Changing the Way We Do Church

come-as-you-are

It’s no secret that church attendance in the United States is declining. Many articles have been written about the “nones,” people with no church affiliation, and the “dones,” people who used to be very active in their congregations but just got burned out by the way that we do church. What does the church have to offer in this time where institutions are failing, where money is tighter for most families, where people are working harder and feeling more stressed, where many feel isolated and lonely even as social media expands?

We at Parables Community believe that Jesus teaches us a different way of living – a way of living in a community of mutual concern, of creating a meaningful life, of helping to make the world a better place for all people, and of resting in the grace of God. We start by modeling what we would like to see happening in the world.

At Parables, we try to create a worship service and an environment that is comfortable for all people, including those with sensory issues. We open up the social norms for worship. We think it’s more important for everyone feel welcome and accepted than it is for everyone to sit still and be quiet. It’s a no-shushing zone. We appreciate the gifts that each person brings to the table. What might seem like a small gift can actually turn out to be a huge gift to the community and to God. We are richer for including all people. At Parables, we all have the opportunity to serve God and one another.

The truth is, we’re not just creating this community for folks with disabilities. We are creating it for all of us. We need everyone. And everyone needs a place where they are loved and accepted just the way they are. Everyone needs to know that they are valued and can contribute. We make each other’s lives better.

So how about you? Are you looking for a place to belong, serve, and be encouraged? A place where you and your loved ones will be accepted and appreciated for who you are? That is the kind of community we are trying to create. We’d love to meet you.

Halloween and Expectations

trick-or-treat

There the life we expected to have and then there’s the life we actually have. This is true of all families but perhaps especially true of those who have a family member with special needs. That doesn’t mean we aren’t blessed many times over. We are just blessed in a different way than we expected. Changing our expectations around holidays can be difficult. Here’s a post from one mom about letting go of expectations and enjoying the blessing of her life and family at Halloween.

https://themighty.com/2016/10/autism-and-halloween-accepting-that-my-son-wont-wear-a-costume/

Quirky

just-be-quirky

I have to admit, I like people who are quirky. Maybe that’s because I’m a little bit quirky myself. Really, the more you get to know people, you realize that everyone is unique. They all have their strengths and weaknesses, their passions and aversions. I confess I enjoy the company of those who wear their uniqueness flamboyantly – not that they always have a choice. I know that can feel uncomfortable, like being a turtle without a shell. I just want to say that I see you. I think you’re great. Thanks for being you. There’s no one else like you and you are needed. God needs you. We all need you. You’re an important, precious part of this world with unique gifts to bring to it. Here’s a little poem about the beauty of variety by Gerard Manley Hopkins.

Pied Beauty

Glory be to God for dappled things—

   For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;

       For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;

Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;

   Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;

       And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;

   Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)

      With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;

He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:

                                     Praise Him.

Whatever is going on today, I hope you receive God’s affirmation and blessing, and know that you are a gift.

Pastor Jeanne

Innovative Ministry Award

Parables Community is honored to have received a Special Mention for our ministry from the 2016 Prize fmccormick-prizeor Innovation, an award sponsored by McCormick Theological Seminary and the Center for Innovative Ministry. “The quality of this year’s entries was exceptional,” offered Director of the Center for Innovative Ministry Dr. Thomas Dickelman. “We received entries from throughout the country reflecting a broad range of ministries.  In most cases, the innovations began with a single idea that ultimately had multiple impacts.  Choosing just a few winners from among all the outstanding entries was a great challenge.”

 

Helicopter Parents and Interdependence

helicopter great wall

My daughter is studying Mandarin in Beijing for the summer. Recently she went with a new male Pakistani friend on a trip to visit the Summer Palace. Since I didn’t know this friend and she didn’t really either, I asked her to check in with me periodically during the day. Unfortunately, both her phone and her battery back-up died. She told her friend she was concerned about contacting me. He asked her if she was afraid of her parents. She said, “No. We’re really close, actually.” He said, “Oh, your mom is worried about you. She loves you. I thought that American parents didn’t care about their children. That they just all kind of did their own thing. You proved me wrong.” He let her use his phone to call me so that I didn’t worry.

