United or divided behind the mask?

(Photo: Unsplash/Gabriella Clare Marino)

I had a tweet quoted in a national newspaper! It was a tweet written whilst angry. It was polite enough, but very much to the point. But the paper only quoted the second half of a two-part thread. The first gave the second context.

Those who follow me and know me well will know that many of my tweets are written with a distinct purpose: to give others who are struggling a chance to lift a virtual hand and say "yes, me too!" And a brief moment of knowing you are not alone.

Part of my ministry is being an advocate for those who struggle to access church in its various forms. I too am disabled and clinically vulnerable and therefore understand many of the issues currently faced.

But, we all know tweets can only convey so much, and not the history behind them. The twittersphere can be absolutely lovely, and many responses were so kind, not realising that I do actually belong to a lovely church.

Just because I struggle with their decision to ditch masks (before the Plan B changes) doesn't mean I don't love them. In our own families we don't agree with everyone, but we still love them. They're family. But I was blessed to see the beautiful side of Twitter in action.

Those who also tweeted with the fact their church have never stopped wearing masks has given many others the possibility of a safe haven. For this I am also thankful.

My tweets were in response to the not so kind and caring side of Twitter - and specifically 'Christian Leader' Twitter, which appeared to go into total meltdown at the suggestion that we needed to wear masks in church again.

There were so many unhelpful comments such as the one that people "blindly" following these rules are following Caesar and not God.

Yet again, our devotion to God was being measured by whether or not a person attends church in a building, whether they continued singing or not wearing a mask all through last year because 'it wasn't law - just guidance', and whether they had the faith to trust God with their health.

And yes, I do know churches that flouted the 'guidance' all the way through the pandemic.

The same people who took down livestreams to get bums on seats were now saying no to wearing masks or rejoicing that they could take them off to sing.

Therefore disabled, clinically vulnerable and chronically ill friends were once again being marginalised within their church family.

Some others said that because the more vulnerable people were watching online, singing without a mask didn't matter. But, did you know that many people with chronic illness and disabilities live in extreme poverty, and many of them cannot afford wifi or phone data? And many don't have a device that can connect to the livestreams.

These people need to be 'safe' in the building. Add to that the fact that pastoral care of those unable to attend should go way, way beyond just watching something that often feels very remote.

I do a lot of advising on access issues to organisations and conferences. When I find worship leaders regularly won't get a song list out in time for us to produce them in large print and Braille - ready for the sung worship - I often have a gentle word to explain something: if your worship excludes people then it isn't worship at all.

I think this is one of those occasions. If we are excluding people from our worship because of our personal preferences, is it really worship at all?

Kay Morgan-Gurr is Co-Founder of the Additional Needs Alliance, part of the Evangelical Alliance Council. She is a visually impaired wheelchair user and blogs at www.ThePonderingPlatypus.com. Follow her on Twitter @kaymorgan_gurr

More from Kay Morgan-Gurr

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