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‘We’re all equal in the sight of God’

CBS parish undertaking inclusive youth ministry

By Mark Squibb | Vol. 32 No. 42 (Jan. 23, 2020)

The All Saints Anglican Parish in Conception Bay South is taking steps to ensure that everyone in the community can worship.

“We’re launching out with a special needs ministry for those with pervasive needs disorders,” explained Rev. Wayne Parsons.

The ministry is designed to minister to youth diagnosed with autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, ADHD, and Down Syndrome.

“This is a community outreach,” Parsons said. “It is not just meant for the Anglican faith community. This is a mission outreach to our community, on behalf of the church, for those with pervasive needs disorders, providing them a safe space that they can come to worship in.”

He said the program won’t be like a traditional service with pews and liturgy. It will run for no more than a half hour.

“It begins with a Bible story, and a fun activity, and a snack for those able to avail,” Parsons said. “And of course, we have to be very cognizant of those with any dietary needs. Lighting will be adjusted accordingly, we’ll have some interlocking coloured mats, we’ll have a little area that people will be able to go and take a little break if they need to take a break. We hope to be able to incorporate things as we move along, like weighted blankets, perhaps even a hammock, a couch where if someone wants to take a time out, they can do it.”

He explained that the ministry is a big undertaking, and that the launch on Sunday, Jan. 26, at 6:30 p.m. at the parish hall will be a litmus test of how the program will operate.

“Obviously, there are lot of unknown variables at this time,” Parsons said.

He hopes to have discussions with parents and caregivers about how to best run the program to meet everybody’s needs. Still, he said the parish feels confident.

“We really, truly believe that God is in the centre of this, and that God is leading us in this direction,” Parsons said. “We are approaching this very humbly. We are endeavouring, by the grace of God, to launch this out. We need to start on this. We’ve spent the last year working on this. We’ve had many meetings, we’ve had many discussions.”

Parsons said that after the launch on Jan. 26, the program will take place on the third Sunday of the month, until the end of May. It will break for the summer months and pick back up again in September.

The program will be held at the parish hall next to the church.

 “The parish hall is a big, wide open space,” Parsons said. “So, if there are children who want to run around a bit or want more room or perhaps, they want to go to a corner where it’s not as bright and calm, and find a space for themselves, they’re not restricted.”

For Parsons, the program is especially close to his heart. His 11-year old son, Noah, has autism.  

Parsons knows that everyone is different. That it’s not as simple as saying ‘if you’ve met one, you’ve met them all.’

“If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person,” Parsons said. “There’s no one side There’s so many different faces for pervasive needs disorders. There’s no one size fits all. They’re all unique.

 “Church is for everyone,” he added. “And the church has to find a way to bring the message of the gospel and of love, in creative ways… The schools have been very good at designing respite areas, calm down corners, places where people can go to decompress. It’s an opportunity for people to attend a worship service, (people who) may not be able to sit through a regular Sunday service. We know that God is with us.”

The program launches on Sunday, Jan. 26, at 6:30 p.m. at the parish hall.

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