Don't you love it when someone, or better yet, something, questions who you are? I tried for at least five minutes this morning to begin posting this blog and the server kept telling me that I was "unknown." Finally, after much frustration and attempting every combination of my name that I could think of, I exited, re-entered, tried again and was allowed to sign in. Here I am--the same person I was when I started minutes before!
It's rather like this is the same song, second verse. Last week started badly, with much fatigue and lots of bed rest. Shortness of breath is a problem and simple tasks like walking to the mail box, going to the grocery or walking from the parking lot into the church wind me. That's probably a combination of the drug, the fatigue and being overweight. As the week progressed my energy got better and by dividing the errands into two days, we got them done and I finished the week by going to Presbytery on Saturday. This week is going to be much better!!!
Saturday, Valentine's Day, was the day designated for the winter Presbytery of the Mid-South Meeting and it was hosted in a small town further west from here, but before you reach the Mississippi River. It was a beautiful old church, the people were quite hospitable and had prepared a delicious barbequed chicken lunch. FACT: When in West Tennessee, eat bar-b-que. You won't be sorry. There was one problem, however. Unless you walked to the back where there was a ramp, it was difficult to enter the front of the church--too many steps. Then, the fellowship hall was on the lower level and there was no elevator.
Having worked with older adults all these years, I am aware of the codes concerning accessiblity and the fact that churches built prior to the time those codes took effect, did not have to conform at the time. Only remodeling or new construction need follow the codes. Baloney! I couldn't help but wonder when I saw those steps in front how many visitors were discouraged from attending a service there because they didn't know there was a ramp in back. Fortunately, there were hosts in the parking lot and I asked if there was an alternate way to enter. How would someone attending a wedding, for instance, get to the fellowship hall for the reception? When are we going to take realistic looks at our facilities and make them accessible for all individuals?
Older, small town churches are not the only ones who need a look and an update. The church where we worship now has made every effort to be accommodating to the handicapped and its older members--almost. Still, it has a two story educational facility with no elevator and staff offices are located in a stately old mansion and can only be reached by ascending the grand staircase. The church I served in California was careful to make the spacious, modern Family Life Center accessible when it opened in 2000. However, getting to it from the parking lots requires a lot of walking--something that proves quite difficult if one uses a walker and is coming to a pot luck luncheon. The parking lots have the required number of handicapped spaces for the total number, but even those don't suffice for the number that is needed. People often told me that they came on Sunday, couldn't find a place close enough to park, so they turned and went home. I am sure these stories can be repeated all accross our country.
This particular "soapbox" is one where I've stood theoretically for many years. Now, having experienced some of these problems myself, I am more aware than ever. I am also aware that changes often require money in the budget that is simply not there. Church budgets have really felt the financial strain of these days, but that does not always have to mean improvements cannot be made. Be creative! You and I need to step up and speak up for the needs of older adults and/or the handicapped. If you have suggestions to share, please let me hear from you by adding a comment.