Attending church has always been important to our families. Being active in a Bible Study or Sunday School class equally as important as attending a worship service. It’s a time of learning, worshiping, sharing, growing, building relationships, etc. The word fellowship is used in the Bible and honestly is one of my favorite parts of being involved in a local congregation. The friendships developed there run deep and offer a support system like none other. Simply put, we need our church family. And family they are – not by our blood but by the blood of Jesus making us brothers and sisters in Christ.
When Jacob was just a toddler we realized he probably wouldn’t be able to participate in a traditional Sunday School class setting for long. He was loud, demanding, wouldn’t follow most directions, would be a distraction, etc. And yet, it didn’t make sense for him to stay in the preschool area. Even if those parents would have been accepting, it wasn’t a good idea for anyone. We knew a change was in order but knew it was going to be terribly hard for us to leave our church family. The church we had grown up in. Where we were baptized. Where we met and married.
It was time, though, for us to consider another church. One that had something specific for those with special needs and different abilities. At the same time, Jacob’s dentist invited us to attend his church because he knew we would be welcomed there. Turns out the church we were considering was the same church his dentist invited us to visit. Afraid of the change, we nervously visited for the first time when Jacob was 4 years old. And, turns out, it was a perfect fit.
In the beginning, Jacob went to the same class as other children his age. The teachers were wonderful, accepting, and loving. I don’t recall at what point but we decided to try out the Special Ministries class that drew us to the church. Jacob was the youngest one in the class but oh how he loved it. They had a record player. Remember those? And Jacob would listen and dance and put the needle back to a certain song to dance and twirl some more. There was a classmate that seemed to think he was in charge of Jacob. It was always funny how he would try to boss Jacob around. (You can imagine how that went over since Jacob rarely followed directions!) It really bothered this young man for Jacob to not let a record play through. Once when he was totally exasperated, he said, “shame come to you Jacob. Shame come to you!” We got the biggest chuckle out of that and repeated it often. Although Jacob wouldn’t be shamed, it was comical to repeat the phrase. It was an incredible setting knowing our son was being taught God’s word and loved on by Godly teachers. Teachers who committed their energy and hearts to providing a safe environment and an amazing class for Jacob and others like him. Teachers who demonstrate the Special and the Ministry aspect of the class.
Through the years this is still Jacob’s Sunday School class. There is no aging out. There are teachers who also remain in that class for YEARS! Just one big happy family. The record player was eventually put away and Jacob started bringing his own cassette recorder to listen to music. Then he graduated to a MP3 player. However, live piano music was always preferred. Jacob had a definite opinion about who should play and it could be an issue if the correct person wasn’t present to play for him. There are funny stories of how he has tried to make certain teachers play. Even if they couldn’t, they’d give it a good effort to prove to him they weren’t capable of much more than chopsticks.
Obviously, Jacob likes hearing the lesson even when he doesn’t appear to be listening but he LOVES the music portion of the class when someone plays the piano and the class sings. The teacher takes requests and everyone has their favorites. Although Jacob cannot verbalize a certain song, they soon realized he definitely has a favorite. Swing Low, Sweet Chariot. It became Jacob’s song and everyone knew it. He would twirl and dance and worship in his own way. And when he was done, he’d enjoy the others, sometimes singing in his own language. Obviously worshiping God through song and dance.
Here is Jacob’s interpretative dance of Swing Low, Sweet Chariot. Watch as toward the end, he goes to sit in his chair. The next song was Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus. And, Jacob chose to remain in his seat. I suppose he just wasn’t feeling it at that point. I think we should all be more like Jacob and dance before Jesus when the spirit moves.