Sunday, March 26, 2017

Welcoming Visitors

We had visitors in our pew this Sunday.  They sat to Mrs ERJ's left.

Last Sunday they sat in the pew in front of us.  I had never seen them before last Sunday.

By all appearances they were two disabled, adult men and a young woman.  One of the men is clearly mute because he used American Sign Language to communicate with the young woman.  The other man was not very reactive.  I suspect that they are from an adult foster care home and the young woman (25?) is their caretaker.

I am impressed that the young woman took them on a "field trip."  I am glad she chose our church and I hope we made all three of them feel welcome.  I take Matthew 25:40 seriously,
"...‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’" 
And from Luke chapter 18
"People were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them, and when the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. Jesus, however, called the children to himself and said, “Let the children come to me and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.”
The man who is mute looked very happy to be in church.  Last week he actively tried to engage us in conversation.  He seemed surprised that we did not understand ASL. It is kind of funny.  When we were not able to answer he made larger gestures.  He was shouting to help us understand.  I think the young woman coached him on "proper" church deportment during the week.

Today he was whispering to the young lady.  That is, he was making his ASL movements small and close to his body.  The other man mostly stared at the railing in front of him but I did see a little bit of head bobbing during the music.  While the calendar might indicate that the two men are adults I suspect that they are children in many ways.

A minor crisis averted
The woman who was sitting to my right is quite old.  I suspect she becomes easily confused.  During the Mass she helped Father Dwight out by saying his parts rather than sticking with the responses.  Father Dwight was too far away to hear her but I doubt that he would mind.  He is has a firm grasp on what is important.

The three visitors stayed in the pew during Communion while the rest of the pew went up to receive it.

The older woman who had been sitting on my right did not recognize our pew on the way back and kept marching up the aisle.  I was a bit behind her because I partook of both forms of Communion, both the Body (bread) and the Blood (wine).  Part of what threw her was the fact that there were three people sitting on the end who had not gone up to Communion rather than an empty pew. 

She had turned around and was heading back by the time I arrived at "our" pew.  Her eyes were scanning, looking for her coat and purse or some other clue.  The three new folks were oblivious of the older lady's confusion.

I shook the mute man's hand (a gesture generally discouraged during communion to emphasize the gravity of the Sacrament) and made a motion like a signal corpsman directing an F-18 on the flight deck to indicate where the older woman needed to go.

The three newcomers pulled their feet back.  The older lady scooted past them like a spry youngster. And the mute man gave me a small, quick, circular (2" diameter) rub on the back as I shuffled in front of them.  I had seen the young woman give that same back rub to the less reactive man the week before.  I think it was meant to reassure, to say "calm down" or "it is going to be OK" or maybe just "you are OK".

I may have to pick up a few phrases in American Sign Language to help them feel welcome.  I want them to know "they are OK".

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