RADFORD — Andrew Tucker, the pastor at Christ Lutheran Church, is hosting a Feb. 1 meeting to introduce a new worship service that he hopes will draw worshippers with unique needs from throughout the New River Valley.
Tucker said Across the Spectrum is a nondenominational worship experience that aims to engage all five senses. According to Tucker, the approach aims to allow autistic worshippers to engage with God in new, innovative ways.
“We have a number of people in our congregation who are on the spectrum,” Tucker said.
Tucker has been working with Melissa Guthrie, the executive director of Salvage Garden, a ministry that connects with autistic people to help them connect with the world.
“I went to a conference Melissa taught on how we can worship with people on the spectrum. This is such a good opportunity to be able to offer this program,” Tucker said.
Tucker, Guthrie and Coreen Bookout of the Intellectual Disabilities Agency of the New River Valley hope to get suggestions from community members on Feb. 1 on the new approach.
“We will discuss when and how often we will meet and what content the community would like to see,” Tucker said.
Tucker said the program will not be offered Sunday mornings.
“I want this to help unify the churches in Radford. It won’t be on Sunday mornings so people form other churches can come,” Tucker said. “I don’t want to steal sheep but to combine forces and eliminate fissures in Radford between churches.”
According to Tucker, people within autism spectrum vary greatly. Some may be more tactile needing to touch an item in order to interact with it, while others are more visual, only having to view an object to understand it.
“It’s because of this spectrum that we want to have multiple access points to worship. None of us are the same. This will allow us to engage with God and each other in different ways,” Tucker said.
Not only will the sensory worship program be offered to anyone with autism, but to anybody who may need to experience God in a different way.
“This could be a good place for artists to explore worship. The beauty of God is that he meets us wherever we are. Regardless of if we are on the spectrum at all to the highest degree,” Tucker said.
Tucker said a father in his congregation believes that people are all on the spectrum somehow, and could benefit from exploring this worship experience.
“So many of us have has experiences at church where we felt like our identities or preferences are unwelcome,” Tucker said. “We believe God made us this way on purpose. We want to explore the hospitality to welcome those differences.”
Tucker hopes those at the meeting will bring what they learned from the program back to their respective home churches.
“We want them to return to their congregations and talk to their leaders about how they can include more worship options,” Tucker said. “We want to bless the (New River) valley rather than create more division.”
Topics on Feb. 1 will include meeting times, types of worship to include and an open discussion for anyone to make suggestions.
“We want to do wee, so that’s why we want input,” Tucker said.
Autism spectrum meeting
When: 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 1
Where: Christ Lutheran Church, 201 Harvey St., Radford
What: An informal discussion of plans to start a weekly worship service for worshippers in the autism spectrum.
Information: Call Christ Lutheran at 639-2671.