Making Room for Spiritual Abilities: Towards Inclusive Worship Practices


  • Tanya & Vivienne Riches


Pentecostals place great emphasis upon active participation in the worship service. But for many people with disability, attending a contemporary Australian pentecostal church may be best described as an experience of exclusion, backed up by a noted absence of people with disabilities within pentecostal denominations. This paper draws upon research conducted by The Centre for Disability Studies to assess community participants’ religious support-needs, using the I-CANv4 assessment tool. It shows that support for active spirituality is provided by a matrix of people and organizations. At present, many of the people with disability who require medium to high support receive this assistance from organisations funded by the Australian government. Yet, as this study shows, provider institutions and their staff often exclude the spiritual needs of people with disability. This exacerbates felt exclusion of people with disability, but also real exclusion – those who are prevented from attending rarely feature within church-based surveys. An assessment tool such as the I-CAN that uses a supports-need framework can concretely assess needs, including supporting spirituality. Assisted by recognition of support-needs, this article discusses intentional inclusion in church worship.

Author Biography

Tanya & Vivienne Riches

Tanya Riches has already achieved more than many dream of in a lifetime. As a member of Hillsong Church she served in the worship team for many years, and was instrumental in the foundation of one of the most successful worship bands in history, Hillsong United. She published a number of well-known songs through Hillsong Music Australia, including ‘Jesus What A Beautiful Name,’ which reached #6 on Australia’s CCLI worship charts.

She went on to become lead singer of the band ‘Speaking of Sarah’ performing weekly across Australia for many years - including mainstage at Australia largest Christian music festivals. After ‘Speaking of Sarah’ disbanded, Tanya decided to pursue theological and musical studies and is now not only now a respected academic in areas such as Worship, Missiology, and Ethnomusicology, but also one of the world’s premiere academics on the phenomenon of Hillsong Church.

Her humour and skill as a speaker have been displayed at church conferences including the National Assemblies of God Conference in Wellington, New Zealand (2009), and Sinergia Conference (Sicily, Italy 2006, 2007, 2008) among many, many others.

She is currently studying her PhD at the world’s largest evangelical seminary Fuller Theological Seminary where she was awarded a scholarship in the School of Intercultural Studies, and is employed as the Chapel Co-ordinator, leading in and planning the worship services. Her research topic is concerned with reconciliation – particularly between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians. She is currently based in Los Angeles, but will be conducting research in some of Australia’s rising indigenous led multi-ethnic urban contemporary churches.


Associate Professor Vivienne Riches is a registered psychologist and a Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Disability Studies. She holds conjoint appointments as Clinical Senior Lecturer, University of Sydney and Clinical Psychologist, Royal Rehabilitation Centre, Sydney. Vivienne has worked as a teacher, a clinical psychologist in rehabilitation, psychologist in private practice, consultant, lecturer and researcher in the disability field for a number of years. Research and development projects have focused on vocational preparation and employment for people with a disability, assessment and classification, support needs assessment, social and interpersonal competence, transition from school to post school for students with disabilities, staff training and Active Support, behavioural support and mental emotional health issues. She has served on several boards for community and employment organisations, has been a member of various professional and government committees, and supervised over 20 intern psychologists.

Vivienne’s expertise is well established in assessment, evaluation and intervention including work with forensic populations. Clinical services frequently addressed problems such as depression, anxiety, stress, anger, grief and loss, relationships, abuse, social interpersonal skills, low self esteem, and eating disorders. Vivienne has published more than 100 articles, as well as books, book chapters, research and evaluation reports, and curriculum materials in the disability area, addressing social and interpersonal skills, emotional adjustment, vocational training, employment and transition for people with intellectual disabilities. Her books include Standards of Work Performance (1993), Everyday social interaction: A program for people with disabilities (1996) and Angerwise (2006).




How to Cite

Riches, T. & V. (2015). Making Room for Spiritual Abilities: Towards Inclusive Worship Practices. Australasian Pentecostal Studies, 17. Retrieved from