1.  Able to discern the central theme of a scripture text.
  2. Able to find one central idea that can be applied to the lives of members who are developmentally disabled from the scripture text.
  3. Able to find an attention getting device that will apply to the central theme.
  4. Able to explain or describe the scripture passage with clarity and brevity as it relates to the central theme.
  5. Able to give instructive points that can be applied to the everyday life of a mentally challenged person.
  6. Able to end the message with a clear direction or a clear statement of God’s purpose in the scripture as it applies to the life of the congregation.
  7. Able to deliver the message within the allotted time period–usually no more than 15 minutes.
  8. Able to deliver the message with simplicity and clarity of speech.
  9. Able to enunciate clearly so congregation can understand the thoughts presented.
  10. Able to preach the given text rather than preach to a certain person or about a certain failing or sin of the congregation or individual.
  11. Continually striving to fully identify with the hurts and needs of the disability community.
  12. Able to interject humor within the context of the scripture.

These are 12 point that Special Gathering believes are needed to be able to preach to people who are mentally challenged.  What are others that you believe are important?

Several years ago, my friend who is a wonderful Catholic and an elder at Special Gathering, gave me a book.  I’m not sure of the title or the author because as soon as I finished it, I lent the book to another friend and it hasn’t returned home. 

The book was written by a Quaker pastor, living in a small, upper New York State community.  While my views of many things were radically different from his, I have no doubts that this pastor is a deeply, dedicated believer.  As a Conservative, Evangelical Christian, I was fascinated by the characterization of my scriptural and traditional viewpoints as seen through the eyes of this liberal pastor. 

While everything was crouched in delightfully, loving humor, I was stung more than once to see how others view a presentation of truths with which I am quite comfortable.  It was as though a light had been beamed on my attitudes and beliefs that exposed dimensions which were unattractive and downright ugly. 

As a result, I looked with fascination at the controversy stirring and the snippets of the sermons of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama’s pastor.  As a conservative, I’ve hated when the media or either political party has torn apart things which have been said in the context of my belief system.  And I find that I’m equally uncomfortable with what is happening with Pastor Wright.

I remember there was a fire storm about 20 or 30 years ago when Christian TV personality, Pat Robertson prayed to keep a hurricane from the shores of Virginia.  When the storm moved, it went up the coast, gathered strength and destroyed much of the New England coastline.  Horrible accusations were hurled at Robertson for selfishly thinking only of his region of the country and being totally uncaring about the areas which were hit by the storm. 

Now, it appears as the liberal political spectrum has desired to be more closely identified with the Christian moral arena, it’s their turn to be criticized.  At The Special Gathering we function within the cloistered, sub-culture of the mentally challenged community.  Because of the successful civil rights battles fought by African-American pastors,  we have been affected by Afro-Centric Theology.

 Without pointing fingers at anyone else, I cannot help but wonder:

How much of what I’ve written and said in regard to the discrimination foisted upon mentally challenged persons could be viewed as hateful, anti-social rhetoric?

How loving am I in presenting my viewpoints regarding the hurts leveled against the population I serve?

Is the current uproar another indication of how important it is to guard with our very lives the truths of the scriptures?  Is making the truths of scripture real to our particular sub-culture ever an excuse for not being true to the text?

When we are enveloped into a cloistered sub-culture such as the mentally challenged community, how often does group-think cause us to go places that do not make sense to other people?

How different do things that are said within our own sub-culture sound when heard by people not familiar with that sub-culture?