Church opens door to services for special needs

COLUMBIA CITY — St. John’s Lutheran Church, located south of town at 2465 W. Keiser Road, began a unique ministry about three months ago when they started traditional Lutheran services for people with intellectual and development disabilities. The church has members who are personally touched by such challenges, either themselves or with loved ones. They recognized, firsthand, the need for a comfortable place where folks would be welcomed, not feeling like they made others uncomfortable, and wouldn’t feel like people would stare at them. The service is intentionally designed with routine and familiarity. Pastor David Mommens, dressed in the robe and stole of the Advent season, calling attention to the colors of the season and pointing out the advent wreath. He reviewed, from the previous service, the process of crossing oneself, assuring congregants, “if you want to, you may; but you don’t have to.” Next, Mommens explained the invocation as thanking God, and what he was doing when he faced the altar and then when he turned to face the congregation. Mommens and St. John’s field worker, Karl Yahr, translated more difficult Biblical or religious terms like Baptist, Gentile, repentance and benediction. That was the tone of the entire service — simple, direct explanation of each point in the bulletin, and reassurances that they could be as participatory as they liked or could just watch and listen. People did indeed participate — the room filled with voices on every song. When Mommens described how John the Baptist ate grasshoppers, audible “blech’s!” could be heard around the sanctuary. Afterward, everyone made their way to the fellowship hall and stayed at least another hour to enjoy refreshments and visiting. The traditional service is offered once a month, on the first Thursday of every month, at 6:30 p.m. For more information, call St. John’s at 244-3712. In addition to offering the traditional service for folks with special needs, St. John’s will soon be starting an informal Bible study, again with familiar songs, repetition of the basics of Christianity, and fun activities. Join them on the third Thursday of every month, also at 6:30 p.m.