Let’s share a journey, the way it should be,
I’ll include you, if you include me.
Let’s share a journey and teach the ways.
God’s love can endure, all of our days.
Let’s share a journey, show us how,
To accept all people, right here and now.
Let’s share a journey, together we’ll sing,
Thanks be to God, our Lord and King.
Let’s share a journey, like should be expected,
Compassion and love and always respected.
Let’s share a journey, and we all will see,
That a journey together, is the way it should be.
In the past five years, one lesson I have learned as Founder and Director of Faith Inclusion Network (FIN) of Hampton Roads is that this journey we are on is one that is meant to be traveled together. Not only that, our life’s journey is not really about the destination, but about the people we meet along the way, which should include all different kinds of people who can understand, inspire and encourage us.
How did I get started in faith and disability advocacy? Well, as mom to Samantha, who has autism, I began advocating for inclusion in religious education classes for her at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Norfolk, Virginia. (You can read more about our story on the FIN website) I also began a Christian support group for parents raising children with special needs at my church and began to hear stories; heartbreaking stories of exclusion or just “not fitting in” at church. Soon, the idea of creating an interfaith, community networking organization began to form. I wanted to connect with even more people in our community.
Today, Faith Inclusion Network is an official non-profit organization that is comprised of individuals, faith communities, service providers and businesses interested in helping to make our places of worship more welcoming and accommodating for people with disabilities and their families. FIN hosts seminars, networking luncheons, workshops and conferences throughout the Hampton Roads area. We have also developed presentations on issues of inclusion to bring to area faith communities, and consult with those beginning to develop disability ministries. It is fascinating work and I learn more about acceptance and inclusion every day.
Has God touched your heart to be involved in some kind of inclusion work in your faith community? Are you already active in disability ministry and have ideas to share? Are you interested in starting a network like FIN in your community? Wherever you are on your journey, I hope you will take the time to get connected with CLC Network, Faith Inclusion Network or any of the other faith and disability organizations around the country. It really is about sharing our lives, experiences and our journeys. “Let’s share a journey and you will see, that a journey together is the way it should be”.
Karen Jackson is the Director of Faith Inclusion Network. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 757-282-8000.