Edward Kerr explores a pattern for church life.
Most cannot read. Many cannot sing. Some cannot move. Some cannot speak. Some cannot see.
All have fun, are involved and respond. All worship. All watch. Some wave flags. Some wander around.
Some try to sing. Some make strange noises. Some are silent, apparently passive. Some behaviour and contributions are "inappropriate" as labels go. Our expectancy is high; our expectations low.
We run a church that predominantly focuses on the needs of people with a learning disability, their carers and friends.
I wonder what the 'normal' church could learn from our community. If a mumbled, disjointed, semi-incoherent prayer is deemed to be acceptable for our folk, why can it not be acceptable in other churches? Why do we place expectations on mainstream church attendees to conform to a set of unwritten and sometimes unattainable behavioural guidelines?
If the use of straightforward language is acceptable in our setting, why do we often move to the opposite extreme in other settings? If it is acceptable to have low expectations but high expectancy with our folk, is it not acceptable for mainstream churches? If it is acceptable to have the very low level of pressure with our folk, is it not acceptable for others? If our worship, which seems so chaotic, is acceptable, why is worship sometimes so formal and non-involved?
It is too easy to say that it is acceptable for our folk, as they are, well – you know – because they're not the same as us. But if our approach is acceptable to God, then it has to be acceptable to God for everyone. I am not advocating a "dumbing down", but a widening of the options.
We have little expectation of the 'right' way to worship, to pray, or to behave. There is little self-consciousness; apparently little competition. Each person is able to participate at their level without fear of censure. We believe that this could be a pattern for church life, rather than an oddity.