2 September 2022

Rejoice! Enabled Summer School returns

Chris Stringer

People singing and dancing outside with their hands in the air. Some people are sitting in wheelchairs.
Musical theatre at Enabled 2022
Rejoice was the theme for the Enabled Summer School of Arts, reports Learning Disability Inclusion Development Manager Chris Stringer (THQ).

While Enabled members enjoyed the Summer School at Home that was held online in 2020 and 2021, it was wonderful to be able to meet again in person for the week-long event.

Philippians 4:4 says that everyone is called to ‘rejoice in the Lord always’, irrespective of the circumstances they find themselves in. Little did Enabled members know, as they were reminded about this verse in worship led by Majors Christine and Paul Kingscott (THQ), how true this would be for all present.

Supporters arrived on Friday for training, team meetings and to make sure all the equipment was in place. Members arrived on Saturday and there was clear joy among them at being able to be back together again.

Due to limited accommodation on the National Star College campus, some members and supporters also stayed in one of the college’s large residential buildings, Elizabeth House in Gloucester.

A group of people, some in wheelchairs, singing
Mass choir practice

After a welcome session and time spent in the main groups for the week – drama, choral, musical theatre and timbrels – it was time to celebrate being back together with a disco.

On Sunday, as well as worship on the theme of Rejoicing, time was taken to remember Linda Lunt and Joan Parker, Enabled members who had been promoted to Glory, focusing on the impact that these two amazing people had.

Optional activities during the week included crafts, art, swimming, mindfulness, exercise and photography. There was also a game of rounders and a contemporary band.

Fellowship groups included Bible studies, discussion groups, Godly Play and a sensory group, with members exploring Scripture with a focus on rejoicing and joy.

On Monday members were joined by the Music Man Project, who provided workshops that were greatly enjoyed.

On Tuesday they enjoyed trips to Bristol Zoo, Webbs Garden Centre and the Gloucester and Warwickshire Railway.

Someone throwing a bean bag at a tower of cups
The Enabled Commonwealth Games

On Wednesday the Enabled Commonwealth Games took place, providing a wealth of indoor and outdoor games and activities. Everyone was divided into teams – England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland – and, despite the Scotland team having an imaginative interpretation of the rules, it was the England team that emerged victorious. The overall results were very close, and people received a gold, silver or bronze medal depending on their team’s success.

Wednesday evening featured a barn dance led by the group Life of Riley, who were back by popular demand. The wonderful evening included dances devised with wheelchair users in mind.

Thursday dawned early with the report of people testing positive for Covid-19 – routine testing had been taking place due to the vulnerability of Enabled members. The leadership team met and considered all possible options. The decision was made to cancel the final festival, which would have seen up to 300 people gather in the sports hall.

This was explained to members in a meeting, and they were invited to speak with their families and make a decision on the best time for them to go home. The planned programme was suspended, but some spontaneous activities took place, including singing, worship and mindfulness in the college grounds under a gazebo.

On Thursday afternoon, on the sports field, delegates enjoyed musical theatre and timbrel displays that would have been performed at the final festival. These were followed by outdoor games. An evening barbecue was followed by a talent night outside under the gazebo. Some members and supporters went home on Thursday and most left on Friday.

People making owl ornaments made from pine cones

On Friday morning members who were still present enjoyed crafts on the patio of one of the buildings, followed by singing under the gazebo again. On Friday afternoon many shared in coffee and cake in the outdoor seating area at the coffee shop on campus, followed again by outdoor games. Much use was made of the leisure equipment that the college had installed on the sports f ield for their students.

Friday evening found members enjoying games in one of the accommodation buildings. For the few who remained on Saturday it was time to pack up and everyone parted company.

One of the supporters, Andrea Darlington from Doncaster, said: ‘This year was so much about being together, working together and rising above life’s challenges together.

‘Even those unable to attend in person joined together with us through livestream, Facebook and WhatsApp. The speaker on the Sunday said that when we work together we can achieve, in most cases, something really positive. The important thing is encouraging one another and building one another up.’

The Enabled Summer School did not end the way it was planned but everyone had a good time. The spontaneous activities that replaced the programme were a great success and the members all continued to rejoice, despite the circumstances.

Enabled Summer School 2023 will take place from 29 July to 5 August. For more information, email enabled@salvationarmy.org.uk.

Written by

Chris Stringer

Chris Stringer

Learning Disability Inclusion Development Manager, THQ

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