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Life and Work: ‘Let’s make this work’

Young Kirk elder Robert Paton, who was born with spina bifida and who is wheelchair bound, tells of the positive effects of his involvement with the Church in February’s Life and Work.

Robert, who has attended the General Assembly in Edinburgh for several years as a youth delegate, is featured in one of a number of articles with a special focus on disability.

A minister in Dunfermline, the Rev Liz Fisk, offers special worship for people with learning disabilities which also involves other members of the congregation in supporting individuals and families. She has ‘pioneered’ a confirmation service which may be developed into a resource for other churches to follow.

The Disability Discrimination Act has forced churches to remove physical barriers to the entry of buildings but the Kirk’s Mission and Discipleship Council has encouraged the establishment of the Scottish Churches’ Disability Agenda Group which aims to move the Church beyond the task of tackling physical barriers. The Group says:’We are painfully aware that attitude are the most insuperable obstacles to true integration’, and through the appointment of ‘disability champions’ they hope to show congregations how to overcome problems and make full integration possible.

Dodging death

Some modern music choices at funerals seem to reflect a desire to avoid the stark reality of death according to writer Ron Ferguson, a Church of Scotland minister, who urges people to think carefully about the music for their funeral. A survey of more than 80,000 funerals conducted by Cooperative Funeralcare has found that pop songs were chosen over hymns in 4 out of 10 services. The most popular choice is Frank Sinatra’s My Way followed by Bette Midler’s anthem Wind Beneath my Wings. As well as popular film music choices included themes from Coronation Street or Eastenders, the Birdie Song and The Laughing Policeman.

Ferguson says: “Such songs might seem a good idea down at the pub, but may not feel so appropriate at the actual ceremony.”

Ministers, he says, areoften under pressure from families to make the funeral service exclusively a celebration of the person’s life and are even under pressure to keep the coffin out of sight.

“This is not healthy”, he comments. “With so many medical procedures designed to keep people alive at all costs, it’s almost as if every death is regarded as a personal failure on the part of the medical profession.”

He suggests that hymns matter even to Protestant and Catholic atheists. “What is novel should perhaps be matched by familiar ‘anchoring’ scriptures and hymns which have stood the test of time.” Such elements can help to bear the true weight of the occasion and bring solace to the bereaved.

• Full story at the Church of Scotland.

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