St Thomas Baptist

St Thomas Baptist, a church of around 200 which has pioneered the Sight Loss Friendly Church campaign.

Stephen Cousley has been the pastor there for 10 years and says the church is thrilled to be Torch’s first Sight Loss Friendly Church. He says that it was blind people attending church who inspired them to contact Torch to ask the question: how can we best help them?

‘If you’ll pardon the pun, sight loss awareness training was a real eye-opener for us!’ says Stephen.

‘It lifted us out of our comfort zone to see things from the perspective of the person with sight loss. We could all think, “One day that might be me!” It’s made us think too about how to be inclusive of other disabilities and we’ve gone on to put in a new sound system which takes account of people with hearing loss.’

There’s no question in Stephen’s mind of how important becoming a Sight Loss Friendly Church has been: ‘We are a friendly Gospel-preaching church and we see our welcome to people with sight loss as part of our Gospel imperative. If we preach the love of Christ, we must show the love of Christ!’

Janet Eardley, who led the training at St Thomas Baptist, describes this church as ‘a shining example of how to welcome and fully include people with sight loss.’

The church’s new Sight Loss Champion, Ann Daniel, hopes that people feel they can come to her if they have any issue around sight loss. To anyone thinking about training to become a Sight Loss Champion, she says, ‘Don’t be afraid to get involved. Be natural. Think how you would like things to be if you were in that situation yourself.’