Welcoming people of all backgrounds and abilities

Since the completion of construction which improved the physical accessibility of St. George’s London, many have been enabled to participate equally in worship and parish activities. The Anglican Foundation of Canada was a key partner in making this church a place of Accessible Faith.

By Linda Cousins
and Justin Pilon

Members of St. George’s Renew: Accessible Faith project committee joined Hope Bear – the special 60th anniversary model – for a photo op after the accessibility wing was dedicated in May 2017.

The afternoon of April 30, 2017 brought together Bishop Linda Nicholls along with congregants, friends and representatives of the Anglican Foundation of Canada (AFC) to celebrate a service of Evensong and Dedication of a new atrium, elevator and accessible washrooms at St. George’s, London. This service marked the completion of the construction phase of St. George’s Renew: Accessible Faith project, launched in June 2014.

The goal of the Accessible Faith project has been to improve the physical and spiritual accessibility of St. George’s for all people seeking ministry, community services, or a safe place for support and comfort. To fulfill this mission, the project involved the construction of a new atrium, complete with accessible washrooms and an elevator servicing three levels of the Church building.

In addition to capital improvements, St. George’s also hosted an Advent discussion series focused on exploring all aspects of what it means to be a welcoming community for people of all backgrounds and abilities.

In the short time since the completion of construction, the project has already enabled many of those who could not previously participate equally in worship and parish activities to be involved, and to do so independently and with significantly less effort and risk.

For example, five times a year a “Seniors Communion and Tea” is held at St. George’s. For many years, however, nearly 50-75 per cent of those in attendance have had to be separated from the main group while tea was served in the formerly inaccessible Parish Hall. Within a few weeks of the end of construction, St. George’s was able to bring this group together in one space to enjoy a time of fellowship after the service.

The impact has extended far beyond the congregation at St. George’s. St. George’s can now welcome a greater number of individuals and organizations from the community, both through increased access to existing community outreach programs and through new ministries, including hosting a monthly satellite location for the London Food Bank. The newly accessible space has also allowed St. George’s to host external community groups, like the Blackfriars Neighbourhood Association, and has provided a number of new opportunities to introduce the community to Christ and the work carried out by the people of St. George’s in his service.

St. George’s is thankful to the many individual and organizational donors who have supported the project, and is particularly grateful for the tremendous support provided by the Anglican Foundation of Canada (AFC) whose mission is “to foster Anglican presence by providing abundant resources for innovative ministry and diverse infrastructure projects and theological formation throughout the Canadian church”.

The AFC, along with the Government of Canada’s “Enabling Accessibility Fund” were key partners in advancing the vision of making St. George’s a place of “Accessible Faith”. The completion of this project will ensure St. George’s can continue to serve as a foundation for God’s mission, and has opened new doors to expand St. George’s outreach ministries and presence in the community, just as it has for the last 140 years.