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Last Sunday, Dr. Paul Rimmer took his autistic son to Evensong at King’s College at Cambridge. They were asked to leave when his son made noise. Let me cover his letter and the apology then talk about autistic inclusion.
The main point Dr. Rimmer makes is that Evensong, although a choral – not congregational – action is liturgical. Thus, it should be open to all trying their best to participate. However, he felt it was treated as a secular concert. Here are some excerpts.
Evensong - Trinity - Sunday - Father - Day
I chose to attend Evensong on Trinity Sunday, also Father’s Day, with my two sons, one of whom is autistic. Tristan is nine years old, and is a clever and joyful child, who loves church buildings, services, and choral music. He is also non-verbal, and expresses his excitement by calling out and laughing. His expressions are often loud and uncontainable. It is part of who he is, so there is no realistic way for him to be quiet. Many autistic people are like Tristan in this way. Right before the Kyrie, one of the ushers informed me that you had instructed him to remove us. Tristan’s expressions were apparently interfering with the enjoyment of some of the other visitors, which was very inconsiderate on our part, because tourists come from all over the world to hear the Evensong. The usher seemed embarrassed but insistent as he asked us to leave, though I’m not sure if it was because of my son’s vocalisations, or because of the nature of the directive you had given him.
As a Christian, I believe that worship is primarily intended to glorify God, and may have misinterpreted your Evensong as an actual worship service, at which my son’s expressions must surely be pleasing to God, the experience of other worshipers being secondary. Our removal makes...
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