Church asks handicapped to Please stay home

We were gathered around a tree in her front yard, yanking up saplings and grass-gone-wild by the roots. Ever since her husband got orders for Afghanistan, she’s had to take care of the yard and the house and the two juvenile dogs all by herself.

Then she went and messed up her ankle.

Broke it good.

Now she’s the one in a boot, only it’s not a combat one. It’s just that cumbersome kind that makes it hard to take care of a house, a yard and two dogs who demand attention.

The neighbors from four doors down were there, too. The neighbors, who’ve been faithful to help her, spent their Father’s Day cleaning out her flower bed.

“Is this a weed?” she asked me, pointing to a hairy-looking stalk.

“Yes,” I replied as I pulled it up from sandy soil.

The neighbor gal tossed a clump of stubborn grass into the nearly full trash bin.  They were discussing church when I first arrived.

Where do you go to church? asked the neighbor gal.

Yonder over the hill, I replied.

Oh. My mother used to go there, she said. My sister, too.

Really, when? I asked.

Couple of years ago.

Oh. Wow. Perhaps I know her?

I don’t know, she said. Mom has a disease. She’s in a facility east of here now.

Oh. Gosh. I’m sorry. How old is she?

Fifty-four, she said.

That’s my age.

Yeah, the disease makes her flail about.

Oh. Yes. Of course. I know exactly who your mama is. I used to love to watch her worship.

They asked her to leave the church.

What? I exclaimed.

Yeah. My sister got a call one day and they asked that she not bring mom back to church because her flailing distracted people.

I am so, so, sorry. That was so wrong. I can’t believe that, I stuttered, embarrassed.

But my mind was racing — who had done this terrible thing?

Who had asked a daughter to please keep her mother and her spastic ways out of the church?

Perhaps the church sign ought to read: Asses always welcome. The handicapped not so much.

And now, here in the dark of night I sit, thinking, pondering. Where’s Don Miller and his confessional booth when you need one most?

If it’s true, and why would anybody make up such a horrific tale, what should my response be?

What would you do if this were your church community?

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  • I’d have a one on one, sit down meeting with the senior pastor. If he/she won’t listen, go to the board or eldership. If they don’t listen…well…then there is something terribly wrong. And I would ask for a congregational meeting to discuss whether or not this is Biblical behavior. Which it clearly is not.

    But before any of that, I would need to bathe it in prayer. And not allow it to become a canker of gossip in my life. It’s a tough situation. But this should never, ever happen to anyone.

  • Greg

    I hope I would do something similar to what one of my Bible professors did at ACU when he spoke openly against the university’s policy of discriminating against African Americans. It cost him the head of the chair of the bible department. A courageous move and one of my heroes.

  • Someone should be shot…

    • Peg Willis

      I agree with all the comments above. A lot! We have a mentally disabled guy in our church who has great rhythm. He always waves one arm up and down (very enthusiastically!) during the singing. And he sings. Loud. His lyrics are pretty random sometimes, but he’s definitely making a joyful noise. We love him! The kids love him too. They always want to be on his team when there’s any kind of activity going on. Being on his team assures a loss if it’s a win/lose sort of activity. They still want to be on his team. He knows he’s loved at church. And he knows he’s loved by Jesus. That’s about as far as his understanding goes, but that’s far enough, I think!

      • Peg Willis

        Oops! Sorry Tim. I meant to make this a separate comment.

  • momosix

    I have a mentally-ill daughter who cannot live at home. I make sure she is involved in church wherever she lives. However, I always have a conversation with the senior pastor before she attends or shortly after she starts. I ask how he or she feels about mental illness and if that is attitude is reflected in the congregation. After all, I don’t want any “praying out” the demon for this if they are not going after a similar demon for kidney disease, for example. And they never are… I make sure the pastor understands exactly how I view mental illness, and I give him or her places to look for more information. As well, I provide our home pastor’s name and number and make certain the church as a number of ways to reach me with questions or if there is ever an issue. So far, so good. When there has been a problem with an individual church member, the pastor took appropriate action.

  • Diane

    God forbid! I would hate to have been the person, that made the call to keep her at home when we stand before Christ at the judgement seat. But before I throw any stones….Lord convict me if I ever display that attitude toward anyone for any reason!

