Yesterday I mentioned Bannockburn Baptist Church and the great time I had with them last weekend. I also mentioned in passing the great Special Needs ministry they have. Let me say a bit more about that.
The Marbridge Community is one of the best kept secrets in Austin. Located in South Austin, Marbridge specializes in residential care for adults with all types of cognitive disorders, and this year they’re celebrating 60 years of great care to Austin’s special needs adults. Here’s the Marbridge mission in their own words: Marbridge is a non-profit residential community that offers transitional and lifetime care to adults with a wide range of cognitive abilities and—through compassion and faith—provides them opportunities to learn, experience and achieve a whole new life. Marbridge serves its residents through activties and education that include equine therapy, gardening, music and a host of other opportunities.
They also bus out many of their residents on Sundays to Bannockburn.
That’s right, as I made my way through the halls of BBC on Sunday before the first service, I met at least a dozen special needs adults. They were greeting, laughing, hugging and pretty much charming the socks off of everyone who passed by them. These beautiful men and women have so much joy that it spills out of them. They made my day instantly.
Now with a busload of Marbridge adults comes an equal busload of opportunities, or what other churches might call problems. Special needs adults often lack some of the social skills or . . . . well . . . decorum . . . . that some of us want in our churches. They often dress, talk, sing and worship in ways that those of us with more inhibitions don’t. In short, they’d make us uncomfortable.
So how would your church respond if you bused in 50 adults with Downs Syndrome or other cognitive disabilities and turned them loose in your congregation for Sunday worship?
Ryan Rush, Sr. Pastor of BBC, put it this way, “Let’s just say they keep us from thinking too highly of ourselves.”
There’s even one young man who has his own place on the corner of the stage in the first Sunday service. It’s his spot. He was there last Sunday, smile on his face, guitar on his lap and cutoff shorts on his legs, singing and playing along with the choir and worship leader. Would your church stand for that?
I love that Ryan and BBC have the class and humility to serve and welcome the Marbridge folks in such an open way. I’m glad they don’t segregate them. I pray that the church I lead and each of yours will be as radical in our love for the least of these.
Well done Bannockburn!!!!