Separation….or inclusion?

I recently attended an Advent service–one that I thoroughly enjoyed. Lots of beautiful music…and an intriguing and well-presented message.

But in the days since (and growing out of some discussion about the service), I’ve begun to wonder. Do our services–Advent or otherwise) draw us closer together? or separate us even more?

I don’t have little children at home any more. But if I did, there was not much in that service that would have been appealing to them. It was a service designed for those who can sit quietly for an extended period of time. The carols were not necessarily familiar to children–and the stage setting didn’t offer anything to keep their attention. Nor was the service advertised as being “family-friendly.”

I have computer access,¬†and so I could have watched it at home. But many people do not–and so they were excluded from sharing this experience as well. I don’t want to negate the value of the streaming, however, because I know there were many who were able to feel connected because of that experience.

My hearing is good; I could enjoy hearing the beautiful music and the words of the message. But what about those whose hearing is not good? What did we have in the service for them? Words of the congregational parts of the carols were in the bulletin–but not the words of the verses that the choir sang. The words/translations of the choir pieces were available in the bulletin, and that was good. The scripture citations were in the bulletin–but not the specific versions¬†that were shared. The text of the message will hopefully be available online soon–but the hearing-impaired who were watching were not able to follow along at the time to know what was being shared.

And everything was in English. Again, not a problem for me…but what about those who would like to have been a part of the service, but for whom English is not the primary language (or even one of their languages)?

Sometimes, because I am part of a dominant majority, I fail to think about these aspects and how they separate us rather than draw us together. I know that despite our best intentions, we will still have some of these issues, but I hope that in our service planning–whether it’s on the congregational level or for a larger group–we will learn to keep these in mind and do everything in our power to create services that include all.

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