I have often wondered about the concept of worship; what it is, how it is done, among other things. Recently questions about who can participate in worship enter my mind. In my church, worship seems very much performance oriented. The band plays loud, and the participation of the congregation is often hardly heard. Then the sermon is given and the expectation is quiet attention.
There are many people who cannot perform with the excellence that performance style worship requires so they would never be able to participate there. Even as audience members they can't sing because they can't read the projected words. They don't even clap in a very timely fashion. They are able to raise their hands and participate in other movements. During worship itself, they at times speak too loud, or ask for assistance in finding a Bible passage, or get up to use the restroom. They don't always look or dress like the rest of the congregation. They also sometimes don't smell like the rest of the congregation. As a result, they have at times been asked to not be a part of the congregation.
But the style of worship in many of todays churches which isso fragile, so excellent that it excludes those who are different belies something about the church. I would argue that if the style of worship is not inclusive of the range of people who would like to be involved in worship, then the style of worship needs to change. I don't recall where in scriptures that social skills are a requirement of worship participation. But I honestly believe that we have excluded persons with disability from the church for so long, that the traditional style of worship has grown to be one that excludes their participation in its very design.
Tuesday, March 15, 2005
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A Confession of a teenage snob.
I would like to respond to the church and disabled adults’ issue. As I contemplated this issue, I mentally compared my church experience with my experience of growing up with a “crippled” sister. How I wish someone would have reached out to my parents. How I wish there were other families with similar situations that we could know. I felt we were so abnormal. I began attending church as a young teenager, to the scorn of my parents, although they allowed my choice. I soon shared the gospel with Becky at night in our bed and she asked Christ to be her savior. I went to my church alone, and by golly, Becky got herself in a youth group and attended regularly. Bless those Bloomington, Nazarene women who faithfully picked her up twice a week. She was loved and accepted there. I was so happy, yet I am ashamed to say I didn’t take her to my church; I was still struggling with the stigma of her appearance and mannerisms. I was seeking peer acceptance.
Thankfully, I had a wonderful boyfriend who loved me and embraced my sister, (my whole family). He even took her on some of our dates etc. He cured me, I feel, by showing me unconditional love and acceptance. I was able to let go of the grip of that stigma and walk in reality. Becky had Cerebral Palsy, not Leprosy; she is a person with value, worth and maybe, some visible obstacles, that was the reality.
I married that guy 30 years ago.
Peer pressure is not exclusively a teen issue. With compassion, maturity and an honest focus on reality, the stigma of being different, the stigma of being associated with those who are different can be overcome. When we love unconditionally, realistically and accept we God’s people, in whatever package they come in, we will be worthy of the name Christians “little Christs”. We will especially make a difference in lives of individuals and families who don’t need any further obstacles. CYP, SPE 541
This article struck my interest as my husband is a worship director at a church. My past church experiences have almost mirrored what was said in the original article - people with disabilities were simply not welcomed and the worship style had no accomodations for them. While this new church where my husband is working does not have an abundance of people with disabilities, I found out a few things that made me think. I found out that the man who helps run the sound system at our church is part deaf. Then I found out that the main drummer at our church has partial paralysis on one side of his body. How amazing it is that God uses people in any way He wants to! I would have never thought. I underestimate our Lord sometimes. I would have never looked at the setup of the microphones and the blending of sound and thought, "Oh, the person who is running this must be deaf", or similarly for the drummer. They do great jobs. As far as people with more noticeable disabilities, I feel the church may fail to welcome them as they do "normal" people.
After being in class all semester with Dr. McNair, I have been made to think about how my church has tried to incorporate people with disabilities into our worship service. I attend a small church, and unlike Dr. McNair's church, we do not have a Sunday school service directed toward people with a disability. I would like to say that we have wonderful programs for everyone but the truth is that we do not. I have even needed to look at myself and figure out how I treat people with disabilities and if I make them feel welcome and the truth is that I do not all of the time. I have my friends at church and I do not try to reach out to new people in our church to make them feel welcome. This class has challenged me to think about my actions. I now think about what I am doing while I am at church.
It is so true that in our church services we do not make it a point to include those with disabilities. The music is loud and people are expected to sing and move along and participate, but when the sermon starts the congregation is expected to be quiet and listen. But what about those who have a hard time doing so? Why do we expect them to do something they cannot possibly do? This can also apply in the classroom. As teachers we want our students to sit in their seats and pay attention without disrupting the class, but for some of those kids, that's impossible. We as teachers need to make sure that we make the appropriate adaptations in our classrooms to ensure success for all students and also encourage participation. Our worship services need to be inclusive and our classrooms need to be inclusive. Every child has the right to learn and we need to make sure that we allow for that by making simple adjustments to our classroom and lesson plans.
I feel that a variety of worship styles may put different people off. Slow, hymn-type music puts off the younger generations and the fast paced rock worship puts off the older.
In this regard it is difficult to reach everyone but in the case of worshipers who are disabled we should not blatently say "well go worship somewhere else, by golly." What if we told an elderly person to go worship somewhere else because he complained the music was just too rocky or vice versa with a yougner person.
What needs to happen is discussion and to put away fear of change. God uses all types of worship. What is important is the message.
So for the disabled person's in our church (who are less likely to complain the us "normal" people)we should not treat them with disdain for singing too loud or not at all or clapping off beat. Hey, we are here to worship God not be singing legends.
Focus our heart and mind on workshipping God rather than everything else--No mater what style it is.
As a member of a church that is highly accreditied for their worship, I began to look back at how members in our congregation worshipped. There were times I recall when I was younger that a woman would shout out when it was quite or at times when everyone else was not singing. It took a long time for me to understand why she did this because until then I thought she was really weird. But, she isn't! She is glorifying God in her own way and no one ever told her not to do so. THe church never told her she was disrupting the service or worship of others because the people understood that was how she worshipped. In a way it encouraged me to not be afriad to show how I worshipped my Lord because I shouldn't be afraid to show my feelings.
It is true that often times the worship becomes so timed and perfect that it takes away from the real reason of worship. It is at those times when everything but our voices and bodies need to be stripped away from worship until we as the body of Christ remember the real meaning of worship.
This article stuck out because just a few services ago at church our pastor was discussing this issue. That he sometimes looks around his congregation during worship to see how people worship. He is not judging them, but he indeed wants to see people worshipping God. That is why we are there. He went on to remind us that we all have different styles of worshipping and beyond those styles we each have our own capabilities in how we worship. "Capabilities" was a key word as it reminds us that we might have some physical and expressive challenges when we worship. He said that he was happy that our church is someone of a middle ground in the style of worship. Where you have some who are more Pentecostal in their expressive ways and then some who are more traditional and reserved. Either way, you worship the Lord from your heart and however it radiates externally is in your control, but what truly matters is what is in your heart. You should not judge or be impressed with others on how they worship, you should act as if you are the only one standing in Gods house and focused on worshipping Him.
Our church does have many services to accommodate special needs and also an educated and experienced staff to make sure they feel they are an equal part of the church. I have seen quite a few mentally and physically challenged people attend our church and have heard them ask questions about the scripture that is being read. I have sat next to two different people over the past year, and one needed help finding the verse we were on and then when she found it, she proceeded to read aloud (but quietly) during the sermon. It really did not bother me; it made me appreciate her and her passion with Gods word. The other happened to laugh louder at a joke during the sermon than the rest of the congregation and in turn it made our Pastor laugh and then everyone else laughed all over again! It was joyful!
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