Psalm 100:1-2 declares, “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.”
It’s hard to ignore the joy of the Lord when worshiping with Southeast Christian Church’s Hope Praise Team.
Organized in fall 2018 by Southeast’s Shine Disabilities Ministry, Hope Praise Team is an opportunity for adults with disabilities to share the joy of the Lord with others and praise the God who made them.
Over the last year and a half, the group has had the opportunity to worship in nursing homes, at Shine Disabilities Ministry events at Southeast and even during Southeast’s Christmas Eve worship services.
Over the summer, Hope Praise Team was able to sing the national anthem at a number of University of Louisville sporting events, including baseball and women’s volleyball games.
“Our Hope Praise Team stays busy,” Shine Disabilities Ministry Leader Mary Tatum said. “They rehearse consistently and have been able to share the light of Christ with many.”
Hope Praise Team was organized after Southeast member Gary Spangler noticed a lack of people with disabilities in serving roles in churches. Spangler is chief operating officer of Ability Ministry, a nonprofit that seeks to empower local churches to embrace families impacted by disabilities.
“I’ve worked with a lot of churches through Ability Ministry, but I never saw people with disabilities on stage,” Spangler said. “We wanted to give our friends the chance to serve and to share their talents and their faith with the community.”
Spangler, who sings with the praise team, said that most adults with disabilities and their families long to minister with the local church, not just be ministered to.
“People with disabilities have the same desire any person in the local church has: They want to share their stories; they want to serve; they want others to know how God is glorified in them,” Spangler said. “It’s like what (Senior Pastor) Kyle Idleman says. They want to love and serve others ‘one person at a time.’”
Hope Praise Team members have had a positive impact on audiences as well as the volunteers who serve alongside them.
“They’ve taught me how to love well,” Spangler said. “People with disabilities are truly honest about how they feel and what they think; they don’t have filters. So many of us will see someone and ask how they’re doing, and no matter what that person is going through, they’ll put on a smile and say, ‘I’m fine.’ But I think if everyone in the church would let go of those filters and be honest about how they’re really doing, we’d be better off. We would be able to see what people are really going through and show them love.”