Special-needs child takes comfort in Communion


An inspiration to the congregation

By Katy Stenta | Presbyterians Today

The Rev. Katy Stenta’s son, Westley, has opened her eyes not only to the holy in the time of celebrating Communion. Westley has inspired her to create a new worshiping community for children and adults with special needs. Katy Stenta

He looks me right in the eye, holding his cup in front of him all aquiver. Westley has been waiting — and waiting — for the moment when we all drink the grape juice, the blood of Jesus Christ, together.

Westley has autism and ADHD. Seven years old, he is more or less nonverbal. He loves church, though. He loves the ritual, the predictability, the music and the prayers. Sensory seeking, he delights in the rich experiences of church. But more than that, Westley loves the community. When he is in church, he knows the simple truth: He is loved. This is why, even on his difficult days, Westley wants to stay in worship. It’s the only hour he isn’t seeking screen time to ease his anxiety. It’s the only time he doesn’t walk in soothing circles.

Communion is his favorite part of church. He takes the crumb of bread just like everyone else. And while we might be distracted by to-do lists and feelings of unworthiness, Westley isn’t. He is communing with God, the people and the messy drops of juice. By watching Westley, we all get to taste God and community with him.

Katy Stenta is pastor of New Covenant Presbyterian Church in Albany, New York. She has started a new worshiping community for special-needs children, adults and their families called TrailPraisers. (Connect with TrailPraisers on Facebook)

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