Supporting churches to include people with Autism and Learning Disabilties

  
I’ve had a crazy and yet wonderful few weeks planning and getting ready to lead two services at our church, which happened last Sunday.  We really wanted to join Prospects (www.prospects.org.uk) for their Ability Sunday celebrations and thought it was a great way to show the rest of our church just how much the Good News Group loved Jesus and being part of his body. 

You know from my previous posts that we believe in ABILITY over disability.  We purposely organise the service part of our meeting with a similar structure (however wonderfully different, too) to the Sunday services.  This is so that the adults with learning disabilities that come on a Wednesday would feel comfortable, familiar and could contribute to any Sunday service they can get to.  

Well, on this Sunday they did just that.  Our vicar suggested that we led the Harvest services and made them Ability Sunday too (harvest in our church is a low key affair, just a family service with offerings and prayers for the food bank).  So we did. Two morning services,  one repeated schedule and as many of the Good News Group as possible being given chance to show what they are ABLE to do. 

Here’s some observations and highlights…

1) The logistics of actually getting the GNG members to church on a Sunday were greater than getting them to our service on a Wednesday evening.  The time was different/too early (even though we have 2 services one much later than the other), Carers weren’t on the right shift. They didn’t have transport. 

2) But those who did come were excited and willing to serve. One couple stayed for both services, doing a different role in each.  We were only able to get 6 out of 30+ members (and a parent and a carer) there in the end. We showed photos and had a display of the rest of the group to make up for this. 

3) GNG members joined the welcome team,  read the Bible (Easy English version) and said the prayers.  I lead the service and Bob and other team members did the puppet sketch. Lorraine signed all the songs, along with  GNG members and children from the congregation . What was nice about this?- the GNG members are quite proficient at signing and they were the ones sharing their expertise with the church. 

4) Using the Easy English Bible and the ‘sermon’ written in clear, short sentences, with explanations about the gospel that we would use in GNG worked very, very well for a family service.  It was interesting that Nick, who was preaching said that it wasn’t as easy as anyone might at first think.  It took a lot of thought about words, sentence structure and the message, as well as choosing pictures to go with the talk. For the record…you did a fantastic job. The sermon and gospel message was clear and so well communicated. (We’re going to invite him to preach at GNG now he’s made the grade! 😉

5) The feedback from the two congregations has been overwhelming. People did get our message and loved seeing what people with learning disabilities have to offer the church.  Our vicar was full of praise and asked us when we could lead a service again. (I said, when we’ve recovered from this one!) 

6) The resources from Prospects were really helpful in putting the service together.  We used them as a guide rather than a plan, but playing the videos – 1 Corinthains 12 and Psalm 139 read by people with learning disabilities was so powerful. Even now, they send shivers of delight down my spine. Please do look at them if you get the chance.  http://www.prospects.org.uk/abilitysunday/resources/inspirational-videos 

So there you have it.  I have heard some great testimonies from other churches who celebrated Ability Sunday too. We really should do this more often so it doesn’t have to be done. If every Sunday could just be perfect, for everyone, then we wouldn’t need Ability Sunday….

….But actually,  we’re not going to worry about that. Sundays are only one day of ‘church’ in our community.  There is ‘church’ going on every day, whether it’s in the main building, church hall,  local schools,  nursing homes,  house groups,  on the streets,  people’s workplaces and wherever the congregation meets together to study, pray, fellowship and serve together.  We love our Wednesday meetings and we know the rest of the congregations love us and see us as part of the whole church.  

But it will be fun to plan the next service we lead….

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Comments on: "Ability over Disability. Leading the Church one Sunday. " (5)

  1. I really enjoyed ability Sunday and felt that it is a shame that it is considered an annual event rather than something that we as church can help facilitate on a more regular basis. After all, we are great at reorganising ourselves for All Age Services, Christmas etc, so why not? As someone with a heart for the stigma around LD and Mental Health I think Ability Sunday is an excellent blueprint for other focuses which enable our church to be truly more inclusive. Thanks again to Lynn and the GNG – loved it!

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  2. Yes, know what you mean.. Would be amazing not to need ability Sunday, all age, youth services, pram services… Etc… Till then it sounds as though your Sunday service took things a big step forward where you are.

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    • There’s quite a lot of us speaking to the church to help them take notice of those with additional needs. It’s a great community and the message is getting through, better in some places than others, but working and linking together we can make a difference. I believe that wholeheartedly because I believe it is God’s heart. Therefore, what God has begun will accomplish God’s will. It’s great to connect with you. 😀

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