mental disability and praying for logie awards

Last night I went along to a church service with friends while staying in Brisbane. The group I joined was made up of 60% people with mental disabilities.

I was told that a number of the people present had previously attended particular Pentecostal churches, but having been prayed for for healing over varied periods of time without success some had been ostracised by these communities.

If order and predictability were what someone was after in a church service this was not the place for them – some congregants danced alternatively in the middle of songs, other shouted out comments during the proceedings and one blessed soul prayed that God would make them famous and give them a Logie* award. Two members even declared their marital engagement during the announcement time, though I was told that this was a regular occurrence, often between different people.

In the midst of such “chaos” I must tell you that I sensed the presence of God more potently than I have in a long time.

This was a group that clearly loved one another, where people of different classes came together to care for each other and where preference was given to the “Other.”

The mentally disabled among the group would surely have been marginalised, if not rejected, in so many other settings. Here they were embraced. In fact they ran the service, leading us in some of the most inspired and profound liturgy I have experienced in a long time.

This is what the kingdom of God looks like. When walls built up by the dominant culture are broken down, where the disadvantaged are given dignity and treated like full human beings, where the interests of the more powerful are not imposed on the “weak,” there you will find God’s kingdom present on earth.

The Bible might call it caring for the least of these (Matthew 25), or giving greater honour to the unpresentable parts of the body (1 Corinthians 12).

Perhaps it would call it two or three being gathered in Jesus’ name, but for real (Matthew 18, Luke 12).

It might even call it having neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male nor female [perhaps disabled nor “normal”?] (Galatians 3).

I call it beautiful.

MCA


* For all my non-Australian friends, the Logie Awards are the Australian television industry awards, named after John Logie Baird (the inventor of the television). I suppose it would be the Australian equivalent of the Emmy Awards in the U.S.
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Posted on November 21, 2011, in Church/Ecclesiology, Haphazard and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Matty, I work at a school with a big program for kids with mental illnesses and developmental delays. To see those guys interact with the sports kids, and how everyone loves and cares for each other (including the sports kids caring for the others) is like seeing the kingdom of God right before your eyes. Everyone is equal, everyone is unique, everyone is accepted. I think it’s due to creating a culture of integration where it is the norm. It’s one of the main reasons I wanted my kids to go to a school that had a large non WASP population as well as learning how to interact with kids who need extra support.

  2. Hi Matt – would that happen to be St Andrew’s in West End? I went there more than 10 years ago as part of the Waiter’s Union Christian Community Course, and your blog post echoes my exact thoughts and feelings.

  3. Dave – You picked it. What an incredible community!

    Perhaps however it says something about the Church at large that you are so easily able to identify the particular community…

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