Sunday 31 July 2016

The Beauty of Autistic Worship and Spirituality

I am blessed with knowing some of the most creative, spiritual, caring and loving people.
Many of them are autistic. 
Quite a few of them are people of deep faith, either in Christian religion or in other major world faiths.
Occasionally I encounter a myth about autistic worship.  For example, a Priest who described autistic worship as 'a pantomine', as inauthentic, as non-listening.
Occasionally I encounter a myth about autistic people and our relationship with God.  For example quoting a passage about how it's amazing that humans can 'even' see God in people like me. 

Occasionally I hear from Christians who want to put people like me in to a category with drug users and sex workers.  There was one such person only yesterday.   In writing, too.

It's extraordinary. Where does this hate and othering come from? 

I lead worship.  As a lay leader, and in small groups.  Carefully considering the theme.  Carefully pondering the group and all those in it.  Allowing space to pray, to explore God in silence, to listen to his word, to use senses to explore.

Here's a small sample of some of the materials I put together and write for the worship sessions. These are bringing together a group of non-autistic Christian people, before evenings of prayer, learning and sharing together.  It can take hours to find the right images, the right prayers for the readings that evening.  It's a blessing and an honour.

Here's some of the sensory materials I've used with worship. 

Hundreds of others, of all kinds, over the years.

And, as we know, worship should never be about the leader.  It's about letting God be heard.  It's about enabling people to feel safe, loved, able to explore their faith.  Able to grow towards confidence and community.

Now if I can do that, and know that, as an autistic person, how is that 'inauthentic', how is it a 'pantomime'?  How is it a special gift to non-autistic people to be able to see God in 'even ' people like me?  I'm not even a Priest, nor do I have the wish to be one.  I couldn't speak properly before I was ten.  I have multiple disabilities including autism and a journey with cancer treatment, spinal scoliosis, faceblindness.

Please, please think before you write.  Because words that 'other' and dishonour our faith, as autistic people...our gifts, our love....those are not words sent from God.   

We are your friends.   And ours is a world as wonderful, as entrancing, as faith-filled, as your own.   That you may miss it?  That's a shame.  

So many lovely clergyfriends who are autistic.  Quietly, gently, kindly, prayerfully, responsibly...bringing autism's strengths to the work for God.

Watch.  Listen.  Learn.  Go quietly.  Be patient.  Enjoy prayer alongside us. 

Enjoy that-of-God which is autistic.