A Stranger No More

The column this month is written by Dianne McNamara, a parent - Page 1.

Page 2 of this column

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A recent thread on religion:
Hi
We moved from out of state to Brighton this summer. We have a son
with autism who looks like he's 12 or 13 but is actually 21.

We had a wonderful experience at a church over fifteen years ago but
that only lasted for two years (my husband changed jobs so we moved).
That church had a "Special Needs" Sunday School class, had volunteer
drivers to bring disabled adults (living in a local group home) to &
from church, and hosted a Christmas party for disabled adults. The
party included very nice gifts from our congregation. Instead of
having a "Wish Tree" for poor children, our church had a tree with
wishes from disabled adults (who often asked for clothes or CDs and
were absolutely thrilled to get them!).

Most importantly, we felt like "regular" valued church members--with
names and individual personalities, not "that (nameless) family with
that (nameless) handicapped kid." The people in that church made it
easy for us in various ways to fully participate in church
activities. There were times when life was too crazy for us to be
involved in long term commitments. During those times these people
simply adjusted their expectations (instead of making us feel guilty)
and remembered us when they were looking for people for one time
commitments (like providing special music for one service). We all
felt very appreciated and loved. We truly do ache to feel that way
again with a church family.


In the fifteen years since we belonged to that church we have
searched for a church (in the THREE states we have lived in) that is
even remotely like the one we loved. Little did I realize that it
would be soooooo hard to do. I have since read that it is estimated
that 10% or less of churches do anything for disabled people (other
than the required by law parking spaces).

I could ramble on about all of our negative experiences but I'm sure
many of you have been through similar things. And yes, Denver, we do
get really down at times and get tired of people expecting us to
always be noble so THEY feel more comfortable. And wouldn't it be
nice if we all had churches that made us feel welcome.

So... I have two questions....

1. Is anyone having a good church experience (for both their child
and family) at a church in Brighton or fairly close to Brighton? (It
has to be a church with some hallways because sometime our son really
needs space to roam with one of us.) and

2. Just to restore my faith in religious groups of people----Could
people post good, encouraging stories about local churches (or
synagogues!)? ---- stories that tell about churches (or synagogues)
that actually do understand that God loves disabled people too(and
their families) and wants people to welcome them as valued children
of God who not only need to receive but who also have much to give to
others.

Oh, one more thing, We do know of a church that is too far away for
us, but that might help others. Lifebridge Church in Longmont has a
Special Needs Sunday School AND provides respite care once a month
for special needs kids ages 12 and under. They have also expressed
an interest in teens and/or adults with disabilities but haven't been
approached to provide that yet.

Thanks!

Hello! I think First Presbyterian Church in Boulder has an ongoing program
for adults with disabilities......might be worth a call and the drive time from
Brighton is about 30 minutes depending on traffic.

1. Is anyone having a good church experience (for both their child
and family) at a church in Brighton or fairly close to Brighton? (It
has to be a church with some hallways because sometime our son really
needs space to roam with one of us.) and
====================================================
You just wrote, in a better way than I, one of the chapters in our book!

Johnny Eareckson Tada, a wonderful person with a spinal cord disability
operating from CA, has developed a non-profit organization just for the purposes

you describe - getting churches more attuned to the needs of those with
disabilities. But it sure is a slow process, especially for individuals with
more profound disabilities.

Almost every church program we had for Andy over the years was one we
started ourselves, and we just got tired of doing that, so we started our own
"church" in our home.

Sorry, I know of no church with such a program.

Galilee Baptist in Denver had sort of a program years and years ago, an we
rewrote the entire curriculum, but for a variety of reasons we left that
church.

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2. Just to restore my faith in religious groups of people----Could
people post good, encouraging stories about local churches (or
synagogues!)? ---- stories that tell about churches (or synagogues)
that actually do understand that God loves disabled people too(and
their families) and wants people to welcome them as valued children
of God who not only need to receive but who also have much to give to
others.

We had a wonderful opportunity in Mundelein, Illinois, where a good friend
started a program just for Andy, and it was great. After all these years this
lady is still our friend.

Here in Denver, Andy (who lives in a Host Home), seems pretty accepted in
Heritage Christian Church, a large evangelical church which is also on TV, with
his host family. They do a lot of "amens" and "Hallelujahs" which Andy
loves to say, even in the middle of quiet sermons, but they seem to enjoy him,
and fater one of his "Hallelujahs" they all join in!

Reverend Earl Miller, a most wonderful man in the Methodist church and a
close personal friend, always welcomed Andy and us. He also started Camp Hope
and Camp Share for individuals with disabilities at Buckhorn Camp near Fort
Collins. He wanted it to be "inclusive" and Andy spent his very first night
away from home there when he was 14 (I, worried father, slept in our van just
a few feet away!)

Earl accepted everyone - there was no one turned down at that time. I have
no idea of the camp is still going on.

Earl was hit by a car and was killed just before he was going to attend
Tim's graduation from Stanford Law School years ago.

Sorry to not be more helpful.

My wife just told me that Cherry Hills Community Church, a mega church in
Highlands Ranch, has a curriculum which they supposedly have shared with other
churches in the area.

You might want to contact them. A slim chance, but worth a shot.

My dream:

To be able to go to the church of MY choice, and. voila, there would be an
appropriate program there.

But, personally, I would want an inclusive program rather than a separate
program.

We are NOT catholic but both my children attend the Queen of Peace Catholic
church special needs program and they were welcomed with open arms. They
have not been required to take communion, sacraments, etc. Just learn about being
a kind and loving person and know about God.

Forgot about that. Years ago, we also attended the Catholic Church in
Illinois specifically for that reason. Unfortunately, the main emphasis in that

church was for the special needs kids to be "quiet and mannerly" - something
that Andy does not do well AT ALL!

So, we left that particular church. Hopefully, other CC's ar more tolerant.

 

 

 

 

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