VOL 28 NO 7
Pain & Blessing: Autism and the Church
As the magazine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, the mission of Canada Lutheran is to engage the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada in a dynamic dialogue in which information, inspiration and ideas are shared in a thoughtful and stimulating way.
Blessed be the Bind That Ties
In Not Even a Whisper, Barbara Resch provides sensitizing insight into unexpected discovery as she recalls when she suddenly found herself unable to use an ability most of us take for granted and how she learned to express love in a new way.
The Accessibility Committee at St. Mark’s, Kitchener, Ont., have provided us with some useful tips on planning for accessibility and Bishop Greg Mohr’s column in British Columbia Synod section may cause you to rethink what you do in those few minutes before worship begins.
RespectAbility, a new non-profit organization, reminds us that people with disabilities are people first, they just happen to have a disability. It’s a powerful mindset shift and that makes a difference.
For example, RespectAbility suggests that we replace “handicapped parking” and “handicapped bathroom” with “accessible parking” and “accessible bathroom.” To learn more about incorporating this idea into the way you think and express yourself, google “people-first language.”
Learning to find the appropriate words is an ongoing challenge. At one point in my ministry, I served a significant number of worshippers who use wheelchairs. I asked how I might include them in worship instructions about when to stand and sit. One of them said, “Why don’t you say, ‘rise as you are able’ instead of ‘stand’? I may not be able to stand but I can always rise to the occasion.”
When I did that, I was amazed to find myself also being thanked by nursing mothers and people whose doctors had told them they should not stand for long periods of time, including at worship, because “rise as you are able” helped them feel included.
Some of the rewarding moments in my ministry have happened when people with special needs and I were able to discover together ways to include them. One woman who could only travel from her long-term care facility with extensive arrangements was able to be a valuable part of a congregational committee when the committee met at her facility. Several worshippers with agoraphobia were able to participate comfortably when they could sit in the balcony that few used.
It seems the list of challenges to our desire to be hospitable and inclusive grows longer all the time. As we become more aware of the challenges many people face because of physical and emotional conditions and a growing list of allergies, church life, including potluck suppers, church dinners, bake sales, flowers on the altar, coffee time, and even Holy Communion can never be quite the same.
These challenges also offer wonderful opportunities for sharing ministry in new ways. When we approach such situations with an open mind and an open heart, everyone is blessed.
Ken Ward, Editor