Tag Archives: Wayzata Community Church

One Motivation

Special Needs Parenting Cover

There is one motivation behind my ministry at Hope and Healing Institute.  That’s it.  Just one. Equipping families with special needs to remain resilient. That happens through providing tools and support to individuals facing any number of challenges that come with parenting a child with special needs. Mine is just one of many support programs offered here in fulfilling our mission of building and restoring lives to health and wholeness. I am blessed to be part of this amazing non-profit that is changing lives for the better.

After writing Special Needs Parenting: From Coping to Thriving, the Hope and Healing Institute equipped me to pilot the material with five small groups. I led three of them in the Houston area, another online,  and another was led by Rev. Leslie Neugent at Wayzata Community Church in Minnesota. Leslie and I both experienced a sense of community, friendship and healing within our groups.

The most rewarding part? Hearing from people about how their lives have been enriched and changed for the better in the process. Mimi Patman, a participant in one of the groups that I led, shares insight into her parenting experience.From the shock of diagnosis to the power of hope found in scripture and community, Mimi opens a window into her private family life in hopes that it will encourage others as well through this brief video.

My prayer is that other parents looking for emotional and spiritual nurture will also be blessed through the book and that an increasing number of faith communities will offer support groups and pastoral care to families wishing to be included within the life of the congregation.

Rev Doc Lorna

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Boundary-Breaking Worship, REALLY!!!

Parables_April_Landing

Then afterward I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.   (Joel 2:28 NRSV)

Knowing about something and experiencing it, seeing it for yourself, are two entirely different things. Hospitality and welcoming in worship are things we all know about.  Hopefully we’ve all experienced both. Sadly, as parents of children with special needs that hospitality is often lacking, so when we truly receive it we know how precious a gift it is.

I recently attended worship at Parables, one of the worship services offered at Wayzata Community Church. I knew about the service.  I read about it, watched a video, and talked at length with the founding pastor, Leslie Neugent. KNOWING about Parables and EXPERIENCING Parables were different matters entirely.  It was boundary-breaking, joy-filled worship with surprises and the in-breaking of God at every turn.  If you live anywhere near Wayzata, MN you must experience this worship for yourself.  Even if you don’t live near, it’s worth the trip!  I flew all the way from Texas and know without a doubt it will not be my only experience of Parables. If your church could use an infusion of radical hospitality to the special needs community in worship, go to Parables!

What’s so different about this service?  It is worship created for and led by people with special needs.  I wrote in my blog recently a prayer, “Please God, let something happen in worship today that isn’t printed in the bulletin.” That prayer was answered.  Big time! Picture a parade of whoever cares to participate processing down the aisle, singing, shaking tambourines, hand in hand with the pastor.  A young man with sensory issues held his hands over his ears even as he marched in joyously, and then decided to go sit on the chancel steps for the rest of the service.  A fine plan! It has the best view!  And really, why should it matter?  During a break in the action a young lady who was late to church gave the pastor a seemingly never-ending hug, marching onto the stage to do so. Again, why should it matter? A young man who was until very recently non-verbal went around the room during the time of greeting saying, “Hello. How are you?” When was the last time you got truly excited about being greeted in worship? It made me cry tears of joy. I was seated by a young man who is learning to say hello by shaking hands.  We shook hands about 10 times during worship, including when I got up to talk about my upcoming book for special needs parent support groups.  He gave me the cue so I stepped out of the pulpit to shake hands.  I can walk and talk at the same time.  Why should it matter that he wanted to shake hands right then?

I saw the hands and feet of Jesus at work in the participants.  They know each other’s strengths and where they need a little help.  A young lady with challenged mobility had several of her peers help her up the steps to the altar to serve Communion. That’s right. Not just to receive, but to serve.  A request from the pulpit for a volunteer to lead the Lord’s Prayer received a round of applause as a teen stepped up to lead.  When was the last time the Lord’s Prayer brought you to tears? The same was true for a young lady who did a wonderful job reading the scripture of John 4, Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at the well. How often are people with differences celebrated in worship?  How often do they get to offer their gifts and let them shine?

