Pastors' Corner

Accessibility at Head of Christiana

“Why does Head of Christiana do all this talking about accessibility?” Some weeks ago a visitor asked me that. He went on, “You are the most accessible church I’ve ever visited!” That was certainly good to hear for Head of Christiana is proud of our grand hospitality. We have a heart for people, and we do a whole lot of listening and caring and are working to design programs and activities to respond to what people want and need. In many ways we are deeply accessible.

Yes, all that is true, yet while Jesus bids, “Come to me, all … and I will give you rest,” getting around our church involves two sets of stairways, steps at almost every entrance, and a too steep and narrow ramp to our sanctuary entrance. Certainly we require Jesus’ rest when we have negotiated all that. And that’s just the beginning of accessibility challenges for Head of Christiana Presbyterian Church.

Of course that’s to be understood, for our lovely sanctuary was built in 1859. The Chapel Hall for fellowship gatherings was dug out in the sanctuary basement shortly thereafter – and the building for educational activities for all ages and bathrooms was dedicated in 1959. In those earlier days our people were hale and hearty and gave little attention to getting up and down steps. Then when a person could no longer negotiate the steps, they simply dropped out.  Or, sadly, they dropped dead.

And even less attention was paid to those with physical handicaps.

In a former congregation, I recall a veteran ruling elder telling me,

“I love this church, but I served my time. I can’t get up the steps anymore and I can’t wheel around to the restroom. I’m not a person to create any problems or require additional expense. So just mail me the church newsletter.”

When I reported that conversation to the session, they agreed that Lisle was not a person to raise problems, and pleased he recognized the financial challenges facing the congregation. Session voted to assure that Lisle would continue to receive the monthly newsletter. And that they would request the Deacons to personally deliver the newsletter.  Well, that was some improvement.

“Come to me, all … and I will give you rest,” is Jesus’ invitation. Thankfully, the session of Head of Christiana is proactive in making our church home increasingly accessible. Not just for those who have loved and served this church for many years, but for those in years to come.  Not just for those with bad backs and weak knees, with canes and walkers and wheelchairs … but also parents with children in a stroller. Our community has many living with MS, ALS, less able as result of stroke, and amputees. Then I remember an increasing number of veterans, recovering from and living with a variety of disabilities. “Come to me, all … and I will give you rest,” says Jesus. Wow, there is a lot to think about along these lines.  There are nuances to be considered for those eager to welcome a developing, amazing congregation.

It is becoming clear that there is no easy solution, no magic wand to solve the accessibility issues that face Head of Christiana.  So session is embarked on a multi-pronged approach, and inviting the congregation and all who have good ideas for solutions/improvements to weigh-in. One advance has already been made, refurbishing and activating the hearing assistance devices. Several are using these and flash me an enthusiastic “thumbs-up” … they are working! Thank you.

Here are some additional accessibility advances Session is considering.  Think about these – what more information do you need?  A worthy discipline is to name 3 pluses for each before saying no.  Many combinations of these solutions are possible.

  • Provide “taxi service” golf cart from parking to sanctuary door.  And also to Chapel Hall entrance.
  • Replace lush carpet with low nap in Narthex making it easier for wheelchairs and walkers to negotiate.
  • Add Chair lift from Narthex to the Chapel Hall.
  • Reconfigure the stairway to the Gathering Place (treads to standard depth) and add a Chair lift.
  • Build a new walkway from parking directly into the Chapel Hall hallway.  No steps.
  • Add a video feed from sanctuary to the Chapel Hall to accommodate those who cannot negotiate the steps, or parents who step out with children.
  • Restore the original front of the church house, removing the vestibule, with handicapped accessible front door.
  • Improve grade and walkway from parking to front door. Some rain-protecting covering at the front entrance.
  • Install an elevator that will serve all three floors.
  • Provide some large-print hymnals.
  • Provide some “reader” glasses – for people who have left theirs at home.

Let’s get this conversation going.  Your thoughts and comments are valued.  Be back to me.

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By |November 5th, 2013|Church Life|0 Comments

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