By Pete Phillips, Head of Digital Theology
As the video of the week this week, we're going to send out part of a lesson for our Equipped for Digital Ministry course put together by the fantastic Mark Arnold from Urban Saints. In the video (a small clip below), Mark talks about who we might think of as disabled and why those people might face issues in their engagement with and participation in the Church.
Here's a short clip:
It's important that we remember those who are disabled because the Bible is certain that God cares for their welfare and flourishing. Remember all those with disabilities who Jesus engages with in the Gospels and his warning to us to look after those in need. But it's not just helping people who are in need. It's about equality with those people - giving everyone equal access to church, events and responsibility. It's about how we change our way of doing thing to give more people a place at the table, a voice in discussions, a say in what we do as church.
Mark's lesson is set in one of the six modules for Equipped for Digital Ministry - an online training course based at Spurgeon's College for those interested in or engaged in digital ministry already. Here's the six modules we look at:
Module 1 is already available for distance learning students and other modules will be released in the coming weeks. You can take up to six months to complete a module - each one includes six lessons which include videos and other resources from lots of different people, including some who would self-designate as disabled people. But, of course, we recognise that not everyone uses that description to apply to themselves and often we don't see mental health concerns as a disability - almost as if you need to break bones to be ill! So some of our disabilities are hidden and we need to take care that we become aware of how others lives are affected by their own disabilities just as we ensure we understand how our lives are affected by our own levels of disability.
The focus in Module 4 is all about Inclusion and Digitality. The Digital can be a place which excludes people - because of their fear of tech, their resistance to learn new things, the price of the tech itself, their enjoyment of onsite worship in a church or chapel building. In the module, Jonas Kurlberg from the Centre for Digital Theology looks at the wider issues of ethics in digitality and then joins with a Philippine theology, Rei Crizaldo, to discuss the wider issues of digitality and inclusion. Because, of course, just as it is possible for digital to exclude, so it can also include so many new people.
The stats on inclusion are impressive. Barna recently reported that over a third of Americans attended online church during the pandemic and the figure for the UK from our own research at the Centre for Digital Theology was that a quarter of the UK population said they attended online worship. Compare that to the 5% of the population who regularly come to church building-based worship on a Sunday. Digital opens up the church's presence to a massive number of people - especially since about 90% of the UK's population regularly engage in the internet. Imagine your church reaching not just the few who come to your building, but actually engaging with a quarter of the population in your village, suburb, town, city. Here's some stats about Digital Sunday Morning:
Of course, as Trevor Gay over at Coffee Shop Sunday says, digital includes people from all over the world as well. We are blessed by those from communities much different to our own; blessed by new traditions, new songs, new ideas. Just as CSS grew from 50 to 750 during the lockdown, including more people is a great way to show our love for all people and include more and more within our own fellowships. Digital as a place of inclusion is one of the most important mission fields of our day. And Trevor also points out that 86% of the membership of CSS is active online each week!
So come along and join Equipped for Digital Ministry and learn more about how your church might step into a new world of opportunity for the Gospel.
For more details, contact Pete Phillips, our Head of Digital Theology