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Church hosts first ‘A Very Special Christmas’ program

Members of the REACH ministry perform a Christmas program at Ironton First Church of the Nazarene.

Members of the REACH ministry perform a Christmas program at Ironton First Church of the Nazarene.

Ellis walked off stage at the Ironton First Church of the Nazarene on Tuesday after singing “Joy to the World.”

“Give it up for One Direction,” he shouted.

Ellis, a student at Necco, was the lead singer for a group of children with developmental disabilities who were part of a program called “A Very Special Christmas” presented by the church’s REACH ministry.

The church has a ministry for special needs children at 7 p.m. on Tuesdays.

“We often have 35-45 in a special service geared to their level,” Rob Hale, pastor, said. “Necco brings the boys each week to this ministry and we are excited for this first event.”

Bianca Sexton, executive director of residential services for Necco, said the REACH ministry at the church is open to anyone in the community with special needs.

“A lot of families with special-needs children have a very difficult time going to church because some of the boys get rowdy and jump up and down,” she said. “In a normal church setting that’s hard. But, in this church setting, (the church) understand(s) our needs and meets them. We are just really blessed to have that.”

The boys in the REACH ministry have been attending the Tuesday service since the middle of the summer.

“We’re really proud to have all our boys involved,” Sexton said. “Otherwise they would never get an opportunity to be in a Christmas program.”

A slideshow played on a projector screen that correlated with the performance. Special needs pastor Mark Fonner, REACH pastor, and his wife, Alicia, joined the boys for performances of “Little Drummer Boy,” “One Small Child” a Nativity scene skit called, “We are the Reason” and “Jesus Loves Me.”

“This has been a labor of love,” Fonner said. “It’s wonderful to see this. It really is.”

REACH is a new ministry that offers a uniquely designed worship service for the special needs community. A developmentally appropriate class is also offered at 10:30 a.m. on Sundays.

This plan is for the Christmas program to become an annual event.

“We love coming here,” Sexton said. “They make us feel welcome. It’s fantastic to walk into a church and not worry about how we look, how we sound or how we feel. Pastor Hale, pastor (Mark) Fonner and Alicia are always open to anything.”