This is the scene at Expressions of Love & Praise, a monthly worship service sponsored by Friendship Community, a Christian ministry cultivating the capabilities of individuals with developmental disabilities in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Although Expressions of Love and Praise is open to everyone and anyone, these worship services are specifically designed to promote the full expression and participation of individuals with intellectual disabilities. These lively and joyful services are truly a place where God’s presence is encountered!
Expressions supports the faith formation and spiritual flourishing of community members with disabilities by providing a range of opportunities for leadership and participation. Opportunities include: leading singing or prayers, serving as greeters and ushers, giving personal testimonies, acting in skits, and sharing personal prayer requests. Spontaneous volunteers are recruited to hand out bulletins, take the offering, carry the church banner, or light the welcome candle. It’s a hands-on, participatory worship experience.
At Expressions of Love and Praise, worship is designed to
include the gifts and capabilities of everyone.
At the end of the services, we often share a sense of amazement knowing that what just happened was beyond anyone’s planning skills – God’s Spirit manifests through the unexpected and the spontaneous elements of each of our gatherings.
Expressions has taken a traditional Anabaptist worship style and re-designed it into an experience that is welcoming and meaningful for folks with intellectual disabilities. The following Expressions design principles could be adopted by any church.
- Become comfortable with extra noises, people standing or pacing, and interruptions.
- Develop an order of worship and bulletin that is understandable, easy to read, and follows a routine.
- Choose Bible stories that are conducive to dramatic involvement and interaction.
- Draw on everyone's creativity to involve all participants in new ways.
Find out more about Friendship Community here.
Milton Stoltzfus has been a member of the ADN board of directors since the organization's beginning in 2004. Milt works as coordinator of spiritual nurture and community life for Friendship Community in Lititz, Pennsylvania. He attends New Beginnings Brethren in Christ Church at Ephrata, Pennsylvania.
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