The participants of the Friendship Community Worship team are individuals with developmental disabilities served in residential settings operated by Friendship Community.
The team consists of a choir and a creative movement team who through their worship share the message that all people have the desire as well as the capacity to offer worship to God.
The response that the team receives from churches is often overwhelming. It is not unusual for the congregation to offer a standing ovation. At most services there are tears on faces in the congregation as the message of God's inclusive nature sinks in.
Following are comments that the team has received:
"The team blew everyone away at the service... A number of folks have mentioned that the service led by your team was the most powerful service they recall attending."
"How blessed we were to receive the praise-filled gifts of love, song and dance."
"Everyone was moved by your love, hope and joy."
"What a joy it was for us to worship with you on Sunday. Your teams added a truly inspirational element to our worship services that we could never have accomplished."
"It was an absolute delight to have you at [our church] this past Sunday. Many people commented to me how light their hearts were as they left worship. A few folks commented that they need to evaluate their willingness to put themselves before the Lord in worship and praise. The courage of your group, the compassion of your heart and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit created a memorable experience of the sacred."
It is not so much about the pleasing melodies or the graceful movements of the team. In fact, those might not be the best descriptive terms to use to describe the team. Rather, it is about the spirit of worship and the joy in being able to publicly offer praise to God and to be included and recognized as a vessel of praise.
The team from Friendship Community cannot easily travel across the country to share their message; however others with a disability in your church may be able to share their talent and their praise that will lead your congregation into a new understanding of the presence of God.
What happens when all can worship? Why not try it?
Milt Stoltzfus is Director of Development at Friendship Community in Lititz, PA and a member of the ADN Board.