St Mark's Mansfield

Welcoming Disability: Week 4: 2015

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This blog entry was originally posted by Fr Keith Hebden when he was our Associate Priest

In our fourth week each group is challenged to invite someone as a guest storyteller. In one group a Methodist minister who experiences a chronic illness came to speak. In another we heard from a fourteen year old member of the church with autism and ADHD. In the third group a member brought a very heartbreaking poem. You can read it in full on this link but below is a quote from the poem:

I stand quietly at the supermarket checkout while everyone stares at you barking like a dog and blowing raspberries on my arms to cope with the buzzing lights.

I stand quietly while you tell the baffled shop owner that you are looking for shoes that feel hard like splintered wood because your skin can’t bear soft things.

I stand quietly when the attendant gives us scornful looks when I ask for the key to the disabled toilet because the hand dryer noise is too overwhelming for you.

[…]

I sit quietly while you scream at me, trying to control the panic you feel because I gently touched your head when brushing your hair.

I sit quietly while the teacher tells me she knows about autism and that you are not autistic and asks if I would benefit from some parenting classes.

I sit quietly while the GP, the occupational therapist and the paediatrician agree how bad it is but say that there are no resources to support us further.

[…]

I lay quietly beside you when you tell me that you are the wrong sort of special and the wrong sort of different and you want to die.

As you can imagine: we struggled to respond to that with anything but our own quietness.

Then we read this.

My God, my God,
why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far away,
so far from saving me,
so far from the words of my groaning?
I cry all day, my God, but you never answer;
I call all night long, and sleep deserts me.

But you, Holy One –
you sit enthroned on the praises of Israel.
Our ancestors put hteir trust in you;
they trusted and you rescued them;
they cried to you and were saved;
they trusted you and were never disappointed.

Yet here I am, more worm than human,
the scorn of humanity, an object of ridicule:
all who see me mock me;
they shake their heads and sneer,
“You trusted God? Ha! Let God save you now!
If God is your friend, let God rescue you!”
Yet you drew me out of the womb;
you nestled me in my mother’s bosom;
you cradled me in your lap from my birth;
from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
Don’t’ stand aside now that trouble is near –
I have no one to help me! (Psalm 22: 1-18, Inclusive Version)

It’s not been an easy four weeks but it’s been a huge privilege to hear one another’s stories and to share our fears, failures, and hopes. The stories from people’s lives have been like keys that unlocked the bible for us and the stories from the bible have helped us more deeply hear – and respond to – the stories.

We’re left wondering what next and will certainly want to answer that with something significant in the life of the congregation. We want to ask: What is God doing and how can we join in?

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2 thoughts on “Welcoming Disability: Week 4: 2015

  1. Hi!

    I am pleased that you are raising awareness of autism.
    I have recently been diagnosed with ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder), more specifically, Aspergers Syndrome. Some of my friends are “Aspies” also! I am begining to wonder how many other autistic adults in our churches, probably undiagnosed. They are likely to be found sitting quietly somewhere to avoid sensory overstimulation, or possibly in the organ loft if they are musical. Many teallyy creative people are on the autistic spectrum. People like Einstein and Beethoven had Aspergers Syndrome! Life would be very dull if the world was only inhabited by neurotypicals!
    “Aspies” and “Auties” are awesome!

    Heidi

    • Dear Heidi,
      I have recently taken the administration of St Mark’s website and wanted to thank you for your comments about last year’s Disability Awareness Weeks.
      I am interested in contacting a lady called Heidi, who used to worship at St Mark’s and made some beautiful banners.
      Best wishes,
      Julia Holloway

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