Date: October 2011
Consumer choice...regligious freedom...community acceptance
By LINDA D. SMITH, Public Relations Director
Champaign Residential Services, Inc.
Consumer choice is paramount at CRSI and religious freedom is no exception as CRSI strives to respect the spiritual needs and wishes of consumers served. In Auglaize County, Program Administrator Sue Ulis gives a few examples of how her staff makes it possible for consumers to attend the worship services of their choice; and the community’s acceptance of people with disabilities.
Staff members are routinely scheduled each Saturday evening and Sunday morning to take consumers to the church of their choice. In Wapakoneta, the Auglaize Group Home, waiver licensed facility, people with disabilities (either currently or in the past) have attended the Wapakoneta Church of the Nazarene for at least thirty years, according to Ulis. Two other consumers attend Catholic mass on Saturdays. Five people attend another protestant church and are actively involved in extra activities such as carry-in dinners, camp fire gatherings and Sunday school parties. “They are warmly embraced and accepted by the congregation,” adds Ulis.
Recently, one individual asked to go to confession and the program specialist contacted a priest who was very accommodating to the needs of the individual.
Every Sunday morning during the opening song at another worship service, one individual walks forward to sit at the altar and others from the congregation pray with her. During a communion service, this same individual stated that she “had the last supper with Jesus at church today.”
In another example Ulis explains that during a small group prayer at an evening service, a non-verbal person with developmental disabilities prayed out loud in her own way; a moving experience for the rest of the group.
“These individuals are a part of the community and are aware of what church is about,” says Ulis. “They know to be quiet and respectful. They stand, sit, sing and pray. Staff members assist them with opening songbooks or Bibles.” She goes on to explain that this is also a social time for people with disabilities. They have developed relationships with the congregation and they know some of their peers through their jobs or activities with the Auglaize County Board of Developmental Disabilities.
“These churches are to be commended for their love and acceptance of these individuals as are the staff members who are responsible for seeing to it that they are provided with this opportunity of religious choice,” says Ulis.
Pictured are Ron Webb, Patty Conners, Chrissy Rush, Emily Burnell with their teacher (seated) Lila Shroyer.