10 September 2021
We’re All Valued Equally - WAVE Church
The WAVE Church story began about 12 years ago, when we were approached at Muswell Hill Methodist Church by two mums from our local Anglican church who both had daughters with a learning disability. Separately and then together, they felt that God was calling them to begin something appropriate that would offer an opportunity for worship and fellowship for young adults with and without learning disabilities. Their own church did not have a suitable space available on a Sunday afternoon, so being aware of our premises and facilities, they made contact and we were very pleased to offer the space.
After months of planning, WAVE Church began (We’re All Valued Equally). This quickly came alive as a joyful, thoughtful, inclusive, accessible highlight for many on the second Sunday of the month, with Makaton signing used in all the songs, lots of visuals and action, and a warm sense of fellowship and fun. (Wave Café and other initiatives have also become established since then in other locations in Muswell Hill and beyond.) The ethos for all of the different strands is ‘With, not For’ – and there is very effective leadership by members from right across the range of abilities,.
Lockdown in March last year presented many challenges, but it was amazing how successfully the monthly WAVE worship transferred onto Zoom – indeed some of the participants found it easier to read or to pray aloud from their own homes than in a bigger group at church. And the fellowship grew, with new members being added online. But in July it was wonderful to be able to join together in person again in our church – even with distancing and masks – and the Makaton meant that we could still join in with the songs with our hands, even if not at that time with our voices! (Though we did let rip with a couple of favourite songs out in the church garden afterwards!)
There were several newcomers at the July gathering, and I met a young man of 18 who had joined in with WAVE church while we were on Zoom, so this was his first time coming into our church. Andrew (not his real name) wanted to sit by the organ pipes and kept asking me questions about the organ. (I’m no organist, but have sometimes demonstrated it on school visits.) After the WAVE worship time, followed by tea, cake, songs and chat in the garden, I asked Andrew and his father whether they might like to come back into church, and I could open up the organ. They leapt at the opportunity, and after a few experiments with stops, pedals etc., he launched in and played ‘Nearer my God to Thee’ absolutely beautifully. It was a very memorable and significant moment for me witnessing this - and seeing his father’s love and pride watching him play, I think we all felt very near to our wonderful God, who created and loves this special and talented young man.
In correspondence with his mother later, I discovered that when Andrew was young, he was non-verbal, but was always fascinated by the organ in the church they attended. She explained that when he was about 10, he suddenly and surprising said one day at church - “Can Andrew play organ?” (He meant: “Can I learn the organ?”) She said: “That request was one of the first things he said when he first became intelligible. He cannot fathom pronouns. Thus, he referred to himself in those days by his name. We dissuaded him from the unpragmatic organ. We later arranged for someone to give him piano lessons instead, which was by ear initially in the first year. But later on he picked up sight reading, and in Spring 2019, he got his Grade 8 distinction in piano.”
With diagnoses of severe autism and intellectual disability, there are likely to be ongoing challenges for Andrew, though his parents can see how his firm faith has a very positive and calming effect as he faces many difficulties and frustrations day by day.
It will be a joy to come together again at WAVE after the summer break, and to be able to sing together aloud together once more (albeit behind our masks) – experiencing that special connection with each other as we worship God in signing and in song!
If some of this sounds familiar, you may have seen WAVE activities in our premises featured on BBC 1 Songs of Praise in January, recorded according to exemption requirements last October.
For more information about WAVE, look on www.wave-for-change.org.uk , or contact me on email@example.com to hear more about our church’s experience of hosting WAVE each month.
Muswell Hill Methodist Church