recommend they research and comply with ADA Accessibility Guidelines.

As with most internet forums, there is at least one commenter who makes me question my faith in humanity. Commenter #11’s attitude is rather off-putting:

It is the Truth that heals, and church attendance is not a requirement. One hundred pages in the textbook are testimonies from people who were healed by studying the textbook. If more time and resources would be given to opening closed Reading Rooms, increasing hours and having them accessable to more people at convenient to the public’s time, healing would be experienced on a mighty scale. Active Reading Rooms, welcome those seeking healing, as well as those who wear ethnic clothing, student attire, and speak other than English and are accessable to disabled. Some churches budget money to pay for child care, etc for librarians to serve. Thanks for the great ideas expressed in this. (emphasis mine)

The “Truth” may heal, and church attendance may not be “a requirement” but what is wrong with allowing for those in “ethnic clothing, student attire, and speak other than English” or are disabled to attend Sunday Services? Jesus had no problem associating with sinners and tax collectors, why should people who are “different” be banished to a Reading Room and not welcomed to Sunday Services? To quote commenter #2 “This attitude is not genuine Christian Science, it is not even Christian!

Then there was commenter #14, which made me very happy.

Our church has a ramp to ease access for those with physical challenges. It receives most use as a blessing to neighborhood skateboarders during the week.

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10 thoughts on “Physical Challenges to Church Accessibility

  1. marykhuggins says:

    Actually, I like it that the crippled are barred from most CS churches by physical impediments! I am positive Christian Science would do nothing for them anyway. They do not have a practitioner in the entire church or world that can actually heal such cases, at present, if they ever did. The lecturers tend to be a bunch of self satisfied people who believe they know what they are doing, but whose agenda is to recruit suckers. They either don’t take on hard cases, or such cases are beyond the ability of any of them to heal even when they work with them for years..

    This is like when john quincy adams says in his CS lecture, on tape, on you tube, that he will only take on a drug abuse case after drug use is stopped. My answer is if the user could stop by himself, he would not need a practitioner!

    If practitioners researched drug abuse, they would find that the AA approach is not the only one. Stanton Peele, for instance, basically does not believe the addiction model of drug abuse and has 34-40 years of experience proving AA’s model does not work for most, but changing thinking can.
    That is a ready made winner for CS in my eyes.

    I am going to insist, for the rest of my life, that if the healing does not begin immediately and clearly to mortal mind, it does not follow the model of Christ Jesus. He never needed a to give repeat treatment! Or blame the patient for their errors in thinking blocking healing.

    Christ’s standard should be the Christian Science standard too, or it is not using Christ’s method. That should be the standard, but the members either lie or are deluded about what they can accomplish and when they can’t accomplish the healing quickly, they should allow/recommend outside aid. I still think they can pray to know the truth that any outside intervention will be successful and that no technical errors will be made. I think most cs pracsters (I hate spelling that out every time) are afraid to go beyond MBE’s statements.

    We already know she hardly ever healed anyone, and her pracsters are losing their edge as evidence-based medicine continually tries try to perfect itself and throws away what doesn’t work.

    Practitioners can’t and shouldn’t take on genuine cases of physical disability, if they are going to work on the problem for weeks, months or years with no measurable to mortal mind results.

    If Christian Science worked, they would not be afraid to analyze cases and the pracster’s effectiveness, compared to allopathic medicine. Or to each other, as well.

    I am convinced there is not one single pracster who would try this because they know they would not succeed.

    Christian Science is fake about its healings, and its pracsters are phony -and for readers of this, from TMC, I do know what I am talking about. Come over to my blog and try to prove my errors. You won’t because you know you can’t. I do know the truth.

    So far I have never seen a pracster take a bold and courageous action, or argue the details. One thing CS has done, they actually taught lawyers and politics a lot about dissembling and evasive action.

    • kindism says:

      I know someone who feels similarly about gays being barred from attending Principia. It spares them the misery & lies of the institution.

      I think the disabled should be able to attend church, particularly if they are/have been members for many years as a REMINDER to the congregation of how CS has FAILED…. although that may be why they’re not wanted in the first place.

      • marykhuggins says:

        On principle I agree, and their noses should be rubbed in it- and all such people stay away anyway, as I do.

        After all my sister is still in deep mourning for her husband who died in February from radical reliance for an abscess on his neck he ignored for years before it popped and when it did pop, it killed him within hours from bacterial meningitis….I am just carrying a torch, I suppose, but this is not a church I want anyone to join…Radical reliance is only for people who are suicidal…

        Another grouchy remark: Their supercilious comment that they were “sorry” Caroline Fraser had a sad, or bad, childhood as though her research was invalid because she did, made me grind my teeth!

    • Bill Sweet says:

      I was reading much today as I found this site through a reference to your MKHuggins site that I was shown today also.

      The comment of mine is specific to two paragraphs above. These two:

      “If Christian Science worked, they would not be afraid to analyze cases and the pracster’s effectiveness, compared to allopathic medicine. Or to each other, as well… I am convinced there is not one single pracster who would try this because they know they would not succeed.”

      Yes! The fact is that testing of practitioners is something that is needed. Mrs. Eddy was an amateur scientist and did experiments.

      The Spindrift organization has tested the prayers of a number of Christian Science practitioners and Christian Scientists as well as many folks from other religions. Accumulated results gave a rating. It’s primitive compared to what should be done, but at least within the context of a test, someone could witness what his or her thoughts were doing or not doing.

      People who claim to heal by prayer should be rated on a scale in a modern age. Television evangelists make and take all kinds of money by promising to pray for people. How do these people know they are getting their monies’ worth? They don’t know.

      • mkhuggins says:

        I agree that all the scientific spirit went out of Christian Science when the BoD took over. But by then, Mary had it so tied up legally, the church could not breathe without her. The BoD has lumbered along like a headless zombie, ever since. Or a headless Frankenstein monster. They need to recognize what they are, guardians of her writings and history, and not determiners of any one else’s business,. The need to preserve and dust her gifts and other such material remains,etc, with no judgements on how the direction of Christian Science goes, when let loose.

      • Bill Sweet says:

        I can understand how folks get thrown and get into trouble when healings don’t happen. The successes are almost and or are displaced when that happens. Additionally, the word “Radical” has raised eyebrows because of the current meaning of Radical Islam.

        Caroline Fraser gave a pretty good rundown on Spindrift in her book. I think there was only one adjective that was not a good one. Even that word, “quasi-science,” was understandable to use when considering that Spindrift was fringe in its scientific laboratory work.

  2. emerginggently says:

    The branch church I was a member of near Boston when I was living there grappled with this very issue. Most members were in support of a ramp, but some were opposed on the basis that it was “giving in to the ‘illusion’ of mortal mind”. That’s pure bullshit, and in the church meeting I called them on it, using my own younger brother who had been confined to a wheelchair all of his life, as an example. The matter was deferred for further research into options and costs. I’m not sure if they’ve gone through with it or not, as I moved away before it all reached a conclusion.

    Christian Scientists can be incredibly lacking in even basic empathy. It ticks me off to no end.

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