Congregations can provide fellowship of worship for persons with disabilities by learning fresh new ways to praise where EVERYONE is blessed.
Abilities differ, so plan to do what ALL persons CAN do as a means of celebrating. Without being singled out, persons with disabilities especially enjoy the fellowship of unified worship. Do these ways seem radical for corporate worship? Possibly, but an entire congregation may grasp new understanding, and may actually enjoy doing worship expression differently.
Worship services are often planned on the formula focus on an idea, explore that idea (often with a sermon) then followed by response to the idea that has been explored. There is always a response, and some of the following expressions are especially useful for (but not limited to) response. Try some of these expressions:
- Sit in silence and /or ritual focusing on an object
- Head nods
- Flag, scarf or other object waving
- Finger tapping
- Bells, horns, clapp, whisper, hiss, shuffle feet.
- Touch shoulders with the person next to us (Ask permission first. Asking is part of the acceptance.)
- Hum (Congregations like to hum, and persons who can’t talk can usually hum!)
- Say, “Ooooo”
- Touch Fingertips
- Use participation readings that do not require reading
- Write one word essence cards.
- Line out-a leader reads a line, and a student echo-reads the line.
- Contemplate pictures.
- Sign language
- Use persons with disabilities as worship leaders.
Congregational grief might be acknowledged and expressed in simple ways:
- Wave black fabric
- Cry together
- Say. One-word grief tributes.
- Say or write poetry.
- Any expression is appropriate, even group groaning.
- Sit in silence to acknowledge in thought whatever is being grieved.
- Say or write the person’s name.
Corporate grief such as silence for a person’s medical complication is powerful. This is best done in a small group with the person’s permission..
Include Worship with Persons Who Must Stay at Home
Enabling worship for persons who must stay at home is like clasping their hands and inviting them to God’s house of fellowship. Make them participants by sending or taking tapes of the church choir or worship services. If your church service is televised, help the homebound learn how to find it and adjust the sound. Take them a silk scarf to wave while they listen to the tapes or while they view your worship service on line. Print scripture and words to song on the video screen so they may sing or read in unison. If your church has a home visitor, arrange for them to take a worship bulletin when they visit.
Some churches take non-ambulatory persons and individuals from nursing homes by bus or ambulance to a special worship service in the home sanctuary. If you do this, be prepared to be amazed.