PF Personal 2
Angel Goes to Church: Tolerance From the Pulpit

Angel Goes to Church: Tolerance From the Pulpit

Angel was a quiet baby and based on my experiences at church, he was expected to remain quiet. Back then, we could attend church and get through a service without being banished to the lobby because someone thought that Angel was being disruptive.

Angel at his Baptism

As Angel got older, his behavior in church began to change as his attention span got shorter and shorter. He would squeal when everyone else was quiet and he would jump up and down on the pews. He was being a kid!

During this time, we got several glares from old ladies basically telling us to get Angel out, so they could hear the Word of God in peace.

Every time this happened, I would take Angel out into the lobby until the sermon was over. Our time in the lobby made me very angry. I was angry because I felt that the church should’ve had some kind of child care or at least a Sunday school for young children. I was also angry because I felt that Christians should be more empathetic instead of intolerant and judgmental. I know that Jesus would’ve have welcomed Angel into his church no matter what sounds he made.

I guess I was too energetic to be a part of the main service.

Eventually, I became one of those Christians who only went to church during Easter, the holidays, or when family members came to visit. We did find another church with childcare but it was far away from where we lived. I remember going there on Angel’s birthday. After the service, one of the volunteers in the childcare room asked me if  Angel was on medication. This was a complete turn off.  I guess that was her way of saying that he had been a handful.

After Angel was diagnosed with autism, our church attendance decreased even more. I grew more and more apprehensive about finding a church that was “autism-friendly.”

On top of all of this, I have had to deal with an unspoken perception in my family, that I am not living a full life because I am not attending church every Sunday.

This past Sunday, we went to church with my siblings who were visiting for the weekend. My mom had told me that this church was very welcoming to children with autism. They are even exploring starting an autism ministry.

When we entered the main church building, we were directed to take Angel to an adjacent building where they were conducting Sunday school. As soon as we entered the room, I got nervous. There were four little children and three adults sitting quietly at a table going through some children’s bible story books.

The first thing I thought was that there was no way that Angel would just sit still for any Sunday school lesson. I promptly announced to everyone in the room that Angel is on the autism spectrum, so he may not be able sit still or fully participate.

Then, one of the teachers replied, “Oh, it is okay. We have a few of them here.” I let her reference to my son as a “them” slide. Once again, I was picking my battles. Angel tried to follow us when we were leaving and we reassured him that he will be okay and we will see him later.

I was anxious during the first half of the service. I kept wondering what Angel was doing and if they were being nice to him. I am sure that they were but I wondered anyway. I also wondered if Angel was sitting still at least some of the time. I knew he did not have the language to tell me, so all I could do was wonder.

During the latter half of the service, the ushers brought the children back into the main church. I was glad to see that Angel was smiling and in a great mood. He spent the rest of the service making loud sounds, kissing me and his dad on our cheeks, and asking us for HI-FIVES.

I had to smile when a young lady sang a solo and while everyone was clapping, Angel clapped and said, “Good Job!” At one point he yelled, “I Want Tickle!” In the midst of all this, there was one old lady who kept turning back and glaring at us. I glared back. Then, there was another lady sitting behind us who called Angel a “good boy” and said he had a lot of energy.

I tried to quiet him down. We all did. The pastor even told me from the pulpit to leave Angel alone. “He is okay,” she said. I hope the old lady who had been glaring at us heard what the pastor said. The pastor’s reassurance that it was okay for Angel to be himself meant so much to us.

Angel this past Sunday after church.

After the service, the pastor told me that they have four other children in the congregation who are autistic and that one parent just told her that their child was just diagnosed with autism. She went on to explain why she told me to let Angel be. She said that trying to quiet him may aggravate him more.

Wow! A place where Angel can be him self and it is okay. Maybe we have found our church home. Time alone will tell.

Please share the experiences you have had with your child in your place of worship.  I look forward to hearing
from you.

Sincerely,

Miz Kp

 

 

Miz Kp
Written by Miz Kp

9 Comment responses

  1. Avatar
    September 18, 2012

    I pray that you have found a church home for Angel where you can worship as a family. This is also an avenue for promoting greater awareness about autism. I look forward to hearing about the experiences of others.

    Reply

    • Avatar
      September 19, 2012

      Thank you for the kind words. I will acknowledge that the pastor at the church we went to was very nice and accepting of our child. Not knowing that Angel was one of 4 kids that attended the church was a great feeling. I hope the pastor’s endorsement will be the start of many more great stories to come. This really means alot to me and Angel and the family.

