Every year on Easter, just to experience something different I like to go to a different church. I found one not too far away and thought I would try it out. As I walked up to the building, I was greeted enthusiastically by a woman.
“We are so happy you are here!”
“Thank you” I responded.
“Have you been to this church before?”
“No, I go to a different church and thought I would just visit yours today.”
“Well we have a perfect place for people like you! You will have the opportunity to meet and make many new friends.”
I looked at her quizzically and said ‘”OK. Great.”
“There is a special place for folks like you to sit in big church. It is in a section over there” where she pointed to other 60ish men sitting together.
As I looked around, I saw lots of people sitting and talking waiting for the service to begin in the main area of the sanctuary. But I followed directions and moved toward the area populated by men with grey hair (those that had hair) who were a similar age to me.
She accompanied me and got me situated. “After the singing, you will go out to your class with the other men.”
“My class?” I asked.
“Yes the class for people like you.”
“Like me? What do you mean, like me? Couldn’t I just stay here and listen to the sermon? I’d be happy to sit with the other people if that would not be too much of a distraction.”
“Oh no!” she responded happily, “you will be happier with the way we have everything ready for you and the others.”
As I looked around, the others smiled at me and back at her. With that she moved away.
A guy sitting behind me tapped me with his iphone. “After the singing, we can go to the class and color pictures of Jesus while we are waiting for everyone to arrive. Last week we made popsicle crosses.”
“What? Why do you guys color pictures of Jesus?” I asked. “I’ve never been to a church where I was given pictures of Jesus to color.”
“I guess it has to do with the way they see you here. You’ll get used to it after a while.”
The service started and the other men and I participated in the singing and bowed our heads for the prayer. As the sermon was about to start, the friendly woman came back and said, “OK guys time to follow me.” They all got up so I did too. People waved to us as we exited and went to a classroom where colored pencils and pictures, more like cartoon pictures, awaited us. The other men sat down and immediately started to color.
As I looked around the room, I saw a friend of mine who was a high school math teacher named James. “Hey James, how long have you been coming to this church?”
“For a little over a year. I’ve gotten good at the coloring. My wife likes putting the pictures on the refrigerator.”
I looked at him and kind of shook my head, but shortly he was back at coloring.
The teacher came in. “I want to talk about work today. How many of you have jobs?”
Everyone’s hand went up including my own. I’m a professor.
She turned to Bob a couple of seats down from me, his hand raised.
“What kind of work do you do Bob?”
“I work at a marketing firm which specializes in commercial real estate.”
“Good for you!” she responded. “That’s wonderful! Commercial real estate is VERY special. How about you, Sam?”
Sam was sitting right next to me.
“I’m a police officer.”
“Do you ever get to work with the animals? I bet that would be fun.”
“No, I do more traffic enforcement.”
"Cars go so fast. Please be careful out there!”
“Thanks, I will.”
As I sat there, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing and seeing.
“We are going to have a snack shortly. You will be able to choose the kind of cookie you would like.”
As she turned away, I grabbed Sam. “What is this?”
“What do you mean?” he replied.
“This class, the things you do, the way she talks to you. How do you stand it?”
“Isn’t this the way all Sunday school classes for senior men are like?”
Agitated, I responded, “NO, it’s not the way all Sunday School classes for senior men are like!”
“Really? It is all I have ever known.”
“You are kidding, right? NO they aren’t like this. Men are treated like men, like adults. They get to sit wherever they want to. Why should 6o year old men be treated like this?”
“Isn’t that who we are?”
“It’s not who I am.”
We were interrupted by guitar music.
“EV-ry BO-dy SING! If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands” followed by clapping.
“I’m not happy and I know it!” I said to Sam sharply.
“I feel like the way we are treated is the way these people here in this church see us. It feels a little strange to me as well, but I don’t know. Maybe there is something in the Bible or something that causes them to act this way towards us. It’s like the only place I go where I am treated this way. I definitely don’t get treated this way at the precinct. Maybe this is the Christian way of interacting with men like us.”
“It's like they don’t respect you. How can you stand it?”
“Well is there any place else I could go where I would be treated differently?”
“You should come to my church. Don’t put up with this…”
“What kind of cookies do you have?”
I am in absolute shock that they had a special area for "people like you" and assumed that you would be happier with the way they had “everything ready for you and the others.”
Most churches that I have visited have all first time guests sit with the rest of the congregation and listen to the same sermon. The activities that they had the senior men do were meant for children, not adults. Coloring Jesus and talking about work? How inconsiderate of them to think that senior men would enjoy such activities. It is degrading and not what that "class" should have consisted of. It seemed that the church had this idea in their head that older men are not intelligent enough to listen to the sermon and comprehend what is being said. If anything, the "class" should not exist and the senior men should be sitting with the rest of the congregation. I am curious to know about some of the other first time guests and what their experience was like. Did they immediately leave? Did they stay to just see what would happen? I would also like to know the purpose and thought process behind that class.
I love your response (tongue firmly in cheek I assume). But you highlight the issues. People should feel as you do when programs do not treat anyone in a respectful, age appropriate manner.
Unbelievably ridiculous! If this was not written by my most honorable professor, I would have though this author try to mock a Christian church. I feel so sad for your friend and other men there. They thought that is the norm how churches treat men over 60's. I wonder what's wrong with the rest of the people in the church. Has anyone who knows the proper way to treat people spoken out for these men?
Over half congregations are seniors over 60 at the church and Sunday school. My Sunday school is led by a very intelligent Cal baptist professor. I really enjoy listening to the teaching and discussing. The seniors usually give valuable comments.
I pray and hope the Lord will help the people at this church to see the truth.
It is interesting that apparently two readers commented thinking this was a true story. But their responses are very telling and truly illustrate the point I was trying to make. We would be upset if this type of treatment occurred for adults who are not intellectually disabled but not so much for those who are. I am grateful for their comments.
It is interesting to see peoples’ reactions when they believed this was a true story. The shocking thing is, it is a true story… to some extent. Although this did not actually happen to the author, this is the truth for most individuals who have a disability. They are treated the way society, and often times sadly, how the Christian church views them. Isn’t it ironic that we all want equality but refer to others as “their kind” or like the post mentioned: “…for people like you?” This not only marginalizes, but goes against everything Jesus stood for. I understand that at times, this is not done maliciously, but with every intent to make all people feel comfortable and welcomed. But how could anyone feel accepted and welcomed if they are placed in separate groups? Integration is the real answer. In order for us to truly understand what it means to love others the way Jesus would, we need to integrate ourselves and become one whole in Jesus. He didn’t treat people based on their view of one another, but came so that we all may be unified in Him. The second we start to view disabilities the way Jesus sees it and intended it to be, the truth of this story will come to an end and we will be unified in Him completely.
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