Sunday, July 3, 2011

Church and the special-needs community

We are fairly consistent attendees at church, although since our church doesn't have air conditioning and S is somewhat sensitive to being extremely hot, our summer attendance isn't as consistent.

I have sat through many, many, many sermons/homilies in all my years of church-going.  I have heard countless sermons about how Christians, the church community, should reach out to and provide for and protect the helpless, the widow, the orphan, the downtrodden.  I've heard the Beatitudes read in many a reading during service after service.

Where does the special-needs community fit into all of that "reaching out"?  I have yet to hear a priest or reverand or minister include individuals with special-needs, and their families or caregivers, in the groups of people who might be appropriate recipients of the ministries of the church - prayers for healing (if the family wants that), home visits, taking communion to group homes (and don't tell me doing that isn't worth it because the residents of a group home wouldn't understand...yes, they would.  In their own way, they would.  And even if they didn't, I think God would still approve.).  Are individuals with special needs even welcome in a church atmosphere, or would that be frowned upon because they might be seen as "disruptive" because their attempts to communicate or participate might sound a bit different from ours?  Heck, there are churches where children aren't always welcome in the sanctuary during services because they make 'too much noise', so I'm thinking having a person with disabilities present during a service, someone who might not be able to fully control their movements or vocalizations, might make some of the congregation uncomfortable.  I know our church is handicapped-accessible; most buildings are, these days.  But do special-needs-families truly feel welcome, do they truly feel embraced by the various church communities out there?

There are various well-known stories of disabled/chronically ill people in the Bible.  In some (perhaps all? can't remember, need to research this) of those stories, the person was healed by Jesus. 

The people in the church community today are Jesus' healing hands...yes?  It may be necessary to go to the special-needs family, as in many instances it is medically/physically difficult for the family/individual to make their presence felt in the church itself, at services.  If they are able to attend, how accepting would we be?

"The King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.' Matthew 25:40.

Thanks for reading,


Rachel said...

I love when a post opens my mind and makes me think. This is one of those posts. Great job!

Sarah said...

Our church has been great in this area. We have a special needs classroom for children that are not able to go to regular sunday school, and the kids that are able to go but still have special needs have a "buddy" go with them to help them with projects. They also held a special needs fair this year and had vendors and therapists from the special needs community. It was touching and hoenstly is a huge reason why we haven't moved away from our town. They are THAT supportive.

Marcia said...

Fortunately we attend a very small country church where a "big crowd" equals 60 attendees :)

This is good because everyone is close and people caught on quite quickly that Helana was "special". Another good part of our church is the Sunday school teacher for young elementary and prek is a former special needs teacher.

I have visited churches where we just didn't feel comfortable, or felt the need to "explain". Helana looks like any other kid her age, so her special needs aren't immediately obvious.

This is a great post.