Dr. Christine Willard, director of the Nyack College Master of Science degree program in Childhood and Special Education, led a workshop recently at the Chinese Evangel Mission Church of Queens. The topic, “A Sincere Welcome to Broken People” addressed what she says some may call the “last frontier of the Great Commission—of reaching individuals with special learning challenges.”
After speaking at a graduate level counseling class taught by Dr. Elaine Eng, who is a Nyack College professor of mental health counseling and member of Chinese Evangel Church, Dr. Willard was invited lead the workshop. The content of her presentation in Dr. Eng’s class aligned with the church’s new initiative of making worship services available for congregants with special needs.
Among the many areas touched upon, Dr. Willard offered invaluable insight on how to show hospitality, the design of worship services, and how to meet the needs of caregivers with special needs friends. In addition, she explored how to select biblical material for worship and instruction, as well as understanding the unique needs of friends on the autism spectrum, taking a multisensory approach to reading the Psalms and comprehending why narrative text is difficult for people with cognitive challenges. Hands-on strategies were given to participants in the workshop from metropolitan area churches to start or enhance a ministry for special needs friends.
Dr. Willard concluded her presentation with the words of Anna Sutherland from The Theology of Disability. “The theology of the cross is a particular way of doing theology that disabled people can uniquely understand. It is the theology that acknowledges the ‘visible’ things of God: namely the cross of Christ and visible suffering as the premier way of ‘seeing’ God.”
Another workshop led by Dr. Willard will take place on Saturday, April 4 at Chinese Evangel Mission Church. For more information about the upcoming workshop, contact her at Christine.Willard@nyack.edu.