Since this week is Easter, I thought I would do a blog about my church and the importance of being part of a community. The name of the church is called Courageous Church, and instead of meeting a traditional church building, we meet at a school.
I often help set up and tear down the different rooms since we do not have a permanent space. What I like about being a volunteer, or rather a servant as my pastor likes to say, is that the work is behind the scene and I feel a part of the church.
My pastor’s preaching style is very informative. He can take the teachings of the Bible and apply them to everyday life. Because I have issues executive functioning skills and understanding symbolism, it helps to have concrete examples of how to take something written a long time ago and apply it to a particular situation or how to understand what specific symbolism in the book means.
The music is contemporary worship. Interestingly, I have never had a meltdown during the worship service even though it can get loud. One significant aspect is that one does not have to have a good singing voice to be part of the worship experience.
Because I often struggle with feeling and showing empathy, I like how the members model compassion and concern for those inside and outside of the walls. For example, one lady was having issues with her eye to the point that she had to have surgery and could not drive. Many in the congregation not only called her to offer words of encouragement but also ran errands for her.
A lot of our tithes are used to help those who are less fortunate in the community. It helps show me how Jesus would treat people and how I should think about how I should act in when I am in a particular situation and how I should learn not to judge individual people.
Some have commented how much I have grown with my social skills since I joined the church several years ago and grown in learning to think more positively and learning to have more empathy towards others. That’s encouraging when I am feeling down, but God also had a role in this. What I especially like is I felt safe and accepted for deciding not to get married or be in any romantic relationship as sadly, that is not always the case in many churches.
There is a member of my church who has encouraged me to pursue my passion for writing and is even gave me a couple of books about writing for my birthday. Another member even invited me to lunch after one of the services. I also have people I can call when I am feeling upset or need help with a social situation.
Although one does not have to join a church or any other type of religious organization to make friends, I used the church in this example as it is the social organization I am currently most active, it is crucial that those with Aspergers find a community that is bigger than themselves as a way to belong. It may be tempting for those with Aspergers to isolate themselves and want to be alone a majority of the time. However, being part of a community, such as a church, robotics club, Eagle Scouts or an astronomy club, allows those to be around like-minded people who will encourage and help out when times get tough. Just like with getting a job, being in the right group is a confidence booster.
Because many with the condition often have trouble making friends, more and more people with Aspergers are turning to online supports, such as Facebook, gaming sites or the Wrong Planet message board as their outlet for socializing. While those avenues can be useful in small doses, making online friends is no substitute for having face to face communication with actual people, such as this USA Today article written by a father that points out that online communities will not be there to give you a hug, flowers or a meal when times get tough.
Real communities expose people to different backgrounds and how to work through them. Having a community of friends also leads to people having better health. A story in Psychology Today describes how the loss of people being a part of a community in America has created an increase in physical and mental health problems, including depression and anxiety.
Finding the right church did not come easy for me. Just like with many people on the spectrum, it took many years to find the right church to belong. There were stretches where I dropped out of going. Even with a secular group like a social skills group for those with Aspergers sometimes takes a while to find the right group to join. Once the person enters the proper community, and there is cohesion, those with Aspergers are often able to thrive.
Do you belong to a community? Comment in the section below.
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