An autistic mind goes on a world tour, without leaving church
Holy Trinity Church, Huddersfield, Sunday 12 August 2018
My right hand still hurts four hours* to be given an enthusiastic handshake during the peace today. Being on the Autistic Spectrum means I am sensitive to some stimuli, mine are light and touch. The handshake may have been firm to other people but to me it was, and is still, painful. A few weeks ago it was a tap on the shoulder in order to share the peace that felt like an assault. Not only that, but at the beginning of the service this week we were asked to greet each other, and it was commented on favourably on how bright the church was with the new lighting. Lots of people making noise around me, bright lights and unnecessarily firm touch, it can be difficult to be autistic in Church.
But I am glad I went. If only to be told at the beginning of the prayers that God is with us. I have no memory of what was prayed for: My autistic mind does not so much wander as go on world tours. One impression I got at the end of the prayers was that God is with us not only when we are in Church but the rest of the week when we are busy doing other things too.
The world tour in my mind took me to the east window of the church. The top half of the window shows the ascension of Jesus. Above that are Alpha and Omega signals, reminding us that Jesus is the first and last in everything. Above that the crown, showing Jesus is king. The disciples around Jesus are in postures of worship as he rises above them. A reminder that our primary duty as a church is to worship Jesus. Everything we do springs from that.
The bottom of the window is a depiction of the words of Jesus in Matthew Chapter 25:
- For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink,
- I was a stranger and you welcomed me,
- I was naked and you clothed me,
- I was sick and you visited me,
- I was in prison and you came to me.
That too is the ministry of the Church, to meet people at their point of need. It is there that God is with us, as we worship and as we help the most vulnerable in society.
Then there was the song at the start of service with the idea that Jesus came to find us** to bring us to life. I was thinking about this and how it was explaining the theology of the resurrection using the language of the Exodus. The end song spoke of the crucifixion. I spent a while pondering having the ascension before the crucifixion.
That is just a small example of the random thoughts that fly around my autistic mind in a service. At least it stayed within the realms of Christianity this week, some Sundays it is a tour of the universe, not a world tour my mind goes on.
Don’t get me wrong, I still love my church, I find it is great to be part of a dynamic loving community, but some of that dynamism is difficult to cope with. Some of that which is difficult to cope with is unnecessary.
Autism is a spectrum of conditions. The above blog is about how my autism affected one church service. Other people on the spectrum may not be affected by the things I find difficult and may be affected by other things that I am not.
*24 hours after the handshake my little finger still aches a little.
**An early draft had Jesus came to fund us, rather than Jesus came to find us. Now my mind is off on church finances and the prosperity gospel.