Americans have an over-emphasis on independence that is cultural. It is not universal. And it is not necessarily healthy. I am so tired of reading articles about helicopter parents and the push for children to be independent. For children with special needs, independence means different things and many of them will never be fully independent. It’s questionable whether being fully independent is healthy for any person. Interdependence, relying on one another, seems emotionally, spiritually, and socially more healthy to me.

My first encounter with being accused of helicopter parenting was when my daughter had just turned three years old. I had started working during the day a couple of days a week. My daughter didn’t like to say “goodbye,” when I dropped her off. It was too emotionally hard for her to look back, to acknowledge the pain of the moment. So in order to have a little warm embrace before I dropped her off, I used to carry her from the car to the door. Then I put her down and she ran off to play, not looking back. The day care provider said, “She is too old to be carried,” and implied that this was the reason for my daughter’s extreme tantrums. (Many years later we found out the tantrums were autistic meltdowns.)

Fast forward to my daughter’s first year at college. I had read so much advice to parents about freshman year. Don’t call your child. Let them struggle. Encourage independence. I followed this advice and kept a positive, low profile – waiting for my daughter to call me. My heart broke at fall break when my daughter asked me, “Mom, do you miss me at all?” Of course I’d been missing her! She’s my only child and she’d just moved out of the house. But from my behavior she had no idea that I even cared.

When my daughter struggled the following spring and was diagnosed as autistic, I contacted the student disability office at her college. They made her sign a release to talk with me, which is understandable. What’s not understandable is the totally dismissive way I was treated in trying to get her some support and accommodations. They were very patronizing and kept stressing that they didn’t want to talk with me but only wanted to talk with her, that she needed to be the one to ask for help. I kept trying to explain to them that she is autistic. Communicating and being able to ask for help is precisely her problem. We finally gave up on the college disability office as being completely useless for any kind of advocacy. And I helped create a network of support for her outside the college and encouraged her to talk with her professors individually. She now loves her college life and is really looking forward to starting her senior year in a couple of weeks.

This summer studying in Beijing my daughter has had a lot of hard things happen. She spent nine hours, took four cab rides, and went to three hospitals in order to get medical care for an ear infection. She was left behind at a field trip to the Great Wall and had to find her own way home via van, bus, and subway. A young man assaulted her in the garden outside her dorm at night – she fought him off and got back to the dorm safely. But when I post on my Facebook wall that I can’t wait for her to get home, I get a lot of patronizing messages from well-meaning people that say, “There, there. You’ve got to let go, Mom.” Sorry. No I don’t. I let go enough to help her follow her dream and go study in China. That doesn’t mean I don’t need to worry about her and try my best to keep her safe while she is there. She’s already planning to return to China and is determined not to let anything interfere with her learning. I can be proud of her resourcefulness and resilience, while still being acutely aware of her vulnerability.

Before you accuse someone of being a helicopter parent, you might consider that the child/teen/young adult has some special needs of which you are unaware. It’s questionable whether the push for independence is a healthy model for families in any case but in families with special needs it is not desirable and sometimes not even possible.

I vividly remember meeting with my daughter’s autism counselor. I said to him ruefully, “I guess I’m a helicopter mom.” He said, “That’s good. The patients of mine who do the best are patients who have helicopter moms.” Helicopter parents advocate for their children with special needs. They get accommodations, better school placements, therapies, and resources. They help their children surpass expectations in development. They enable their children to be more independent by giving them the support that they need to grow and to learn. I am constantly in awe of parents who advocate for their kids. So, here’s to helicopter moms! You’re doing an amazing job, you pushy, controlling broads. (And kudos to all you helicopter dads!) Just remember that you can also ask for help if you need it. Here’s to interdependence. We all need one another to live healthy, happy, and full lives.

Pastor Jeanne

More thoughts about interdependence:

http://www.christiantoday.com/article/why.do.we.prefer.independence.over.interdependence.its.making.us.all.sad/40321.htm