What was supposed to be a peaceful Father’s Day Evensong at the King’s College Chapel turned confusing and humiliating for a Cambridge family.
Paul Rimmer, accompanied by his two sons, attended the King’s College Chapel in Cambridge, England – one they went to often – for Evensong on Father’s Day. Tristan, one of Rimmer’s sons, has autism and is nonverbal. The nine-year-old sat in awe at the architecture surrounding him at the chapel. Tristan shows his excitement through clapping and laughing. This behavior is often referred to as “stimming,” or self-stimulatory behavior; it may be characterized by hand-flapping, spinning, or rocking back and forth.
The Chapel’s usher, however, asked the Rimmer family to leave the premises because the nine-year-old was “disrupting” others. The direction to remove the child from the chapel came from the Dean of King’s College, Reverend Dr. Stephen Cherry.
After the unpleasant encounter, Rimmer took to Facebook to share a letter he wrote to Reverend Dr. Cherry regarding the event. In the letter, he wrote about Tristan: “His expressions are often loud and uncontainable. It is part of who he is, so there is no realistic way for him to be quiet.” He went on to say that the church had rejected his son, and that Tristan is not even ten years old, but has already learned that he is unwelcome.
The post has received over 5,000 reactions on Facebook and over 5,000 shares. Comments flowed in about people who have dealt with similar situations, being either a friend or relative of someone with autism or having autism themselves.
The post gained enough popularity to attract attention from Reverend Dr. Cherry himself, who in the comments section of the Facebook post, Reverend Dr. Cherry wrote a heartfelt response. He noted, “I realise that we especially failed you and Tristan on Sunday afternoon. I apologise for that most sincerely.” He asked Rimmer to meet with him to discuss how the chapel can be prepared for similar situations in the future. The Reverend stated, “I’m sure that your insights and connections could help us do better in the future.”
In an update on the matter, Rimmer wrote, “I hope this letter will help contribute positively to the conversation, not just at Cambridge, but elsewhere too.” He finished by saying his efforts and part of the conversation will continue offline in meeting with the reverend.