I am not writing about people who walk for exercise and are referred to as “walkers.” I am writing, instead, about the support devices that many elderly or needy people use to help them walk from place to place. You probably have seen them in stores, restaurants, and other such public spaces. The simple invention is a “life-saver” to those who need more than a cane to walk about safely as they hold onto the two bars and push the three-sided walker to where they want to go. While the original model was somewhat bulky with its stiff three sides, the newer models fold neatly, thus taking up less room when not in use. With all this in mind, I was taken aback recently when a woman complained to my wife that she was tired of walking around two such walkers on her way to communion during our church services. It seems that two elderly parishioners like to sit next to the main isle of our church with their walkers folded/unfolded against the pew next to them. The parishioner said to my wife, “I don’t see why the ushers don’t move those things out of the way. I’m tired of walking around them on my way to communion,”
A T 5-6 paraplegic, I use a wheelchair and am conscious of taking more public space than a walking/standing person. Restaurants are especially fraught with issues of space, and if I sit in a booth I always allow the staff to move my wheelchair out of the isle. However, in doing so I disregard the ADA regulation stipulating that all wheelchairs must be next to their user in case of an emergency. The same reasoning should be applied to a walker and its user.
However, as legal or logical as the ADA rule is, the woman’s complaint concerns church space, not secular space like a restaurant, and that, in my view, changes the calculus of her objection.
Churches are places for sinners but while in church a sinner should not act like one. If we think of the ten original commandments and the “new commandment” given to us in John 15:12 our church behavior and words would be more compassionate and understanding. If we are truly in church to become better followers of Christ, then we would not complain but comfort. After all, any obstacle like a walker or a wheelchair or an “old, rugged cross” in our path to communion is a blessing.