by Beryl Forgay in Regina, Saskatchewan
Margaret, my daughter, has been blessed with a very accepting and accepted place in the church we regularly attend. She has Down Syndrome, with some of its limitations, but because of her inclusion in all aspects of the congregational life, she has gained great experience in many activities.
A predictable liturgy seems to have been important. Margaret prefers not to have too many changes. Since ours is a rather conservative congregation, we have kept the older liturgy alive and so do not often use extremes of expression or change. It is Biblically based and through it many of us have continued to find in the 'old words' new insights into our faith and in God's plans for us as well.
When new or extemporaneous prayers are inserted, it has been a help to her when they have been simple, short and concrete because that allows Margaret to understand and therefore to participate in offering her wishes to God.
Those who have had to live within themselves as much as many do, with various types of disability, must be very encouraged to know that they are not alone and that God cares deeply about every stimulus and every breath and that He is personally with him in his pilgrimage. I think that many of us who can interact with easily with others, are distracted from this truth so that we lose the awareness of His presence. I have been amazed and delighted often by Margaret's simple but deep wisdom on the subject. The intricacies of theology are irrelevant to her and only God's love and her need to reflect it matter to her.
Margaret has also benefited from participating in the social aspects of church life. Conviviality expressed in celebrations of all kinds, pot-luck suppers, musical evenings, as well as the weekly “coffee hour” after church have allowed her to interact with others in a natural setting. She also gets great pleasure from helping with these activities. Serving food, tidying up, and even washing dishes are activities she looks on as “making her contribution” just as anyone else might do. The fact that others appreciate her efforts helps to make her feel that she belongs and that is tremendously important—being part of God’s family!
The willingness of a congregation to include those with any type of handicap is important. From my experience and from observation of Margaret’s Christian life, that willingness has given her strength and much understanding both from and towards others.
She is not the only one to gain however.
I believe she has been able to show the many friends she has that handicaps
do not prevent real growth in competence, personality and in spiritual
understanding. I hope their experience with her will help them to accept
others who are different as well.