Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, doesn’t necessarily want you to pray for his daughters’ disabilities because he knows it can be a cop-out. Instead, he wants to see church members be more understanding and accommodating of those who struggle with any kind of disability. (Welby is part of the Church of England which allows priests to marry and have children.)
One daughter, Katharine, struggles with mental illness. Another, Ellie, has dyspraxia, which affects her coordination skills. Both women (who are adults) spoke frankly with the BBC about what it’s like to have “invisible” illnesses that are easily misunderstood and how well-meaning church members can sometimes leave them feeling even worse.
Taking part in a discussion about exclusion with other disabled studio guests, Ellie says: “The church I go to now, I sit at the back because I don’t really feel comfortable.
“They’re very friendly in my church, but sometimes I can feel a bit out of place there.”
Her disability, not being an obvious physical impairment, is often referred to as invisible. Because of this, she feels her needs are often misunderstood or overlooked.
“I have struggled a lot. People have looked at me and basically — I know the look now — it’s literally like, ‘You’re not disabled, why are you sitting there?’ Or, ‘Why can’t you do this?’.
“I’ve been discriminated against quite a few times because they don’t understand it.”