Be quiet. Sit still. Pay attention.
This is church for many children, but not at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Montclair NJ.
“All God’s Children: Raising Children of Faith Through Adaptive Worship” is a nondenominational Christian service for families with children of any age, and is especially appropriate for children with autism, Pervasive Developmental Disorders [PDD-NOS], attention deficit hyperactivity disorder [ADHD, ADD], Down Syndrome or any other developmental or physical challenge, according to the Rev. Andrew Butler.
“We are trying to be a barrier-free church,” Butler said. “Parents who have children with special needs quite often are not comfortable taking their children to worship. I think the behavior of their children is not always accepted or considered appropriate for a traditional worship service.”
But this service, which is being added to the church’s Sunday schedule, encourages noise makers, a spirited procession in the sanctuary, and a prayer rope for children that extends down the center aisle and brings them together, Butler said. The services will begin this Sunday, Jan. 8, at 9 a.m., and will continue on the second and fourth Sundays of each month. Participation is optional as each child’s ability permits, and there is wheelchair accessibility, as well as food and fellowship after the service.
The 30-minute service caters to children with short attention spans, Butler said, and worship is a lively combination of music, prayer, Bible stories, movement, and Communion. “The essential message of God’s love and joy for all God’s children is presented in a simplified, meaningful way,” Butler said. “This service brings together children with disabilities and children without disabilities to learn together, and from each other, in an atmosphere of understanding and acceptance.”