It was my pleasure, recently, to share an 'away day' with the diocesan council for the deaf/hard of hearing, with whom I am a trustee. I thought I knew a great deal about this ministry, but it seems that I was sadly lacking!
Once again, I ponder a blog-stream that seems to want to denigrate my Church (and how easy that is to do in private). In the context of this day away, I find myself re-visiting an earlier thought process about just how relevant our church is (see here for my earlier post).
Imagine you are deaf (if you can't imagine, turn the TV down, move to a 'signed channel' and see how you get on, and that's only half the story), and a loved one is killed. The police would visit in the middle of the night, possibly, but would have to ring the diocesan chaplain to the deaf to interpret (who may live a hundred miles away). No choice, just got to do it. It doesn't end there with tea and much sympathy. The chaplain is often the one going to the funeral director's to view coffins with the bereaved person, planning services. Then what happens? Often the chaplain delivers the bad news to many others because of the communication difficulties, and so on. That is where the church is, at the raw edges of life.
Then you have social-services meetings regarding the issues of sensory impairment. In that room will be the church in the person of the chaplain who takes his/her place in the line of those sharing the case load. This and so many things take place without most Christians knowing about it. Our diocese is fortunate - for its three counties it has two chaplains (and a wonderful support network). They have to regard the diocese as a parish, with the home-communions, pastoral support, liturgical provision all on that scale. Let us not forget, too, that they had to learn an entire language for this work. That is our church, relevant, useful, witnessing, real, current, ministering to people where they are.
I wonder if this why I can't get steamed up about the so-called 'big issues' in the church. I can't because they aren't, not really. What I get steamed up about is how a society where 1 in 7 people [8.7 million people in GB] experience a hearing-loss (not forgetting of course, our service men and women back from active service in some circumstances) doesn't or cannot do more. And this is but one different ability. This is before we think even about those isolated by visual impairment, etc etc.
This isn't a post in which I want to be despondent. This is one where I want to celebrate what our Church manages to do, quite quietly, without event, without fuss. It is doing this through so many chaplaincies, and I doubt that many people know that they are there. Our church is at its best when it does this work, and not when it's attentions are fixated elsewhere.