Our first ever national event celebrating an inclusive Christmas
will be held on Sat 16th of December in St Nicholas Cathedral Newcastle.
If you're not from the region come along make a weekend of it, do your Christmas shopping in Newcastle. We are negotiating with Newcastle hotels for special deals for those wishing to attend.
Wedensday Sep 27th Update.
Today has seen us make significant progress in the planning of this event but now is the time to ask for your commitment to the project.
We have been speaking to the C of E since we first began about what inclusion might look like, the pirpose of this event is to invite people of all abilities from right accross the nation and beyond, disabled people, their supporters, people who feel they are out on the margins, people who do not normally feel comfortable in a church setting.
We know that for many it is a big ask to make the trip north to Newcastle but it's a great city to do your Christmas shopping in, why not come and make a weekend of it. If we are to truly demosnstarte the importance of such services to the entire C of E then we need to fill the place to the rafters.
We aimn to provide a safe, none threatening environment, with a simple, easy to follow service that is easy to followand simple to participate in.
We are setting aside spaces of quiet and calm within the cathedral for those that may from time to time feel overwhelmed by the general hubub of a normal service.
We have picked the cathedral as our venue not just because it is a beautiful and ancient building which ooses prayfullness from it's very stones but because it is very good for all major transport hubs in the city.
We are able to offer a guideing service, we can have you met at bus, train or metro station and guided to the venue.
The order of service will be printed according to our own Clear Print Guidelines, there will also be copies in braille and jumbo print as well as being projected on our three large screens.
There is a fully functioning loop system and we are hoping to be able to provide signers too.
As you know Dave is a guide dog owner and we know there are going to be many guide dogs at the service and all other service dogs are welcome.
There will be a dedicated spending area for service dogs and assistance with spending should you need it.
There will be an interval where refreshments will be available, there are new disabled toilets, ramps and lifts.
There will be representatives there from many disabled organisations and plenty of opportunity to network with them.
We are holding the service during the day so that vulnerable people are still able to travel during daylight hours.
We have a great band of experienced musicians many very prominent on the northern folk scene as well as several very experienced disabled musicians including our own Bill and Dave.
I'm sure there's more we could say and we will be rpoviding further updates in the coming weeks.
In the meantime if you have questiomns contact Dave. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call him om 07703 347107.
If you are planning on coming it would help us greatly if you let us know here. https://www.facebook.com/events/725373947666897/?acontext=%7B%22source%22%3A5%2C%22page_id_source%22%3A1210235708990916%2C%22action_history%22%3A[%7B%22surface%22%3A%22page%22%2C%22mechanism%22%3A%22main_list%22%2C%22extra_data%22%3A%22%7B%5C%22page_id%5C%22%3A1210235708990916%2C%5C%22tour_id%5C%22%3Anull%7D%22%7D]%2C%22has_source%22%3Atrue%7D
Where it all began.
This event has long been a dream of Disability and Jesus, a dream that predates the formation of Disability and Jesus by many years, a dream that has it's beginnings as far back as Christmas 2001.
Until that point Dave had been very unhappy about becoming a guide dog owner, it felt like defeat, it felt like most of his hopes and dreams were in tatters, however Dave has a background in New Monasticism and finally was forced to admit that God might just have a hand in this when he was told he was being given a dog called Abbot, being led by this Abbot had huge significance for Dave.
Christmas 2001 has huge significance for us, on the same date, the 16th of December that year, Dave became a guide dog owner when he
qualified with his first guide dog Abbot
Only a couple of days later Dave attended a Carol Service on behalf of Guide Dogs at Sunderland Minster.
It was a wonderful event, the church was packed with visually impaired people, their friends and family and all their dogs, puppies in training, working and retired guide dogs.
This was an event which left a lasting effect on Dave. One of those thin occasions when the gap between heaven and earth is almost transparent. Having been so deeply affected, imagine how sad Dave felt when a few days later he heard that it was to be the last such event as the organisers were all elderly and wanted to retire from such things. Lots of people wanted to see the event continue but no one seemed to want to take on the responsibility of actually taking it on, to Dave's surprise not even Guide Dog's staff. Dave was simply not prepared to let such an event with such a profound deep spiritual significance simply slip away.
So having been so profoundly affected by the experience of that first service, he decided that he could not stand by and see the annual service simply disappear. Dave is a guitarist and has spent many years on the Christian music scene with amongst others, the Northumbria Community and has also played with many of the north east's well known folk musicians, so through these contacts Dave pulled together a gang of his mates and put together a band. A band they called Captain Humbug and the Elves of Doom.
It was important to Dave that guide dog owners should be able to get to the service under their own steam so he booked St Joseph's Church in Gateshead which is adjacent to the main Metro station. Dave produced an order of service in large print and in braille and arranged sighted guides to meet people at the Metro.
So 2002 saw the beginning of an event that was to become an annual highlight of Dave's year.
By 2003 the event had outgrown the Church in Gateshead and we moved to St Jude's church in South Shields where we remained until 2006.
2007 marked a significant step change in the scale of the event. By now news of the service had spread through the guide dog community and people were coming from as far away as Scotland, London, Manchester and Birmingham so we needed a bigger venue.
It was at this point we approached St Nicholas Cathedral in the heart of Newcastle and close to a mainline rail station, again making it easier for visually impaired people to get their under their own steam, orders of service were now being produced in several formats, volunteers were queuing up to act as sighted guides, dog spenders and more. We had the use of the Cathedral coffee shop for coffee and mince pies afterwards and numbers grew significantly to in excess of 450 that year.
Other things began to change too. We now had visually impaired people giving the readings and performing poetry and drama.
The day after the service that year Dave got a phone call from the daughter of a blind lady in her 70's, a lady blind from birth. Her daughter told Dave that she had gone to visit her mother the next day and had found her mother singing and dancing in the kitchen. It turned out the old lady had not left the house in almost ten years and had never in her whole life been to a concert. The daughter was overjoyed and told Dave she had never seen her mother so happy.
It was at this point that we began to realise that somehow mysteriously God had intervened and that there might be much more going on than we first realised.
The next few years saw the service go from strength to strength until in 2011 it reached a peak. During the previous couple of years Dave and Fr Bill Braviner had become friends and pretty soon Bill found himself being dragged in on the project in years 09 - 011. Together Bill and Dave grew the event, numbers grew and so did reach with people coming from all over the UK.
In 2012 the management structure of Guide Dogs changed and for reasons beyond our understanding we were told that we could do the service as long as we did not use the Guide Dogs name. As it happened this coincided with both Bill and Dave going through prolonged periods of ill health so sadly the carol service had to go, a source of great sadness to both of them.
In early 2013 Bill and Dave met Rev Katie Tupling and as a result Disability and Jesus was formed.
In the subsequent years we have built up a following of over 8300 on Twitter and have reached out far further than our old audience of simply the visually impaired community to the point where we now work across many disabilities and have a vast network of contacts throughout the UK and beyond.
So with that in mind we are going to be working with St Nicholas Cathedral in Newcastle, with our partners Inclusive Church and with many colleagues around the UK to organise a pan disability accessible Christmas event for 2017.
It is our aim that those that do not normally feel at home in church should feel comfortable, that all disabled people should be able to access the building and facilities within it.
We want to create an event that demonstrates to the wider church just what can be done to make things inclusive.
We want as many people from around the country who are part of the Disability and Jesus family to attend.
Ultimately we want to make this an annual event and even an event that might tour major cities around the UK on the run up to Christmas.