"The Enabling Churches conference held in the diocese was a resounding success" says Bishop Clive Gregory.
The focus of the conference was on enabling churches to include and encourage disabled people - not just to attend, but to be welcomed and acknowledged for the distinct perspectives, insights and gifts they bring to congregations.
"Honesty demands that the church has not always been on the side of people with disabilities" said Bishop Clive in his speech. "Often, like many other institutions in society, we have succumbed to institutional prejudices that have excluded those whose vulnerabilities have made other people feel vulnerable.
"But we are here today as part of those who seek to address that past, those who are passionate in our belief that the church as much as society should practise a generosity that reflects the abundance of God's grace."
Over 400 people, very many of them disabled themselves, came from as far as Aberdeen, Surrey and Cornwall to the conference, which was organised by Churches for All and sponsored by the Bishop Jonathan's 2014 Lent Appeal and Premier Christian Radio. Care for the Family sponsored a stream looking at the needs of carers and seventeen organisations were represented in the exhibition space and by speakers.
Keynote speakers included the Church of England's National Disability Adviser and National Adviser for Deaf Ministry. Two thought-provoking speakers came from the USA: A special video message was recorded for the conference by Joni Eareckson Tada who became a quadraplegic after a diving accident aged 17 and has been serving families with disabled members for thirty five years; and Randy Lewis who develioped the 'NOGWOG' Disability Initiative as a result of his position as Senior Vice President of Walgreens (large but akin to Boots the Chemists in the UK) which provides an effective, low-cost and sustainable disability-hiring model for employers.
[A version of this video without the BSL translation may be viewed here]
As well as the video produced by the Diocese of Lichfield (above), sound recordings were made of the plenary speakers and streams and will be available in the next few days through this page on the Churches for All website, along with links to partner organisations offering a range of resources for churches wanting to engage with this topic, including a special resource pack for use to markDisability Sunday on 6 July.