There was a purity and innocence to worship.  Parents were at ease.  They knew their whole family was welcome.  No one was shushed. No one was made to sit if they didn’t want to. Noises? Who cares!  Again, why should it matter?  The sermon challenged me to think about hard things as a special needs parent. Where is the line between advocating for my child’s future and giving over to God and accepting? Yet, simultaneously the message was at a child’s level so there was learning for everyone in the room. It was the most genuine, unscripted, open-hearted worship I’ve experienced in a long time, and I go to church a lot so that is saying something!

I met a church member who retired from teaching a few years ago.  “I go to the big service too, but this is really my service. I see God here.”  Well, I did too and I want more. I wonder if my husband would agree to move from Texas to Minnesota…

Prayer: Boundary-breaking God, Open our eyes to see those who feel excluded, open our hands to reach out to them, open our hearts to form us to better be your people. Amen.

Photo courtesy of Parables: Red Fish Theology

To learn more about Parables worship, click here:

http://www.wayzatacommunitychurch.org/pages/page.asp?page_id=229208

You can order a “how-to” guide here:

http://www.uccresources.com/products/red-fish-theology-parables-a-how-to-guide-for-offering-a-radically-inclusive-worship-service-with-the-special-needs-community

 

 

A Place Where Everybody is Welcome!

 

Coco

God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. (Gen 1:31-2:1 NRSV)

A sign I have lived in Texas for a long time: Yesterday my husband came home from work and found me relaxing on the back patio. “My car says it’s 95 degrees!  Aren’t you hot?” I was sure he was wrong.  It felt lovely! I checked the temperature on a weather app.  96 degrees.  Well, he was wrong…

Being around creation recharges my batteries. I simply have to get outside and enjoy the beauty of what God made.  A perfect respite for me is time with my cat Coco, my furry and feathered friends who come to my backyard feeder, and a splashing fountain to provide just the right background music. Bliss!

God made it all and called it good.

We have a highly inclusive bird feeder, which doubles as a squirrel feeder.  I keep it on the ground for more convenience to me and the squirrel. We take everybody who comes and everybody gets what they want.  I think about their needs. Blue Jays? More peanuts! Cardinals? More safflower and sunflower seeds! Mockingbirds? Sliced apples and fresh berries hit the pan.  Our garden is planted to attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.  Water, food, shade.  My yard is haven for all and I make sure it is inviting and inclusive to everyone.

Years ago I watched a man feeding doves. He only liked a certain variety.  When ones showed up he didn’t like he shooed them away, kicking sand toward them.  I wonder to this day what he had against those particular birds. Why weren’t welcome?  Granted, they were not as cute, not as agile, not as delicate as the ones he favored, but they were special in their own way. Besides, God made them all and called them good.

Inclusion means making a place for everyone, welcoming whoever comes.  Jesus said, “Let the children come to me.”  He didn’t kick sand at the ones who weren’t “cute and agile.” He made space for them.  All of them. It’s no coincidence that many of the stories of Jesus were about people with special needs. Those were his people. Jesus was inclusive.

All means all.

This past June I met a pastor who leads a worship service where truly “all means all.” Leslie Neugent at Wayzata Community Church in Wayzata, Minnesota thinks outside the box about how to do inclusive worship.  Her service, Parables, is led by and for families with special needs, attracting over 100 worshipers on a typical Sunday. How do they attract so many?  The key is the right invitation.  I don’t mean one they print and hand out, though they likely do that too. I mean Leslie and her team are intentional about thinking about what families need.  A safe place where noises are allowed? Not a problem! A child who wants to be in the center of the action? Fantastic!  The more volunteers the better! Pattern and predictability work best for your family? You got it!  Familiar songs, short sermons, lots of activity for all levels. Check out more Parables worship here for ideas to share with your church: http://www.wayzatacommunitychurch.org/pages/page.asp?page_id=229208

Attraction and inclusion come through thinking about who we care to welcome and then providing a welcoming environment, whether it is a backyard or a church.  God made us all and calls us good, too. I am so grateful to serve our God of inclusion.

Photo: Backyard Friends by Lorna Bradley