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Special-needs Christmas program challenges Eden Westside Church comment (0)

December 20, 2007

A very special Christmas program at Eden Westside Baptist Church, Pell City, Dec. 9 helped Pastor Jacky Connell challenge his congregation in what it can do for God’s Kingdom.

Presented by the St. Clair Baptist Association church’s Special Friends ministry, the program’s set was a manger scene. Members of the ministry, who suffer from cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and other mental and physical handicaps, played Mary and Joseph and others surrounding them.

The ministry has presented programs before, but this was its first Christmas program, which featured solos such as “Away in a Manger,” “O, Little Town of Bethlehem” and “Mary, Did You Know?”

Following the presentation, Connell told the almost 600 who attended that there is no reason for them to not be involved in worship, especially considering how much the members of Special Friends give.

“A lot of times, we take for granted things God has given us and don’t use our good health to do the ministry that God wants us to do,” he said. “When in reality these people with special needs ask me every Sunday what they can do.”

The ministry has 28 members ranging in age from 13 to 74, most of whom have a mental capacity less than that of a 10-year-old.

“It’s just unbelievably emotional to see special-needs individuals give their all to worship and to praise,” said Pat Shipp, who works with Allen and Carol Fuller and Lois Robinson in the Special Friends ministry.

Chris Pearson played Joseph in the Christmas program and sang “O Holy Night.” For Pearson, 22, the singing was a challenge, but Shipp said his determination was greater. “He has cerebral palsy and sometimes struggles to talk but he came through,” Shipp said.

And it touched members of the congregation. Church member Cathy Harris called the program “one of the highlights of the year” at Eden Westside Baptist.

“It is very touching to see them sing their hearts out,” she said, adding that there’s not a dry eye in the house. (TAB)

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