Richard Stimson has come up with a list of questions he developed that which he believes effect how people evaluate worship.  These questions will be the jumping in place for the Special Gathering Retreat held on Friday, October 30 and Saturday October 31.  Here are the questions.  Perhaps you have others that you believe should also be considered.  In fact, feel free to hop into the wrestling match.

  1. What do we/I like?
  2. What is educationally sound?
  3. What is theologically correct?
  4. What is meaningful to those attending?
  5. What does God likes?
  6. Disability Sensibilities?
  7. Good enough for retarded people?
  8. Does it empower mentally challenged persons?
  9. Is it being well done?
  10. Being mystical?
  11. Other  

Stimson says that he has not been original in what he is doing.  He took work by Dr. Harold Westing for Denver Seminary and applied it to what Special Gathering does, hoping this will stimulate conversation and reflection regarding effective worship within the mentally challenged community.

Stimulating conversation in which I am a part but where I don’t agree sets my brain to whirling in a good way.  I’ve never been a part of a debate team but I think I would really thrive under that type of experience. 

There is a problem with my debating skills, however.  I’m not able to control to emotions that slip into my voice.   I sound extremely angry, when I feel the excitement of debating.   There is no measured meter to my tones but quivery, shrill underpinnings that shout, “Don’t you dare disagree with ME!”

Therefore, I was excited today to be discussing the concept of worship within the mentally challenged community and what should we strive to include in a worship setting.  What makes an appropriate worship service for our members?  Our conversation whirled around praise and worship in song.  Because the folks debating have worked together for several decades, we understand each other quite well.  Therefore, during much of the conversation, we spoke mostly in shorthand, as good friends often do.

There were, however, several items that we touched on.  First, do the members of Special Gathering need some form of affirmation of faith?  If so, what would this look like?  What principles of the faith should be understood by every Christian?  How can these be translated into a simplified form so that people with developmental disabilities can easily understand?

Second, we discussed the appropriate types of music that will most effectively minister Life to our members.  Are hymns (songs that teach about or minister to HIM) the best?  Do gospel (testimony) songs actually teach our members more effectively than hymns that instill theological principles about the personhood of God? While contemporary scripture choruses may be wonderfully singable, do our members actually understand such songs as “I Exalt Thee.” 

What about you?  What do you believe an appropriate worship service for the mentally challenged community would include?  We’d love for you to join in the conversation. And, as an added bonus, with the wonder of the Internet, you won’t even have to listen to my shakey, shrill voice, when I become excited.

In the Old Testament, most of the worship God subscribed for Israel stemmed from or happened during a meal.  I believe this means that something wonderful and probably supernatural revolves around sharing a meal with others.  Sociologist tell us that when the family stops eating together important bonds are broken. 

In our home, our children were required to eat with us at a sit down meal two times a day–breakfast and supper.  Of course, there were exceptions.  When my son played baseball, as a family, we indulged in hot dogs, potato chips and popcorn as we watched him bat and run the bases.  After the game was over, he, too, would be rewarded with the same unhealthy but yummy meal.

The other day I was asked again, “Why do people think they MUST feed our members?”  Someone else stepped in to answer the question, remarking, “Because they love to eat so much.”    

While that may be true, I don’t think the members at Special Gathering, which is a ministry within the mentally challenged community, like to eat any more than other people.  Eating is a natural drive and remember we will die if we don’t eat.  Therefore, I’m deeply grateful that God not only makes it enjoyable but an essential element of our well-being. 

I’ve come to believe that much of the weight problem in our nation may not come from a lack of nutrition as much as a lack of nourishment of the soul and spirit.  When the human connections aren’t made with God and each other, we are left wanting more and more. 

Have you found that having a meal together enriches your program?  What about it?  Do you agree or disagree with my thesis?