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The Feast: A Place for All to Belong

09.25.18 | Special Needs | by Vance Gilmore

The Feast: A Place for All to Belong

    The Feast is sensory-friendly. Instead of applause, the sign from American Sign Language for clapping is used. The lighting at The Feast is soft and other accommodations are made to be sure the service is sensory-friendly, as well as accessible.  

    Would you like to visit The Feast?

    Based on the heavenly feast to which all are invited and included, The Feast is a worship service in which everyone belongs. It is our hope and prayer that this service is a welcome place for those with special needs, their families and friends, and all who have a heart for special needs. Join us each Sunday at 5:00 pm in Room 120, at the Mockingbird Campus of Highland Park United Methodist Church.

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    In the July 20, 2018 Issue of “Christianity Today,” there was an article entitled Study:  US Churches Exclude Children With Autism, ADD/ADH.  The article stated, “America’s religious communities are failing children with chronic health conditions such as autism, learning disabilities, depression, and conduct disorders.” The article went on to say, “The odds of a child with autism never attending religious services were nearly twice as high as compared to children with no chronic health conditions."  

    When Senior Minister, Rev. Paul Rasmussen read the article in “Christianity Today” he was struck with the feeling, “We got it right; we are ahead of the curve.” Paul was referring to his feelings about The Feast—a weekly worship service held at Highland Park United Methodist Church for those with special needs, their families and friends, and anyone interested in experiencing an uplifting service.

    Rev. Ramsey Patton, the founder of and leader for the Feast, believes in empowering those with chronic health conditions. At The Feast, those who read the scripture, assist with the communion sacrament, handle the offering, and the communion servers are folks who deal with autism, downs syndrome, a physical challenge or other need.  

    As Rev. Rasmussen says, “This is why we do what we do.”

    The music at The Feast is provided by The Kingdom Singers, an inclusive choir made up of individuals from all walks of life, ranging in age from four to seventy, who sing to their heart's content. Every Sunday at The Feast the Kingdom Singers enter singing, “When The Saints Go Marching In.”

    The Feast is in its third year of providing a place to worship for the entire family.  

    One member of The Feast had this to say, “My wife and I were unable to attend church much at all for probably 5-6 years due to Margaret’s special needs impacting her ability to be present. Our former church did not have a specialized program or a separate place for persons with disabilities. Therefore our daughter would be in the nursery helping the ladies with the babies. Eventually, she would get bored and wouldn’t stay in the room.  We just got tired of fighting it and having to make an early (often loud) exit from church."

    "The Feast has given us a community in which we all feel very comfortable and welcome, including our daughter.  This has really gone a long way toward helping us feeling accepted and respected, the likes of which we’ve never experienced. We're so thankful the church and its members value us and this community.”

    The Feast is sensory-friendly. Instead of applause, the sign from American Sign Language for clapping is used. The lighting at The Feast is soft and other accommodations are made to be sure the service is sensory-friendly, as well as accessible.  

    The Feast builds community, gives social support and the opportunity for social interaction for church members who have disabilities and others.  However, the greatest thing The Feast does is provide a welcoming, spirit-filled service where anyone can learn and grow.

    The Feast is truly open to all and does not exclude anyone. As Ramsey says every Sunday, "All are welcome here."


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