Wow-Yesterday was Easter. Until this year, arguably one of the most heavily packed church seasons. A day that typically, any autistic would be super nervous about since 1) there is an overload of sensory stimulants from increased volume of people, food (honestly things that smell horrible) and energies; 2) it is hard to read people on what their doing because it is a holiday and neurotypical people like to communicate differently on these type of days and 3) did I mention the sensory stuff? Did I? OK-just checking.
As my previous blog discussed, my son colored in my Bible. And part of our discussion came up about what we worship. We determined that while the Bible is sacred and holy, we do not worship it, the paper that it is on or the people who wrote it. We are called to worship God. And it got me thinking– what would worship look like from an autistic point of view? I actually have been thinking this a lot–when I got to church, trying to wonder if what we’re communicating would translate to someone who communicates differently. It’s not something a lot of people think about normally– let alone in church.
Well, first is how we define worship. It is adoration to God. I would argue it does not need to be proper. It does need to be set apart. Something of praise and singing (maybe) and thanksgiving. Hey-King David danced naked in front of the Ark of the Covenant in worship of God (yep-look it up and NO, I do not recommend this at all in public.) But other than that-it really doesn’t have any guidelines. Prayer is part of worship. Singing definitely. Reading of the Word and a message for sure. And even communion is part of worship-gathering together to eat at God’s Table. when you break it down-it truly is fantastic. I love worship. probably my favorite thing to do. But that’s because I’m musically talented.
For an autistic though–any one of those things could be a trigger or a sensory overload or the opposite where its a hyper focus and they (**cough me cough**) cannot stop. (As a side note: I would have no problem living in a sanctuary or church. It’s always beautiful in my mind. Maybe i have all those overnight sleepovers at church to thank as a kid, who knows.) So I think as Christians we need to thinks/see/live worship differently. Just as we are experiencing now. Maybe for an autistic, it is a prayer room. Where one spends time in silence to God. Or maybe its a blank canvas with all types of markers and crayons. Or drums set up perfectly in line to bang against for a good 20 minutes. Or to just be silent. Talking is not necessary for worship. Or maybe its turning off the lights. Or using a favorite smell (oils are good for this) for incense to focus your mind and senses on God.
I wish I had photos of this–but after I traveled to Munich, Germany, I was part of running a 24-7 prayer room for a week in the downtown area of my school town. We were allowed in a location that was going out for lease. We were able to build it up a little and maintained a small bed/sleeping area for the overnight security and managed to keep people praying for an entire week. And while it did not last long ( there are 24-7 prayer rooms going on around the world actually)– I felt that it was more of a 24-7 prayer/worship room from the way we ran it. We have a bible reading corner with different types of Bibles, a map of the world where you could pin things to pray for those around the world. We had a news source area if you were motivated to prayer for certain situations. And we did have worship a couple times, including communion for those who wanted to participate. (if you want to see what is being done, here’s the group: https://www.24-7prayer.com . Or read the book “Red Moon Rising”-dang the imagery is great)
Then second-what do we worship. Well, that’s easy (you’d think). We worship God. But sometimes during the week, in other realms, we don’t really worship him. We worship the green coffee god, or the money god, or the “i need to fit in or be popular’ god. Worship should be God focused. If you get lost about it, pray. Seek out healthy places of worship. For a while, I couldn’t focused so I listed to a christian radio station. now-don’t get me started I feel the Christian Rock scene is complete outdated and needs a revamp and redefinition-but-I did it to help keep me focused on God. And it helped. I don’t worship my Bible. But having its pages to interact and explore with helped me reopen myself to worship. Circling back around to the original comments–My son getting involved in the only way he knew as an autistic 3year old kid was a little worship together as a family. Sometimes I hope he comes out of childhood remembering.
If you’re autistic and Christian-let me hear your ideas for worship? Anything you’d like that doesn’t happen at your church? Anything you love about your services?