In the United Methodist Church, we talk a lot about "open doors." We want to share the message that people who don't look like us, who don't have all the religious questions sorted out for themselves, who may find other doors and tables closed to them, and who speak other languages and are from many parts of the world are welcome. It's a statement that we seek to live into, recognizing that on any given day (not just Sunday), we are evaluated by our openness.
So I was struck by the recent situation in Bertha, Minnesota where an autistic boy (granted, a large 200+ pound, 6 foot boy) has disturbed worship and whose mother was legally restrained from attending church with him yesterday.
I never trust the press in reporting these stories so I have no idea how much the church and its leadership worked with the family. It does sound like his disruption was pretty extreme (spitting and urinating, threatening elderly and children).
But with the increase in autism in our society, I don't think it's a situation that couldn't happen to any one of our churches.
I can't help but think about the ministry that was started at Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas which its pastor, Adam Hamilton, often tells as an example of a church that would do "whatever it took" to reach out to people in their need. They had a family with special needs and they developed a ministry for that individual family and then of course it's grown to include many families in the community. I do know that it's pretty labor-intensive, but as a result love-intensive.
So as clergy or laity, what would you do in a situation like this? What measures would you put into effect? Would that family be welcome at your church?