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Ushers: Ministers of Hospitality


Information for Congregations


Hospitality is not an additional courtesy; it is a central component of the Christian message, attitude and behavior; therefore, it is integral to the liturgical celebration of the Christian faithful. Ministers of Hospitality have the unique privilege and the responsibility to create this cordial and welcoming environmental for the church community. Each of us has a need to belong and to be included. People with disabilities want to be included and involved just as other people. They have gifts and strengths to offer the worshipping community. Ministers of Hospitality have the rich opportunity to be the first to welcome, and perhaps to recognize and acknowledge the giftedness of a parishioner who has a disability. They may be the ones to help a congregation dispel attitudinal and physical barriers that hinder some people from participating fully in worship.

The following suggestions can help Ministers of Hospitality (and all of us) make a church warmer and more accommodating to persons with disabilities.

  • Acknowledge people with disabilities.
  • Speak directly to the person. Don't treat a companion as the intermediary.
  • A warm, friendly conversation and a handshake create a welcoming environment.
  • It is never wrong to offer assistance; but LISTEN to the response and ABIDE BY IT.
  • Do not take hold of a person using crutches, a walker or a white cane unless s/he indicates a need for assistance. Such an action may frighten a person or cause loss of balance.
  • Do not touch or move wheelchairs or crutches or other devices out of reach of the person who uses them. These are extensions of one's person and should be treated as such.
  • Seat worshippers with disabilities with their family and friends. (Having some shorter pews or shorter rows of chairs allows people in wheelchairs more flexible seating.)
  • Ask where s/he would like to receive communion (if this is part of the worship) and communicate this to the Eucharistic minister(s).
  • When in conversation, speak moderately loud, but do not shout; shouting makes words more difficult to understand.
  • Have pen and paper available; sometimes a written message is the best communication.
  • Become acquainted with the location and operation of assistive listening devices.
  • When greeting a person who has a visual impairment, identify yourself.
  • Give directions and explanations clearly and simply.
  • If a person wishes to be led, offer an arm, walk slightly ahead and proceed normally, avoiding sudden or jerky movements.
  • Offer assistance during Communion (if that is part of the worship) by extending an elbow; never grab or push.
  • Offer the bulletin or order of worship, whether or not you think a person can read or comprehend it.
  • Offer Braille or large print worship aids and hymnals if they're available.
  • Identify parishioners who would assist persons with disabilities by sharing a hymnal, explaining the service, extending invitations to socials and making appropriate introductions.

Adapted from an article published in "Pastoral People" (newsletter from the Diocese of Buffalo), Ralph Beland (Diocese of Venice) and NCPD Staff.


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Disability Awareness Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan
The Rev. Chuck Swinehart chswinehart@gmail.com


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