  • This breaks my heart! The church has wasted an opportunity to be the hands and feet of Christ to this woman and her family. At a time when she might have needed encouragement more than ever as her body deteriorated, she was asked to leave. Why have churches become havens for Normal Perfect people? This is not how it should be.

    After a lot of prayer, I would approach the pastor about this situation and seek another solution. I’d also see about starting a program for children and adults with special needs. They and their families are often overlooked and it shouldn’t be this way.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Good wisdom here. Much prefer this method than Tim Thurman’s take up arms tho the emotion resonates within me.
      I have confirmed that this is true — she was asked not to attend worship service because her disease had rendered her unable to be an active participant in worship and it was deemed best “for her safety” — What if she fell at church? She could be hurt, so they said.
      Yeah, well what better place to fall than church? You’d have a whole body of believers to tend to you, rather than if you were home alone.
      We were concerned about her safety, that’s what compelled us.
      When was Jesus ever compelled by safety first? asked I.
      He never made any decision based on the safety of himself or others.
      You don’t understand. This was a hard decision for us.
      Yes, I’m sure it was. Wrong decisions are often hard to justify. Yet, the self-righteous seems to always manage.

      • Hmmm….I’ve been in church serviced where dozens of people “fell down” and they even had a special name for it. Are we to assume these churches can only accommodate people who claim to fall down for reasons other than human ones?

      • Teresa Hester

        Sunday (3 days ago) my dear friend in her late 60’s got her feet and legs twisted (her description) while at church. There were people around who caught her.
        No better place to be than in God’s house!

  • Kate

    I’d get the hell out of there and never look back. Oh, in fact I did that very thing myself and it was an excellent decision on my part. I’ve no desire to join a Christian church again. In the words of Gandhi, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

  • karen

    I know exactly who you are talking about and I have a hard time believing they asked that she not be brought back..the whole church prayed with her and for her many times and no one seemed distracted that I ever saw…I thought she didn’t come back because she went to the facility..that’s what I remember being week she was there and the next week they said she had gone to the facility. If it’s true that they asked that she not be brought to church it makes me very, very sad and disappointed to think there is that type of hypocrasy(sp?) going on…I hope it’s not true.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Checked it out.”We made the decision based on her own safety.”….

  • That’s on a par with a church in the town where I live which fired it’s worship team and hired professional musicians instead!!! What the!!!

  • Create a small group to go visit her on a regular basis. Have a small service, if possible, at the facility.

    I do not know all the details, but I cannot imagine asking anyone not to come back to church. Maybe I have wanted to, but that is something for another post.

    Stay blessed…john

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      If you want to write a post about what would prompt you to want to ask someone to stay home but you refrained from it, I’d be happy to share it here.

  • My gut reaction is to take the gal, her mom, and my whole family to the church next Sunday. Ya know, to serve as the official safety network. Then of course I’d be sitting there just waiting for someone to ask ask them to leave–and seething the whole time. Since all that isn’t going to sit well with the Holy Spirit, I’d feel guilty the whole time too. Sorta like I knew I was pulling the dog’s tail and waiting for a fight.

    So, I might just ask the pastor what’s up. By the way, I don’t think a separate service is a good idea. We are one in Christ. And shouldn’t we all be a bit uncomfortable in church anyway?


    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Darlene: We were cut from the same root.

  • Rose Marie Morton

    Darlene, I’m with you, too! That seems like the most satisfying way to deal with it. But I wouldn’t get much from listening to any pastor who agreed to such an action or being with members who went along, so changing churches would probably make sense to me. I would think that Satan had crept up in that church.

  • I get a little stabby when I see stuff like this. God forbid we make anyone uncomfortable in church. If people are distracted they’re missing the point of worship in my opinion. I’ve always been of the opinion that corporate worship was about worshipping God, well, corporately. Together. Everyone. Not just people who look and act like us.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Apparently not everyone is of this same opinion.

      I want you all to know that there is so much more to this story that I am not saying.

      Because if you knew that, you would riot in the streets.

      You really would.

  • I just flipped to your site. I am co-authoring a book with Tegan Tegani who is a book seller at Queen Anne Book Store in Seattle.

    Are you going to keep us posted as to how it turns our for you and the church? And I am concerned for the family it hurt as well. I will subscribe to see how this turns out. BTW, I’ve read a couple of your books in the past few weeks just to see what you are thinking. You have a strong voice, Feels like it is time to use it.