Autism and Church

Last night three other members of the congregation and I attended a workshop on Autism.  It was done by the Judevine Center on Autism and was a wonderfully helpful evening.  With two children in our congregation with Autism Spectrum Disorder, we are coming to realize the very special needs of children with autism and their parents.  One of our dreams is to develop ways to include and care for children with autism and to provide support and life-giving spiritual community and space for families with children with autism.  The challenge is huge, but I believe that if we take it step by step, we will be able to provide the hospitality of Christ’s community.  And most of all we will come to know God in deeper, more profound ways.

Last week, it took by breath away when a 5 year old little girl with autism who does not speak, slipped her hand into mine for the first time.  It was a holy moment — God’s relationship creating movement in a child’s life and in mine.

In these days as our lectionary readings are in Mark, we have been reading the texts in which Jesus casts out evil spirits, or demons.  I am so very aware that those “evil spirits” or “demons” were thought to be present in such conditions as epilepsy or autism.  In Mark, teaching and healing or casting out evil spirits was all bound up together — a teaching with authority.  Could it have been that as people truly understood the gospel, then healing took on a different meaning?   Those who were cast out, isolated because of their illness or difference could be seen as whole people and  welcomed into the  community.  Maybe then, maybe not  … but most certainly now!

Yes, the child who grows to be able to communicate and socialize more fully is being healed.  But surely it is also the case that we are being healed and made more whole day by day, relationship by relationship, as our community includes every child and every family.  God deepen our understanding and therefore our joy!

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