Supporting churches to include people with Autism and Learning Disabilties

 

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This was the cross we used for our drama

Our church isn’t perfect.  All churches are places for sinners – remember Jesus said as the sick need a doctor, so sinners need a saviour.  No matter who you are – you need Jesus.  What a great leveller that is!  But we are working on including people with disabilities in our church family and giving them opportunities to serve and offer their gifts.  This Easter, our Good News Group were asked to lead the Easter Service when all our congregation come together to celebrate Jesus rising from the dead.  So with a good few of our group able to make it on that day,  we planned our service.

Paul and I led the service. He was so excited…as he said “me and you like to boss people about so we are ideal for this job!”   He was also really excited that a recent operation had restored his sight to a degree that he could see where people where and what colour they were wearing.  His joy and excitement lifted our hearts as we encouraged everyone to praise God for Easter day.  We began by reminding our church that for the GNG what we were doing that day was normal.  We have a service every week where everyone is given the opportunity to serve and lead something.  So to read the Bible, lead prayers, run the sound desk or computer, welcome people into church and talk to the congregation is what we do.  That was to help people not see our joining in as a novelty, but something completely usual.

It was a wonderful service because the focus wasn’t on us or people with learning disabilities or on the Vicar or the musicians.  The focus was on Jesus.  Being able to share our Makaton signed songs and have all the church signing them and the Lord’s prayer and grace was a highlight for me.  Lorraine, our BSL signer, signed the whole service and we had a visual schedule of the service.  We chose the aspects of support that our group need and built these into the service.  And guess what…lots of people said it was good to know what was happening and follow the service with the symbols.

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Our service sheets 

I don’t think there is any such thing as a perfect service but we have a perfect Saviour.  if people went away with awe at the fact that Jesus died and was raised to life so our sins could be forgiven, then we have been good servants of the Lord.  We had a great talk from Revelation 1 looking at Jesus’s return.  We look forward to that!

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Leading the church in Makaton signing a song

I was asked why we didn’t do the service every week – and on our Wednesday meetings we do.  Sundays are not suitable for many of the Good News Group as weekends are when there aren’t as many staff to bring them, it is too early to get up and ready or they visit their families.  Our midweek service is open to all (and we do get plenty of visitors which we love) and being in the evening is more accessible to many people.  Occasions like Easter Sunday (we are a church where there are 5 congregations) are a wonderful way to come together and celebrate the diversity of the Body of Christ and meet the rest of the church family.  I thank God for the church we are in and how it works hard to learn how to include people with learning disabilities.

We’re a work in progress.  Maybe you are too….

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Mary and Simone remembering the first Easter. 

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