Thursday, August 2, 2007

Special Needs Ministry

While in Atlanta my wife and I went to a special exhibit at the Michael C. Carlos Museum on the Emory campus. There were several Jewish and Christian artifacts from the Holy Land. Since we have been to Israel a few times, we really didn't see anything new, but the exhibit was well done.

What we did see that caught my eye was a projection of various artistic renditions of the Last Supper. One that touched me was done in 1998 by Raouf Mamedov, a film director from Moscow. He used several models with Downs Syndrome to replicate Leonardo Da Vinci's famous "Last Supper." The full scene is made up of five separate photographs.

I don't know Mamedov's reason for using such models, but it spoke to me about how we include (or usually ignore) people with special needs in matters of faith. So many churches have a family with a special needs member, but rarely do churches know how to offer support or how to adapt services and facilities to offer inclusion.

I serve on a Board of Trustees for our Conference's Aldersgate Special Needs Ministry. We have been working for over four years to begin building residential facilities for adults with special needs. I never knew there could be so many barriers, so much red-tape, or so many people who would rather ignore the need.

We finally got our first home underway this week in Columbia, SC. But after months of getting all the right permits, a neighbor filled a complaint, and the Zoning Board issued a stop order on our building permit! The Home Builders Association of Columbia is generously donating the materials and construction of the home, we've gained great community support, and now this!

Just like Raouf Mamedov showed in his photograph, persons with special needs do indeed have a place at the Lord's table. I wonder when we will make sure they have a place in our hearts, our churches, and our communities.
(You can view more of Mamedov's work at the Aidan Gallery website. )

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