Came across an article here about a young man who was escorted out of a worship service because his “disability” became a “distraction.” Worth a read and a ponder.
It is interesting that I came across this article now because I’ve been thinking about just this kind of issue as of late. The intern I have working with me over the summer, Tara, is majoring in special education and one of the things she’s focusing on is finding ways to interweave her passion for this field with a ministry context. I suppose this has made me more sensitive to these issues and that is a good thing.
In keeping with that idea, she has begun signing portions of our liturgy. This week, she did the Lord’s Prayer and she’s working on the words of institution, Great Thanksgiving and a few other pieces which she plans to add as the summer goes on.
In our liturgy, the Lord’s prayer comes just after the words of institution.
…do this for the remembrance of me.
Our Father, who art in heaven….
We’d spent some time during the week talking about the best place for her to stand so that she would be easily visible to those who might need to see her while still being positioned in such a way that they could also see the altar and the bread and wine when they were lifted up. I confess that I worried that someone might complain about this being a “distraction.” It doesn’t really matter because we are doing it anyway. Not just because it is the intern’s summer project but because it may, indeed, be a valuable ministry into which God is calling us. More discernment is needed, of course, but it merits exploration.
This Sunday was Pentecost and every time this festival comes around, I am reminded of being in a small village in the mountains of El Salvador and sharing bread and wine with the people of the small village in which we had been living. Do this for the remembrance of me…. and then the Our Father spoken in English and Spanish, all tangled together. I remember thinking: it must have been sort of like that at Pentecost.
I lowered the cup, folded my hands and bowed my head as I stood behind the altar and began the prayer. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Tara signing. It must have been sort of like that at Pentecost.
I also noticed that not everyone had their eyes closed or heads bowed too lowly. Some were praying with eyes open, watching the words in motion; the lovely dance of hands and body that is sign language. If the words of prayer are a distraction then yes, this was a distraction. A distraction from our small worries and intervening thoughts that pull us away from worship. A distraction from a world that seeks to pull us out of prayer altogether. A distraction from those things that made me forget for a moment that worship is, itself, movement of mind and spirit and heart and, yes, sometimes even the body–that it is mean to distract us from our inward turning broken nature and look instead upon the Word of God.
A beautiful distraction.
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