CHUM Church ministers to adults with special needs
It was the kind of church service where the Scripture reading got a round of applause. The warm-up act sang Hank Williams, Gene Autry and Roy Rogers songs. And two members of the congregation got up unannounced and sang John Denver's "Country Roa...
It was the kind of church service where the Scripture reading got a round of applause.
The warm-up act sang Hank Williams, Gene Autry and Roy Rogers songs.
And two members of the congregation got up unannounced and sang John Denver's "Country Roads'' just because they could.
CHUM Church meets the second Sunday of every month at Peace United Church of Christ, 1015 E. 11th St. in Duluth. Member congregations of CHUM (Churches United in Ministry) take turns sponsoring each month's service, which serve developmentally disabled residents.
Sandwiched between songs on Sunday, retired Lutheran minister Bill Perkins regularly reminded nearly 50 people in the seats that God was among them -- and most answered, without prompting or hesitation, that they knew.
More than just a wheel-chair accessible building, supporters say this is an every-month church service aimed specifically at a segment of the community often under-served for spiritual sustenance.
Unlike recent headlines about a Minnesota church that secured a court order to keep an autistic boy from coming to Sunday service because he was disruptive, CHUM Church makes room for all people, Meg Kearns, CHUM Church organizer, said.
She said CHUM Church's roots go back some 35 years, and that the church is fairly well-known now among the more than three dozen member congregations across the Duluth area.
"I think, early on, there may have been more emphasis on sort of training people's behavior to be able to go into their mainstream congregations," Kearns said. "We still promote people going to other congregations if they want. But for most of the people you see here, this is their church now. ... And I say now that maybe we need to train the congregation's behavior on how to deal with all kinds of people."
Brad Hasbrouck, known across town for his penchant for singing, comes to Chum Church when he can (sometimes it conflicts with bowling) because he likes singing in the choir.
John Mintz said he likes the music, too, but says he can't sing very well. Nobody seemed to notice or care.
Patty Maki takes the free bus from Midtowne Manor, while her friend Joyce Briddell gets a ride from her sister and likes the religious education classes that are offered.
Mark Schuman goes twice a week to his Baptist church, and is busy with Special Olympics, but still comes to CHUM Church when he can.
Some participants help read the announcements or the scripture reading, others sing in the choir. For those who can't sing, or even talk, Kearns offers colorful "prayer sticks'' to wave to the music.
Jen Hurst, a Duluth group home staff member who escorted two of her residents to CHUM Church on Sunday afternoon, said the service is appreciated at different levels by different participants.
"They all have a sense of who God is, of good and bad," she said. "But a lot of [what participants like] is the community they get here, and the music ... being with the people they get to know."
Some people come not because they are disabled in any obvious way, but because the service is so laid-back and participation is so spontaneous and basic.
"We're open to everyone,'' Kearns said. "It's nontraditional, and a lot of people like that."
For more information on CHUM Church go to www.chumduluth.org or call 720-6570.