In the diocese of Oxford we celebrate the inclusion, contribution and ministry of disabled people, recognising that the church community is only complete when all are welcome. For too long we have been thinking in terms of “how to allow disabled people in”, rather than recognising the partnership that should exist between disabled people and those who are temporarily “able-bodied”. We aim to support parishes, deaneries and the diocese in ensuring that our buildings, activities and services are welcoming and accessible for disabled people: sensory or physical impairment, learning disabilities, autism, mental health needs, and other “hidden” disabilities. This work includes disability access audits for churches; disability awareness sessions for parish or deanery groups; other forms of training, and individual advice to parishes on disability issues.

Our Disability Adviser and Lead Chaplain amongst Deaf people is Revd Katie Tupling (click on her name to find out more about her)

Katie Tupling, photo: Steven Buckley

Ability Sunday 2019

Yellow background with the globe centrally, and the words

people sat around tables in a church hall, constructing towers using marshmallows and spaghetti sticksBishop Steven invites and encourages every church in the Oxford Diocese to take part in Ability Sunday.

In the Diocese of Oxford, we celebrate the inclusion, contribution and ministry of disabled people, recognising that the church community is only complete when all are welcomed, included and fully belong.

Ability Sunday provides an opportunity for churches to hear from disabled people, family members and care workers about how God is working in their lives. It’s an opportunity to move from just a church that welcomes disabled people, to a church that enables everyone to fully participate and share their gifts.

Ability Sunday is a themed annual service in the same way that a church might run Christingle. This year our theme is “made in God’s image”, using Psalm 139 and Genesis 1.  There is no specific date, but a Sunday early in September works well as this is in the season of creation.


Psalm 139 – fearfully and wonderfully made

Genesis 1 – in God’s image

These could be read directly from the Bible, by one person or a variety of people taking a few verses each. 

If you have projection facilities, you could show videos of the readings, such as these produced by the charity ‘Prospects’ (Ps 139) and (Gen 1)

Additional resources are being uploaded to this page for you to use in your churches (see below)

History: Ability Sunday was founded by the Christian charity Prospects in 2015 – later becoming part of Livability – to encourage churches to celebrate the gifts and abilities that God has given to disabled people (particularly with learning disabilities). In the first year over 220 churches registered for Ability Sunday. Many churches reported the service had a huge impact with their congregations.

There were some extraordinary gifts discovered. In Jubilee Church, Becky Tyler a teenage girl spoke for their first Ability Sunday service. Becky is non-verbal with quadriplegic cerebral palsy and uses a computer aid synthetic voice operated by eye-gaze technology. Her talk, filmed and placed on social media, went viral. Becky was later asked to preach at arts and faith festival Greenbelt’s main Communion Service to a congregation of more than 6,500. Becky featured on the cover of the Church Times.

Ability Sunday gives churches the opportunity to celebrate all God’s people and all our gifts, as we recognise that we are all made in God’s image.


For more information contact

Ability Sunday 2019 – intro document

A document introducing Ability Sunday: it’s purpose, themes and history

Ability Sunday 2019 – Liturgical resources

Liturgy adapted and written specially for Ability Sunday 2019

Ability Sunday 2019 – links to charities and organisations

This document contains details of some of the many charities and organisations working in the area of disabilities

Ability Sunday 2019 – Reflection on Ps 139 Steven Croft

A reflection on Psalm 139, written by Bishop Steven Croft – in 4 sections, it could be used as the basis for a reflection/talk during the service, but could also be broken down into the smaller sections for group discussions and home groups

Ability Sunday video reflection, by Revd Katie Tupling

You are very welcome to use this at any time of the year!

Katie reflects on Psalm 139, Ability Sunday, and her own faith and disability

General resources around disability and inclusion

Welcoming and Including Autistic People in our Churches and Communities.

Guidelines produced for use in the Diocese of Oxford.

Children in church resource
Welcome, teaching and worship with children with special needs
This guide is for people with responsibility for children’s work in churches, and includes topics such as making people feel welcome, making people feel included and ideas for teaching and worship.

10-ways-to-belong – Methodist Church and Urban Saints

The Methodist Church, Count Everyone In, Urban Saints, and the Additional Needs Alliance, have collaborate to create a guide to help churches support children, young people and young adults with additional needs, and better enable everyone to belong in every church.

Around the Diocese…!

As the Disability Adviser I am trying to get around the Diocese and visit ‘good news’ churches, congregations, events and gatherings… 

Do you have something I can visit, and then blog about here?

Perhaps you have done some reordering of your building to improve the physical access, or adapted your liturgy to better enable understanding during times of worship and teaching.  Maybe your Welcomers are people of real warmth and inclusion. I would love to come and visit you, see how you are helping everyone to belong and enable gifts and ministries to flourish.

Wednesday Church meets on the first Wednesday of each month at St Peter’s, Didcot, an easily accessible modern building. In 2010, several people from different parishes, who were concerned that there are many people with learning difficulties living among us for whom the churches seemed to be making little provision, met at a resource day called ‘Is there a place for me?’

That group were particularly inspired by a contribution from John Rumble, head of a special school in Buckinghamshire, and by the work of Prospects. The group determined to set up an opportunity for disabled people and their carers to meet and worship together. Since March 2011, between 30 and 40 people meet at 10am for a friendly craft session with drinks and biscuits.

Jenny Loader is one of the organisers and leaders.  She writes:

“After a time of craft and refreshments, we go into the Church at 11 and members contribute to the worship in many ways: lighting candles, ringing the bell, singing, sharing matters for thanksgiving and prayer and helping with Makaton signing. Sometimes we include percussion, wave streamers or dance. Everyone is encouraged to join in! PowerPoint presentations showing words and pictures support the worship, which mixes the familiar and regular with the new.

Afterwards we return to the hall to eat our picnic lunches and enjoy the company. We have been very glad to see friendships developing between members from different communities and the concern that they now show for each other. Local churches have supported us generously. Members of Wednesday Church come from Style Acre, Home Farm Trust and other communities in the area. We welcome everyone and have many friends.”

The image gallery below shows pictures taken by Brian Kilham at the end of term party and worship, attended by Revd Katie Tupling