Well, I suppose the hearts of those who have organised this are in the right place. As one of the people churchgoers are going to be made aware of this Sunday, I have two concerns, one more theological than the other.
To get that one over with first: I dislike ‘special Sundays’ designed by the well-meaning to make the plebs sancti dei aware of social issues. Don’t get me wrong – they should be aware of those issues. At heart I am a hippy who warms to ‘the Catholic who is not a revolutionary is living in mortal sin’. But there is a ‘but’. But we do not, or we ought not, need themed Sundays to make us aware. Every celebration of the eucharist is a gathering of the baptised People of God, for whom there is no Jew or Gentile, man or woman, slave or free. Inclusivity does not need to be imported to the Church’s liturgy as an add-on extra. It is already there at the heart of the gospel and at the core of our liturgical practice. If we do not understand that, then we do not understand ourselves. And of course there is the danger that being aware of racial discrimination, autism, homelessness, or whatever, becomes something for one Sunday a year.
Secondly, this has a horrible feel of something that is being done for autistic people. The suggestion is that today the churches praying for people on the spectrum, as though we weren’t ourselves part of the Church. The Lord in his infinite wisdom has called people who are not afflicted with neurotypicality to labour in his vineyard, and that needs to be acknowledged. Because that is where the real work in this area needs to be done by churches. Far too often it is assumed that people are all the same. People want ‘warm welcomes’ at the church door (translates: people want random strangers to throw their arms around them). People want the pattern of worship to change regularly. People want forms of prayer that are imaginative rather than intellectual (I was once told off by an Anglican retreat director for ‘giving a discursus on the atonement’ in response to a Bible passage I’d been given to meditate on). To which, dear reader, my considered response is, ‘do we heck’. The truth is – and it is one with ramifications way beyond neurodiversity – that the Body of Christ is gloriously diverse. So let’s not have the hands making the feet feel like they don’t belong.