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January 26, 2017, 11:45 AM

Worship That Respects People With Autism

Jesus was all about including the excluded.

That is also supposed to be the work of the church. 

We are called to love and care for people who are often considered “high maintenance” by most of society.  People who are too often excluded because they are different and sometimes difficult.

In the last church I served, there was a wonderful young family that faced the challenges of raising two boys with autism.  One was pretty high functioning, the other was less so.

Their mother would bring the son who was more comfortable among people to a small service we held on Saturdays which was much more intimate and informal.  I put him to work operating the computer for our video presentations, and he loved feeling useful.

But, the other son, would still have had difficulty in either that service or the more conventional one we had on Sunday morning.  So, his father stayed home with him.

It always frustrated me that the family had to split up for worship, and that we didn’t have a good way to get through to that boy, who still needed to know that he was loved and valuable.  We weren’t intentionally excluding him.  There was certainly no one who wished to reject him.  But, neither we nor his parents, knew of a good way to include him.

Recently, a friend told me about a program called “Rhythms of Grace” which was developed in the Episcopal Church.  There are not a lot of churches that use this curriculum, and none are listed in Illinois.  But, I am in touch with a church in Houston that has been using the material for over a year, nd they are happy to help us with advice born of practical experience.

Now, the question is…Are there people in our area who would avail themselves of a monthly worship service specifically designed for people with autism?

Because of confidentiality rules, and church and state standards, we cannot go to the schools and ask for lists of children with autism and their families, nor can we advertise in them.

Fortunately, The Autism Program (TAP) at SIU serves many families with autistic members and they have agreed to post some information letting clients know that our church may create a special worship for people with autism, if they will contact us and let us know they are interested.

While there would be few people in the immediate Tri-C area who would need such services, there may be several within a few minutes’ drive of Carterville who would appreciate a chance to nourish themselves spiritually and be part of a fellowship which cares about them and their children.

We will see.

If you know anyone who might desire this service, please have them contact the church.  They can e-mail us at

Jesus welcomes and embraced people whom most folks in his time ignored or outright rejected.  He refused to write anyone off as too imperfect, too damaged, too faulty to be loved.  As people who seek to follow him, we need to make a point of not simply passively “welcoming” such people, but actively seeking them out, to let them know they are among the beloved.

To do so is not just good for their souls.  It’s good for ours!

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