The IM Saturday Monks Brunch: June 22, 2019
Church and the Autistic…
“As a Christian, I believe that worship is primarily intended to glorify God,” he wrote, “and may have misinterpreted your Evensong as an actual worship service, at which my son’s expressions must surely be pleasing to God, the experience of other worshipers being secondary.”
That was the letter angry father Paul Rimmer sent to the Rev. Stephen Cherry, dean of King’s College Chapel at Cambridge University. Rimmer had taken his two sons to a choral evensong service on June 16. One of them, Tristan, has autism, and loves music. However, his condition leads him to call out at times, and an usher at the Chapel asked Mr. Rimmer to remove his son from the service, telling them that the dean wanted them to leave.
Catherine Pepinster at RNS describes what happened later.
The dean replied with an apology, also on Facebook, in which he clarified that he had not himself asked for the Rimmers to leave but took responsibility for what had happened. “Sometimes we fail,” he wrote, “and I realize that we especially failed you and Tristan on Sunday afternoon.” The dean and Rimmer met last week to discuss how King’s College Chapel can do better.
Rimmer’s post has led to broader soul-searching about how houses of worship treat people with autism and others with special needs. He has been inundated with messages recalling similar incidents elsewhere and promising him and Tristan a proper welcome at their services. He has connected several organizations with expertise in autism with Cherry so that the chapel can get informed advice.
…Rimmer said that he thought it could be appropriate for special services to be sometimes held for people with special needs but that it is also important for people like his son to be welcome at all services unless there are exceptional circumstances — such as a recording or broadcast.
According to the National Autistic Society in the U.K., more than a quarter of people with autism and their families have been asked to leave a public place because of behavior linked to their autism.
The article goes on to talk about some of the good things churches and denominations are doing to make welcome those who have disabilities, and indeed, to learn from them and appreciate their gifts.
“The members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable.” (1 Corinthians 12:22)
Church and racial justice…
Pastor Benjamin D. Wayman is pastor of a mostly white congregation in a small, rural town in Illinois that is likewise mostly white. However, after the events in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014, they began to study and talk about what the gospel has to say about racism. They started to take action in a small, simple way. They put up a “Black Lives Matter” sign on the church lawn.
In an article at Christian Century, he tells what happened next:
Our sign was stolen the first week it was displayed. We replaced it. All Lives Matter signs began appearing on lawns all over town, along with “We support our officers” bumper stickers and shop decals…
…Our church has lost count of how many times our BLM sign has been stolen. We have received angry letters from local citizens (including parishioners from a sister church) and anonymous phone calls, and had an ALM sign put up after someone stole our BLM sign. Obviously we struck a nerve. Our church became known in our community as the “Black Lives Matter church.” But congregants at St. Paul’s often joke that we should accompany our sign with one that says #whitepeopletrying.
However, the pastor has been learning a deeper lesson through this experience. A lesson about himself and his own discipleship in this area.
Even though I’m a pastor at St. Paul’s, I have not placed a BLM sign on my own lawn. When I had to call the local heating and cooling company to fix the air conditioner at St. Paul’s and then again a day later at my home, I wondered whether they would connect the dots between my church’s witness and my own, and I was nervous.
It has been said that for the privileged, equality feels like oppression. I would add that for white people like me, pushback feels like persecution. The prospect that I would, on behalf of my neighbor, place myself or family at risk makes me nervous. Herein lies my deeper sin.
Not yours alone, my friend.
Church and the LGBTQ community…
Here in Indianapolis this week, the Indianapolis Archdiocese of the Roman Catholic Church notified Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School of a canonical decree, stating that the Archbishop will no longer formally recognize Brebeuf as a Catholic school in the archdiocese. Why? Because administrators refused to fire a teacher who is married to a same-sex partner.
According to Brian G. Paulson, provincial for the Midwest Jesuits, the school and the Archdiocese have been fighting for two years about the teacher in question. The split will have a limited impact on the school, but it may isolate the school from the larger Catholic community. Brebeuf is an independent Catholic school, not governed by the archdiocese, and administrative decisions are usually left to the school. The school has a nondiscrimination policy that protects school employees and others in the school community from discrimination based on factors such as race, religion, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation and marital status. Only the president, principal, religious studies teacher and campus minister are required to be staffed by practicing Catholics.
This is the second public situation in the Indy Catholic community. Roncalli High School has been under fire since it suspended a gay school counselor last year. Shelly Fitzgerald was placed on administrative leave over her marriage to a woman. Her dismissal has led to an intense public discussion throughout the city.
This new situation has further stirred up the debate.
Church and the community…
Caroline Cunningham tells the story of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Philadelphia:
St. Stephen’s, an Episcopal church in Center City Philadelphia, isn’t open on Easter. There are no sermons on Sundays. It doesn’t have any members. And yet this castlelike Gothic Revival building on 10th Street is still a functioning, active church — just not in the ways you might expect.
Rather than opening on Sundays, the church operates on a four-day schedule, with midday services Monday through Thursday. And rather than focusing on growing the congregation, St. Stephen’s is fully invested in being present for the community, practicing a true open-door policy that makes it a place of support for anyone in need.
I encourage you to go to RNS and read the story of this amazing congregation and its creative, community-centered approach to being God’s people in the world.
Talk about Jesus-shaped!
Church and camp…
An article in The Lutheran tells the stories of several young adults who are serving God but who may or may not attend local congregations. Instead, they consider camp their “church home.”
For Eli Neitzel, worship happens under the stars, in the flickering glow of a campfire, surrounded by trees. At his church, you won’t find hymnals, pews or Sunday best. Instead, it’s muddy shoes, sweaty bodies and an intergenerational chorus of voices accompanied by guitar.
Neitzel’s home church is Carol Joy Holling Camp in Ashland, Neb., where he’s spent every summer since he was a high school freshman. Now, Neitzel, 26, is a teacher who serves on the camp’s staff during his summer break. “The reason why I love to call camp my church home is [it’s] the strongest place where I can see Christ through others,” he said. “It’s more of a family.”
Don Johnson, executive director of Lutheran Outdoor Ministries, said Neitzel’s feelings are typical—several young adults connected with LOM call these camps, rather than ELCA congregations, their primary church home.
Some of the young adults interviewed came from small ELCA congregations where they had few peers. At camp they found the community for which they were longing. Others like the group-building that happens in the camp setting, which doesn’t always take place in church. Camp provides meaningful leadership opportunities. It also tends to be more inclusive and provides a relaxed atmosphere where many feel more free to be themselves.
When some people think of a “church home,” they find it in God’s great outdoors. At camp.
Church and parking…
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Sometimes I just need some CHURCH!