“It’ll be strange for you when you go to heaven, won’t it?” I was having a bite to eat before a fundraising concert for my church, and the comment caught me offguard. “Why?” I asked. “Well, you’ll be able to see!”

I admired the strength of his faith, but would I really be able to see in heaven? I spent the remainder of my dinner break pondering his assertion. It’s not something I’d ever thought about before, and I can’t say I was especially comfortable with the concept. My identity as a blind person is as strong as my identity as a Christian, and the thought of having it ripped away from me left me more than a little bereft.

I know intellectually that my blindness means that I’m broken, but aren’t we all broken in some way? The crucial difference, I suppose, is that it’s virtually impossible to hide my particular form of brokenness. I just want to be assured that God accepts me for who I am, and a lifetime of experience has demonstrated beyond doubt that He does.

Unfortunately, however, being acceptable to God does not automatically imply being acceptable to society. The church has a collective responsibility to be at the forefront of righting this injustice, no more so than in the midst of a global pandemic, when most of the secular services relied upon by many of us have, at best, been running at reduced capacity. Some blind and partially sighted people are still struggling to manage basic things such as the weekly grocery shop, let alone the technical challenges of connecting to online church.

"My identity as a blind person is as strong as my identity as a Christian."

Churches can fix this, though, not just through a good practical support network, but by doing online church that not only includes blind and partially sighted people but allows us to serve as equals with our sighted peers. This is the highest level of acceptance. Not just an obligatory welcome at the door (although that is much appreciated, of course) but a yearning to nurture our talents and abilities, however unexpected. Many of us are excellent musicians, but we can also help write the newsletter, run the A/V equipment, lead prayers, read scripture, preach, lead home groups, run youth activities — the list goes on.

How good is your church at including the growing number of blind and partially sighted people in society? I’m so passionate about this that I’m now part of Torch Trust’s Sight Loss Friendly Church initiative, helping churches to become aware of, adapt for and include people with visual impairment. There’s much more information on our website (sight​loss​friend​ly​church​.org​.uk), including access to free 30-minute taster sessions to learn more.

This year, on 17 October, we will be encouraging churches across the UK to recognise and celebrate Sight Loss Sunday. Please join us in celebrating the valuable contributions that blind and partially sighted people make to church life, and help us to raise awareness of the 250 or so people a day in the UK who find out they are losing their sight.

I’m still undecided about whether I will be able to see in heaven. I’m sure God will equip me to handle such a dramatic change if that is indeed part of His plan; but for the time being, I will continue to wear my badge of blindness with pride here on Earth and look forward to being accepted as a willing servant wherever I am called.