      Reply

  2. Avatar
    September 19, 2012

    I enjoyed reading this blog post. If I had a blog about my son my family would disown me. They called me crazy when I put him in inpatient care for a week three years ago because he was hurting himself. Those days are long gone but it’s a daily struggle to find some way to help him. I recently purchased a book and only just started reading it. It’s the guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. I like it so far. Aside from that you have hit a note with me. My family does not go to church anymore. We belonged to a nice christian non denominational church with classes for kids. My son was always being removed from the class for his behaivor. He cannot handle it. We have not found a church as of yet. It has been two years. I miss church. I miss working in the childrens ministry. My husband now works in a church; a baptist church. We attended one service. He cannot sit in the sanctuary. Since my husband is working on weekends and has to be at work during service it is now totally impossible to find a church we could attend while he is at work. We only have one family car and I do all the driving since my hubby has a seizure disorder.
    I’m happy to hear you have found a place. I hope that some day we can find one too. It’s heartbreaking that I cannot take my kids to church anymore. I grew up in church and I have family members that are pastors. My brother in law is in college for pastoral studies. He wants to have his own church some day. He wants us all to work for him. I would be the office manager and my hubby the maintenance manager. If I can, I will also make sure there is a class for Autistic children. I cannot wait until that day. It will be my greatest joy to offer such a service to kids and their parents.
    Bless you.

    Reply

  3. Avatar
    September 19, 2012

    FOUND THIS AFTER I POSTED: http://thinkingmomsrevolution.com/autism-and-the-church/

    Reply

  4. Avatar
    September 19, 2012

    Hi we have gone through a lot to find our church that we now call home. Well we’ve been through a lot in general. The journey with ASD is a continual learning experience for your family and every person who interacts with it. This couldn’t be more true when it comes to church. When my eldest son was first diagnosed We went to a church in our city. We had moved far away but refused to change churches because it was a great church It was a big church very friendly and had a lot going on to keep families involved. While my eldest was a baby it was easy to just pop him in the nursey that was well staffed. But as time went on the travel was just too much for us. We found our selves MIA more times then not. Often hearing from family that we were not keeping our priorities straight. We were often so drained by the weekday and keeping up with therapy and doctor appointments that to make the hour drive in the morning was too much. And then it happened our second son was diagnosed. As we appeared at church and people found out it was two kids not one tongues waged. Crushed we left church and tried to find local churches. We always found the understanding pastor but often yes the not so understanding parishioner. It made us feel like what’s the point. We found our selves sitting off in the distance never participating in church life while listening to the word and praying that we would find better days. We realized something in this time. We took a look around. There was none like us in the church. It wasn’t meaning to be unfriendly they just have never experienced having a family with SN. Our old church in the city was more diverse but gossipy. ( the only sin christians think they are entitled to is gossip I sware). But I thought we should not give up. You see it’s been our faith that has carried us through the hard days and nights. It’s been Jesus that has helped us when we were at our low points. To honor him and teach our kids to honor him is just as important to us as to teach our kids other life skills. So we went searching and we found it. I wonderful church that welcomed us. Yes people do fumble with words sometimes but after some of the other attitudes we have faced a few fumbles are aloud. After all if I want tolerance, patience and exceptance for my little ones then I need to practice what I preach and be all of those things back. My church is wonderful cause my pastor teaches his church and the people there are diverse. Oh and yes there are more SN families there. I shared this with you so you could see that you are not alone. That the challenges you have found in church life is not uncommon but one with time I hope will change. I think you have found your church. If we give up tring to make church life work for us then we are doing the god we serve a disservice. How else are churches going to learn acceptance and enclusion if we stay home. After all a church is as good as it’s people. So a diverse church with a great attitude is a great church indeed. Never give up girl never give up. This may be what god is challenging you with. Help lead the way.

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  5. Avatar
    September 19, 2012

    It’s wonderful that you have found a church and a pastor that are understanding and I hope you continue to attend with Angel. As far as the looks you might get – these people need to get over it! All kids make noise and people will just have to be understanding.

    Reply

  6. Avatar
    September 19, 2012

    We don’t go to church but my mom has taken Norrin to church – not for service but to walk around, say a silent prayer and leave. I know going to church is tough for many families. I am happy you found a place where you all feel comfortable!

    Reply

  7. Avatar
    September 19, 2012

    and to think I wanted to curse out the old lady behind me for shushing my child! Well, she was lucky I didnt. I must say that it is so hypocritical for churchgoers to gossip and pass judgment on others they way they do. I have been to quite a few churches and I witness how children react. Sometimes they make outbursts, sometimes they make a mess, and sometimes they cry. Honestly, can any one person, even a parent control a child’s every move, word and thought? The answer is no, and guess what? sometimes the child cant either. For those who get annoyed when kids make noises cries and outbursts, my advise is you better have tolerance for others and dont say a damn thing unless you are there to help out the situation because no one person is better than anyone else on earth. Church is supposed to be welcoming all comers and a place where all are accepted as they are.

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  8. Avatar
    October 04, 2012

    I sure hope that this church will continue to provide an open and welcoming place for your family. My mom takes my son with her to church, and he likes to jump up and down, babble, squeal and lay down on the floor while the Pastor preaches. Some people glare at her, but people with children deserve to attend to their spiritual growth too.

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