From Canon Hugh Beavan
Sir, — Many of your readers will be deeply disappointed to read of the Southwark Diocesan Chancellor’s decision in relation to the requested removal of communion rails at All Saints’, Sanderstead (News, 30 September).
There must be many readers, like me, who are in a similar position to that of Miss Leonie Flowerday. We are not so disabled that we are in a wheelchair or that we need holy communion to be brought to us in our pew. But problems with mobility and balance mean that we have to walk to the altar with two sticks or crutches, and so our hands are not free to receive communion in the traditional way.
A communion rail enables us to have support to kneel to receive communion or to stand, and have our hands free to receive. But we certainly do not want to be singled out for very visible and special treatment by being given our own prie-dieu or kneeler, as was suggested in this case.
I do not know All Saints’, Sanderstead, but it seems sad that a compromise could not have been agreed whereby a rail was retained in the St Catherine’s aisle, enabling communicants to choose to stand or to kneel. I can think of a church in this diocese where the space in front of the nave altar is open, and communicants stand, and where rails have been retained at the sides of the sanctuary for those who prefer to kneel.
Those of us with disabilities have no wish to assert legal rights in church; nor are we too concerned about whether a church or an incumbent is a “service provider” under the 2010 Equality Act. But we do ask for understanding of, and sensitivity to, our needs and feelings.
On a more general point, there must be many able-bodied worshippers, who, given the choice, would prefer to receive communion kneeling, in the traditional Anglican way. For many of us, this seems the appropriate posture to receive the King of kings and Lord of lords, who in the eucharist descends to earth “our full homage to demand”.
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