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Dr. Peggy Goetz, associate professor of communication arts and sciences at Calvin College, received a $25,000 grant recently to fund an ethnographic study of how stroke survivors with communication disorders experience Christian communities. 

If you have experienced a stroke and are involved in a church community, Dr. Peggy Goetz and her student assistants would like to be in touch with you for a study Goetz is conducting. She would like to interview stroke survivors and attend worship and other church activities with them over the course of several weeks. She says, "I would love to be able to meet and attend church with stroke survivors from a variety of churches, ranging in denominations, worship styles, and so on."

According to a recent article, Goetz has found that "During the initial crisis, and in its immediate wake, stroke survivors are often well supported by their church communities with visits, meals, even day-to-day care. Once they begin adjusting to life beyond the hospital and rehab, however, the attention they get from their church families goes on the decline. Those stroke survivors who struggle to get the words out also struggle significantly when their friends begin talking to them mainly through their spouses. Sometimes, because they can’t speak easily, they lose their friends. And typically, they aren't chosen to serve as ushers, speakers, servers of communion."

Besides gaining a better understanding the experience of stroke survivors, Goetz plans to culminate the study by facilitating a worship service planned and led by stroke survivors. “I hope to have that service led and planned by stroke survivors,” Goetz said. “And I’m hoping it will be a more visceral, musical church service where people with a variety of different communication disorders can participate.” 

For me, I'm thrilled about this study. In fact, I wrote a letter of recommendation for the Goetz's grant application package. The experience of stroke survivors is common to nearly all who have an acquired disability. During the initial crisis, people from church surround the person and family with love and help. But after the crisis passes, many feel forgotten as they come to grips with a whole new life that includes disability.

If you would like to participate, contact Goetz at (616) 526-8561 or [email protected].

If you have experienced a stroke and are part of a church fellowship, how did your church respond short term and long term?

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