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New ministry serves those with developmental differences
July 9, 2012

By Starrla Cray
Staff Writer

MAPLE PLAIN, MN – For those with developmental cognitive differences and their families, attending regular worship services can sometimes be a challenge.

Fortunately, Lyndale Lutheran Church in Maple Plain has a solution – Rejoicing Spirits services.

People of all ages are encouraged to attend these special services, which take place at the church the second Sunday of each month at 2 p.m.

“We are the first Rejoicing Spirits congregation in Minnesota,” stated Lee Stephenson, the Rejoicing Spirits coordinator at Lyndale Lutheran Church.

Rejoicing Spirits is a ministry that started in Pennsylvania, and has grown into a nationwide movement to provide worship and fellowship opportunities for those with developmental cognitive differences (including autism) and their families and caregivers.

At Lyndale Lutheran, church members are excited about this new way to reach out to others.

“It’s an idea we’ve had for a few years, and it’s something we perceive to be a real need in the community,” Stephenson said.

When she had worked as a special education teacher, Stephenson said she got to know many of the students’ families.

“Some of them said they didn’t feel comfortable going to church, and felt they shouldn’t go out of respect for the other people there,” she said, explaining that people with disabilities might be disruptive during worship.

Families don’t have to worry about that possibility at a Rejoicing Spirits service, however.

“It’s ‘hush-free,’” Stephenson said. “Noise is OK, movement is OK – in fact, it’s welcome.”

Rejoicing Spirits is similar to a traditional service in that it has Bible readings, a sermon, and worship music.

“What makes it different is that the sermon is very concrete and simple in how it’s presented,” Stephenson said.

Repetition is key, and skits are used to illustrate the message.

Music is also used to reinforce the sermon, with plenty of opportunities to sing, sign, and move.

“The goal is to provide as many modalities as possible,” Stephenson said. “People who might not understand all the words might understand the signs or movement.”

Although Lyndale Lutheran Church is part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), Stephenson said that Rejoicing Spirits is a non-denominational service.

“Everyone is welcome,” she said. “We just want to be united as a body of believers.”

According to the Rejoicing Spirits website, the foundation of the ministry is rooted in 1 Corinthians 12:25, “So that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.”

“Spiritually, there are no limitations,” Stephenson said. “Each of us is created exactly how we’re meant to be by our maker.”

Lyndale Lutheran Church is located at 8012 County Road 6 in Maple Plain. To learn more, call (763) 479-1719 or e-mail lyndalelutheran@frontiernet.net.

For more information about the national Rejoicing Spirits ministry, follow the link on the Delano Herald Journal homepage, www.delanoheraldjournal.com.

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