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Dear Church Leaders…

Many thanks to Jenny Emory Redick who wrote the following poignant letter to church leaders on her Facebook page.  With her permission, I share it here because this letter so eloquently captures the essence of  why we at FIN work so hard to bring awareness and educate on faith inclusion.  
Jenny lives in Virginia Beach and is mom to two lovely girls, one of which has multiple disabilities. She was a FIN Board Member not too long ago and we have always appreciated her outspoken and inspirational writing style…

Jenny and her husband, Jim Redick

Dear Church Leaders, I love you all, and think you are amazing – Especially when you are real and admit humanity in all of its failings. Your jobs are hard. I appreciate you!

You don’t know many of us, but let me introduce myself as an example of a rather large group of people who have faith and …

The Avenue of Miracles

I don’t know if you believe in miracles or not, but this is the story of two kinds; one miracle of physical  healing for my daughter Samantha and the other, an amazing community response that felt as much like a miracle as my daughter’s actual healing experience.  I share this story out of deep gratitude for all the people of faith that I consider my friends. I give glory to our amazing God, who loves each and everyone one of us and listens and responds to our pleas in times of crisis.  I am thankful for the many circles of friends and acquaintances who responded with prayers, love, kindness and practical help when we needed it most.
 

 
The Avenue of Miracles
Samantha, my 19 year old daughter who has autism, had been breathing very loudly as of late and no one could really figure out why. I was convinced she had some kind …

Prom

As Director of Faith Inclusion Network, an organization that promotes inclusion and integration, I want to preface this story by addressing the important issue of “segregated” versus “integrated” events for people with disabilities or special needs.   I recognize that the Tim Tebow, “Night to Shine” Prom is promoted specifically as an event for people with special needs, therefore it is somewhat segregated by design.  The registered guests-teens with disabilities- are treated as “VIP’s”, getting special treatment, a buddy to hang out with and lots of attention. Some people do not want their loved ones with disabilities to be treated differently or “special”, and in many ways I agree with that.  But the Tim Tebow Foundation’s mission for this event is to “celebrate people with special needs”, https://www.timtebowfoundation.org/index.php/night-to-shine/ one that FIN shares as part of our vision to accept, include and celebrate all persons affected by disability in our faith communities. We …

A Call to Encouragement

Last Thursday evening over sixty people from our community gathered at Second Presbyterian Church, Norfolk to support FIN and learn more about the current work and vision of our growing organization. Beginning our 10th year, this is an important and exciting time in the development of our small non-profit, working towards our dream of making the congregations of Hampton Roads the most inclusive and welcoming in the country-envisioning a world where all people affected by disability are accepted, included and celebrated in our faith communities.  Many, many thanks to members of Second Pres., volunteers and supporters who made the reception a wonderful first time event.

In the wake of this successful gathering however, I began to feel extremely overwhelmed.  There is so much work to be done; challenges of time, finances and the daunting task of helping our community in general understand what FIN is about seem almost insurmountable.  I needed …

A (Tough) Day in the Life

 This summer, I witnessed my beautiful 18 year old daughter completely lose control, her anxiety escalating to the point she was laying on the sidewalk outside her day support building, banging the back of her head on the cement.  I was helpless, not strong enough to keep her from hurting herself, too distraught to pray.

When she was finally inside our van, the violent episode continued.  I had no other option than to drive directly to the ER.  I prayed the whole way there that she would not get the car door open or hurt me while I was driving and cause an accident.

Even through the whole distressing episode, I realized we had amazing support. Samantha’s dad came as fast as he could from work, her caregiver came to the hospital for back up support. The staff at the hospital were both professional and compassionate.  I did not try to park …

We are ready, how about you?

“What more can I do?”
This is the question I dared to pray way back in January 2008. I wanted to know how to respond to the overwhelming compassion I felt for other families going through the same experience we were-families struggling to include their child with a disability into the life of their faith community. Congregations needed to be educated, individuals and families needed to know there was help…and hope.
Nine years later and countless conversations, conferences, events and educational opportunities later, my passion for working in the faith and disability field is well developed and I have a new question on my prayer list;
“What more can WE do?

Because this is about community… our community. As members of this community, we need to decide what we believe to be acceptable and in the best interest of all persons, regardless of their perceived abilities or disabilities.

Should people with disabilities be able to access …