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  • Writer's pictureBethany

When My Husband was God

Updated: Nov 13, 2019

At Beloved Everybody Church, our church start-up in South Los Angeles (Jefferson Park) where people with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities participate and lead together, we engage scripture in a number of different ways. Usually not through simply reading it out loud and then having one person talk about it at length, though; since for a lot of people, that doesn't tend to be the most accessible way of reflecting on information or ideas.

Chris holds his drawings of the sun, moon, and stars, while Michael looks on declaring them good.

So instead of a scripture reading and sermon (both of which rely on listening and abstract thought as the primary ways of engagement) we'll do things like: assign characters and act out the text, divide a passage (like a Psalm) into short bits and have small groups create movements to go with them, draw parts of the text, or make notes or doodles on a printout of the words of the scripture.

At our last gathering, the theme was "God created us." So we engaged in a number of different activities and rituals that helped us reflect more on that truth: that we are created by God. One of those activities, to reflect on God's creativity, was a "Grand Creation Drama" where we each picked an aspect of the creation narrative from the beginning of the book of Genesis (e.g., light, darkness, waters, sky, sun, moon, stars, plants, animals, people) and took a little time to create an image(s) that represented it.

[As a side note: I've heard some adults talk about how they can feel intimidated by this kind of creativity - like drawing or making visual art - because they feel like they aren't "good" at it. So at Beloved Everybody we always emphasize that we're about participation not perfection - and that we celebrate everyone just as they are, with the God-given gifts they have and the gifts they are to us.]

After all the drawings were complete, we needed someone to be God for our creation drama. Usually when I solicit volunteers to act out different parts, it doesn't take too much prompting (we have a wonderfully game group of folks!). But for some reason this time no one seemed to want to play God. So, like a wonderful and supportive pastor's spouse, my husband stepped up. After a lighthearted joke about OF COURSE it's the white man who volunteers to be God (had to be done), we begin the drama.

If you're familiar with the Genesis creation poem, you know there's a repetitive aspect to the verse where after most of the days, God looks at what God made and saw that it was good. So as we read the narrative, each time people would bring up their depictions of their aspect of the creation poem, "God" (Michael, my husband) would look at them and say, "That's so good!"

The thing is, unlike myself who has a real mastery of noticing what's missing and how everything always needs to be improved upon (don't fret, I've been working on building up my gratitude muscles!), Michael is a pretty positive guy. And, actually, he says the phrase "that's so good" approximately a bazillion times in a regular day. So when he busted out that phrase as God, looking on the wonder of the depictions of creation, but in the same voice and tone he says it every day, it felt unexpectedly meaningful to me.

It brought the text to life - a text I've read dozens of times, studied in Hebrew, wrote papers on, read children's books, adult's books, and articles about - but this hit me in a new way. It personalized God for me in this text in a way that hasn't felt so personal before. I even noticed myself in the backyard this morning, two days later, looking over the blooming fuchsia, the basil, the tomato plants, the fig tree that has lost its leaves (as a normal seasonal thing, we didn't curse it), and noticing God's smile-full words coming back to me: "That's so good!" That moment of observing God's delight for creation struck me more deeply than ever before.

Even though most of these approaches to scripture were born out of wanting to make sure our gatherings and engagement with the text were more accessible to everyone - particularly people with intellectual disabilities or cognitive difficulties who don't often connect as well to passive, purely verbal sermons - it's really been a gift for the whole community. A number of other folks have mentioned ways some of these embodied, participatory experiences with the text have been meaningful for them at times, too.

And that's often how accessibility works. A community creates some options or alternative ways to do something specifically to meet the needs of a particular person or group of people (which is certainly a good thing). But then everyone realizes that we all have such diverse ways of learning, engaging, and interacting that expanding the variety of ways to participate benefits everyone. I'm grateful for how this has proved true in my own communities.

God looked on the accessibility that had been made and said, "That's so good!" (for everyone!).

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