I post this in celebration of Autism awareness and acceptance month. Those of you who followed my other blog know that I have three kids, two of whom are boys on the autism spectrum and one who is a girl that is “gifted” and very creative. This post is about my middle guy, written in December 2017.
Music is a huge part of my family’s life. We sing, play instruments, and / or enjoy listening to one another at concerts. Church is also a huge part of our lives, of course, since I’m a pastor. What’s awesome, though, is how much my middle guy is invested in our church.
Here’s how much he’s invested in our church:
- He memorized the locations of all the church campuses and how to get to each from anywhere in the area. He’s a freakin’ GPS.
- He wants his senior pics taken at each campus.
- In his piano lessons, he is working on a prelude, offertory, hymns, and postlude as well as the Doxology and Gloria Patri so he can play for church.
- He once pointed out the location of a campus to some strangers and invited them to go to that service, even though it wasn’t the campus where we attend.
And that’s just the beginning. He also has phenomenal musical skills, so naturally he took part in the Christmas Cantata percussion section last weekend. He played vibes and chimes, and best of all, learned how to play crash cymbals (I got an education in how they aren’t easy even though they look like it) and tympani for the performance.
Let that sink in for a moment. At church, he learned how to play difficult orchestral instruments. Most churches that I have been part of have been squeamish about worshiping with kiddos on the autism spectrum, and teaching them has been waaaay out of the comfort zone. Like knocked out of the comfort zone ballpark.
I knew that my son’s teacher at the church, Mr. Matt, had a music ed degree. I was surprised to learn that was a support staff person for people on the autism spectrum prior to moving to our area. I’ve known Mr. Matt for a few years and never knew this.
Church family, music, autism acceptance in one place? God is good. That’s how church can be!
Expertise, church size, and location are not what make a church able to minister with those who are different. The key is the willingness to follow Christ and accept those who are different, even when it is uncomfortable.
It doesn’t seem that long ago that my son started in the bell choir. The director and my son had to adjust to working together. The director needed my assistance to learn how to work with my son and my son needed assistance in order to accept direction and learn how to be in a group setting. It wasn’t easy, but the director and my son hung in there. The director was (and is) willing to learn how to work with my son, encourage his abilities. My son has now been a ringer for about 6 years and has some skills! I was shocked when he played 4 bells and 3 chimes at a fast tempo! He’s a confident ringer and has just blossomed!
Not only has my son learned, but the most important thing is that he has a place where he belongs. I’ve witnessed many times how the other teenage bell ringers treat him like family– greeting him, bossing him around, putting up with his bossing them around, etc. I’ve seen my son tell adults in charge that they are in the wrong key or off a beat, and the adults either realize they are indeed wrong and thank him, or tell him where he’s wrong, and they all move on. My son feels comfortable enough to offer and accept correction here. He knows that he belongs.
My prayer for the church is that we put our comfort aside and welcome all, regardless of their circumstance and be a place where those who are different belong. Because they do. We all do. It is the way of Christ. May you, dear reader, know the love and belonging that comes from Jesus.