Hunter Calder

It's often said Church is a place of solitude,reflection and silence. But that's not the case at Joyful Ministries - a monthly church service and social group with activities for people with intellectual disabilities in Hamilton.

Church goers are encouraged to express themselves by singing and being as loud as they please.

Bonnie Kingi is a regular and says it's something the church has been doing for a long time where the volunteers help and "teach us how to do good things," during the time of devotion.

Organiser Jeni Hawker says the service is about connecting like-minded people through fun, sensory activities and spirituality.

"It's a real failure free environment where they can come and go, and they use their own talents and gifts, and they go home with something they've created."

It's a fellowship where people have freedom to express themselves.

Karen Knight is a volunteer too, she brings a van load of people and loves the fact that everyone is given the opportunity to find God in their own way.

"It's about freedom, it's about no one telling them to sit down and shut up, they can walk around, they can just be who they are and I just think that's fabulous."

Co-organiser Gaylene Pluck agrees.

"Anything goes if someone wants to make a noise they can. It's their space."

Joyful Ministries has been running for five years with the support of the Hamilton City Baptist Church and volunteers who chip in.

Mrs Pluck says it operates on a small budget and have grown through word of mouth from ten attendees to more than 40.

Between Mrs Hawker and Mrs Pluck the pair are "quite good at making something out of nothing".

Mrs Pluck says there are not enough words to describe how much she's enjoyed watching people develop and start "singing louder, talking more, sitting next to each other" and "just expressing themselves more in their own faiths and their own friendships."

The congregation have created a scarecrow which is entered in the Hamilton Gardens Scarecrow Festival. (

Mrs Hawker says everyone is looking forward to seeing it on display at the end of the month and it's about "that feeling that they are very much connected to their community, that they are participating and that we entered a scarecrow in the scarecrow competition. So we like to encourage that inclusion".

Made with funding by New Zealand On Air.