A Spiritual Routine


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By Rev. Mindi

This post originally appeared on Edge Pieces, the blog for Open Gathering, a new Disciples of Christ Church plant on July 9th, 2013. It has been adapted slightly for [D]mergent for a wider audience.

One of the concerns I have as a pastor, and a parent of a
child with special needs, is bringing spirituality into AJ’s daily life. As for
many parents, church can be hard work. Sometimes people at church do not
understand and can make church an unwelcoming place for those with special
needs, who cannot sit still or stay silent. Sometimes sensory issues make it
difficult to attend worship, and sometimes the older buildings are not fully
accessible to those who have mobility needs. Traditional church, because it is
only once a week and not every day like school or other activities, and it is
not primarily focused on a specific person like once-a-week therapy sessions
are, can be difficult to add into one’s weekly routine. We know many families
for whom going to church is such a struggle, they do not even bother.

While I am at Open Gathering now, I also serve a small
church in Burien, WA.  AJ goes to church most
Sunday mornings with me to Burien Community Church. When I was not serving as a pastor when we
lived in Oklahoma, I was able to sit with him and try to help him understand
the order of service—now we stand, now we sing, now we sit quietly and pray,
etc. Routine for many children with special needs is important, and in many of
our church worship services, we can establish a routine more easily as the
service usually follows the same format every Sunday.  I no longer am able to sit with AJ every
Sunday morning as I am pastoring a church now, but I still try to help him
understand the routine.  Because I cannot
sit with him, sometimes he only understands the greeting time, and I let him
use his iPad to stay quiet in the pew until the Children’s Message.  But he understands the routine: he puts the
iPad down and comes to sit next to me on the chancel steps.  Then after the prayer, he can run down the
aisle to the back and go downstairs for Children’s Church at my church in
Burien.

But at home, spirituality is just as important. We try to
model that God is in our lives everywhere, not just at church. Church is often
just one day a week, and while we may be at the building during the week at
other times, we do not have the same routine there.  So at home, we at least say prayers every
night, something I have been doing with AJ since he moved from a crib to a bed.
We read a book, and I try to read a child’s prayer book or baby Bible as the
last story, then I say a simple prayer but fold his hands as well, and I close
my eyes. Then I tuck him in.

During Advent, we began a routine of lighting the Advent
Candles at home every night and doing a short reading and prayer. We did this
at the dinner table so AJ was already sitting. We made sure the TV was off and
no other distractions were on. It was a nice ritual of quiet time and
reflection for our family during the Advent Season, but it also introduced
something new for AJ. While I’m sure he didn’t understand the complete
significance of it, he seemed to enjoy us sitting together and lighting
candles.

Routine is important for many children with special needs.
Establishing a spiritual routine, just like establishing a hygiene routine or
any other practice takes practice.  Some
families say grace before meals, and that is another wonderful (and
traditional) way to introduce spiritual practice in the home.

At Open Gathering, what makes us unique is that we have made
worship even more accessible for those used to routine because, while doing
emergent-style worship, we have kept the same routine every time we gather:
Music, Wondering, Table.  During Music we
sing five or six songs from our songbook, songs that become familiar (we
usually do two or three that we did the week before).  At Wondering, all are invited to come sit near
the table for the Story—in which the Bible Lesson is shared in a
Montessori-style storytelling. As part of the Wondering, we also do Work, in
which we respond to the story. One can do Work by sharing one’s perspectives on
the Bible lesson in a dialogue-sermon (often many of the adults do this in a
corner of our shared space), or by staying put at the table and responding with
art, crafts, and play. Then we all return to the Table for prayer, offering,
and communion. We end by singing our benediction song together “Peace Before
Us.”

Because our routine is simple and not a long list in a
printed bulletin, Open Gathering is more readily accessible to those with
special needs because it becomes familiar more quickly. We also have fewer
“rules.” People are invited to dance and move as needed or desired during the
Music time. During the Wondering time, we are invited to sit closer for the
story, then during work we can sit or stand or move about as necessary.  We gather at the Table again for the end. We
are invited to pray together, sometimes to sit together, but we are also
invited to be ourselves.

*****

Church leaders, there are many different ways to do worship. Perhaps you can inspire others to begin a spiritual routine at
home, establishing a semblance of spiritual life that works for them and their family’s unique needs.  Perhaps there are families who simply are not able to attend worship due to unique needs or work schedules, but maybe there is still a way to reach out and include others by inviting them to begin a spiritual routine at home.

via Articles – [D]mergent http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/dmergent/~3/Dp2rVdYjfG0/a-spiritual-routine

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About Rev. Mindi

Rev. Mindi Welton-Mitchell is an ordained American Baptist minister married to an ordained Disciples of Christ minister and mother of a child with autism. Mindi grew up in Alaska, lived in Oregon, Massachusetts and Oklahoma, and now lives in the Seattle area. She is a pastor, creator of Rev-o-lution (http://rev-o-lution.org), retreat leader and writer, and a citizen of Red Sox Nation. (Note that her posts are her personal views and do not necessarily represent the views of her congregation).

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