On the first Saturday of the month, the Rev. Lindsay Lunnum puts out a sign in the parish hall of Zion Episcopal Church in Douglaston, New York. The sign is for Rhythms of Grace, a service for families and children with special needs. It reads, “Gathering, Storytelling, Exploring, Re-gathering, Eucharist, Dismissal,“ each step illustrated in permanent marker.
“The kids like to know what’s coming in advance,” explained Lunnum. “It lowers their anxiety.”
The program, created by Church Publishing, is specially designed for autistic children and their families. It begins with storytelling from the Bible, followed by a variety of hands-on activities such as making candle holders with tissue paper and glue. The children go at their own pace and choose how much they will participate.
The service concludes with a Eucharist in the sanctuary. Some children sidle right up to the miniature altar where Lunnum kneels; others stay in the pews with their parents. Many siblings join in the activities.
Volunteers range from teenagers to Carol Brock, who is 91. She said she’s learned a lot from the experience. “It was really a revelation to me.” She and the other volunteers received training in September.
“It’s really been great for our parish,” said Lunnum. “It’s a two-way street.”
The Rev. Lindsay Lunnum reflects on the role of countdowns and transfigurations in her work as a rector and a the mother of a child with special needs here.