Sunday, August 21, 2016

Drive-by

Before we moved back to L.A., we decided we'd just go to the church we had attended before we moved to Seattle a decade ago. I had worked there, we had friends who still attended. And, watching a video on their website, we saw that they had just completed a major overhaul of their children's building, including a sensory room for special needs children. That was exciting - Ben had attended the same church with us in Seattle from his birth and they grew with us, experienced his diagnosis with us, ultimately creating a special classroom for him and a few other special needs children. Well, not just a classroom, but a ministry, recruiting and training volunteers who just really loved our little guy and gave him a safe and enjoyable place to be since the church service wasn't appropriate (too loud for his sensory processing issues), the age-relevant class wasn't appropriate (with the expectations of orderly quiet behavior and learning) and the nursery wasn't appropriate (he was getting larger than the other children and their unpredictability and outbursts didn't help - probably the final straw was when a little girl got right in his face and screamed - he reacted poorly and I'm not exactly what transpired but the little girl cried and wouldn't you know it, her grandma was the volunteer in the nursery that day). So, finding a church that could welcome Ben with open arms was probably one of the bigger stressors for me when we committed to this move and the "are we doing the right thing?" worry would float into mind again.

At the point we were leaving 10 years ago, it was a struggle for the church - the Senior Pastor had clashed with the Elders one time too many and either decided to leave or was asked to leave. Some other great people had departed just before or just after him. There had been some great temporary pastors in the pulpit and just as we were leaving, one was being considered. Ten years later, he was still there, so when it was difficult to attend our local church in person, we started streaming this church instead of our typical standby (Saddleback). A week after we arrived, all of the children Rachel's age would be going to camp, so we registered her.

On our first Sunday back, we all got in the car, drove to the parking garage near the church, boarded the shuttle and rode to the church. We met a greeter who led us around, helped us get our children signed up and took us up to Ben's class. I briefly had a chance to say hi to another Pastor/coworker who was still there who remembered me and we got to chat briefly before I had to run to catch up with my family. At the room where we were to drop-off Ben, they seemed to hurry us through the process and so we figured they just had it handled, so we didn't get a chance to explain anything about him to them. Then the greeter led us to where Rachel's class met in a different building. We met the program leader and he welcomed us and Ben. Then we went to church.

After church, we went to collect Ben but first encountered an adult volunteer nursing an ice pack and learned that they had given Ben crayons and then tried to get one out of his mouth. Big mistake. Don't give Ben anything you're not prepared for him to put in his mouth. We didn't have a long time to talk to the leader of the program, but promised to email during the week.

That week, Lori did email a lengthy email, explained all about Ben, observed about the non-existent sensory room and more.

The next Sunday, we returned to the campus. I stayed with Ben during the entire service and guided him through everything from the singing, teaching and a craft project. The program leader talked to me briefly, said she had received Lori's note but that she hadn't responded.

Rachel went away to camp. We received updates by email and links to photo galleries.

And then it was Sunday again and it was our third Sunday. This time Lori stayed with Ben the entire service. Again the program leader acknowledged Lori's email but didn't actually address anything Lori had said.

At that point, we felt this wasn't the right church for us. We searched on Google and we asked in our neighborhood's Facebook page. Both pointed us to a different church with a thriving Special Needs Ministry.

So, every Sunday for the past six weeks we've gone to that church.

The first church we attended has made no effort to contact us - no updates from Jr. High ministry, no response to Lori's letter, nothing to acknowledge that we'd indicated that we were visitors or that we contributed financially. It's really weird, that complete lack of acknowledgement. I know it's a large church and that we presented some potentially challenging things to accommodate, but the complete radio silence isn't some grand conspiracy to keep quiet in the hopes that we'll go away, just something missing from that church where there's no effort made to welcome new visitors.

So now every Sunday, we've gone to this new church instead, a 25-minute drive that takes us right past that first church.
Post a Comment