Category Archives: Religious Education Inclusion

Essay Contest: Blog #4 Brittany French

Brittany was one of the first people that befriended me many years ago when my daughter and I started attending The Chosen Ministry. In her shy way, she would ask about Samantha and then about me, always remembering details that many would miss if they weren’t really listening. What a gift!
FIN would like to both thank and congratulate Brittany for sharing her story and being the winner of our very first essay contest.  As you read her essay you will realize that the remarkable thing about this story is how simple it really is…a church doing what many others do; reach out to the community and educate children in the faith.  What made a difference in Brittany’s life is how she felt and the continued acceptance as a person with a disability as she grew up in the church.  Even more wonderful, being a member of the congregation eventually led …

Essay Contest: Blog #3 Colleen Stefanowich

I have known Colleen and her parents through Young Life Capernaum and then The Chosen Ministry for many years and have always appreciated her quick smile and willingness to help.  Colleen is a friend to many, including myself and  my daughter Samantha who has autism.  Whenever we visit Church of the Holy Family‘s Chosen Ministry events and run into Colleen, I can be guaranteed a huge hug and that she will go out of her way to say hello to Samantha, understanding that Samantha cannot respond in kind but accepting and so loving all the same.  
It doesn’t surprise me then, that Colleen is so involved at her church and that she has an incredibly positive attitude. Thank you Colleen for submitting this essay and allowing us learn a bit about you. -K. Jackson
MY INVISIBLE DISABILITY
BY COLLEEN STEFONOWICH
“That is why for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, …

Building Disability Awareness with our Children

As a professional educator, it has often occurred to me that we as a community need to invest in teaching our children about disability inclusion if we are going to impact the future.
I have always found children to be delightfully honest and willing to consider news ways of thinking. It just makes sense that, during their most impressionable stages of development, we should give them the chance to learn about disability, learn about what makes people different.  We need to make the subject of disability a comfortable topic to discuss, giving them the appropriate vocabulary to be effective advocates. Perhaps this kind of education at a young age can build a foundation of awareness that will foster change in our society.

This morning I had the opportunity to talk to students at Norfolk Christian Lower School in Norfolk, VA http://www.norfolkchristian.org/ about how everyone is unique, much like a puzzle piece.  I referenced …

Missed Opportunity

A few days ago, a distraught mom contacted me for help.  Her son who has autism had been treated rather poorly and unfairly at her small church.  Although reluctant to pursue reconciliation on any level at first, the parent had agreed, after a somewhat delayed invitation from the pastor, to sit down to discuss what had happened.  I had also been invited to the meeting and was looking forward to both supporting the parent, who had been obviously hurt, and providing suggestions and resources for the church.
Unfortunately, the parent backed out of the meeting at the last minute.  She had a found a more welcoming place to begin taking her family with a youth group that she felt had more experience embracing kids who have autism.
As I sit down to ponder these events (and I had been quite invested with thought and prayer for this hurting family and the church …

30 feet in 8 years-A Journey to Inclusion

Over the past eight years I have written many times about my daughter and our experience trying to find a place for her in the church.  Sometimes encouraging, other times, difficult to read, but all stories relevant to the bigger issue of inclusion of persons with special needs into faith communities.
This particular story, a summary of the first eight years of our journey, will hopefully serve as an encouragement to those just beginning their journey as special needs parents looking to include their children, those wonderful, special children, into their own faith community. I dedicate it to all those parents out there struggling to figure out how to make worship work for their child.   I am also hopeful, as our country embraces a wave of efforts for inclusion through a strong faith and disabilities movement, that their journey will be less lengthy but just as meaningful.
30 feet in 8 …

This is Community

This is Community
Community is important and a big part of our lives. We form communities through our schools, places of employment, neighborhoods and organizations, just to name a few. But an extremely important part of many people’s lives is their involvement in their faith communities.
Faith communities can be large or small, Christian, Jewish, Muslim or any other, filled with people young or old, but they are, I think, in a special category. Because people who share a faith community often share a belief system that shapes the way they function in society and can heighten their sense of moral obligation to others. It can also be a place of true acceptance, where we can speak and act how we feel without reigning in our religious beliefs, as is often expected in polite society.
As the parent of a child with special needs, I write of faith community …