What about them? Karen Jackson of Faith Inclusion Network

Karen and SamanthaPeople often ask me, why did you start Faith Inclusion Network? As we excitedly prepare for our 4th bi-annual That All May Worship-2015, Embracing Inclusion Conference, the following provides a brief look back at the start of FIN and why we are so excited to invite you to Virginia Beach, VA this March.

I didn’t always know about disability, advocacy and autism. In fact, being trained as a professional educator in the field of instrumental music, even my educational background did not include learning about special needs in any way. And then my second child was born…and like many parents of children with disabilities, I became an expert.

Of all I had to learn however; therapies, treatments, medications, educational protocol, what I was the most surprised by was the realization that my child did not seem to have a place in our church. I had absolutely no idea what to do about that and began to seek out some answers.

Fast forward to 2008. My family and I had started attending a new church, one where we were embraced and accepted as we all carefully navigated our way through including Samantha, with her autistic behaviors and severe communication challenges. My daughter did have a place in a church now, but what about all those other families affected by disability? What about them?

These questions evolved into a fervent prayer to God: “What more can I do?” His answer was simple and direct: Faith Inclusion Network.

Well, I suppose it was not exactly simple, but I embraced the challenge. In 2009, after just a couple meetings of the newly established “Faith Inclusion Network”, we held our first conference, “That All May Worship-2009” and a network was born.

Today, we prepare for our 4th bi-annual conference, “That All May Worship-2015, Embracing Inclusion”. Over the course of the past seven years, I have educated myself; reading, attending conferences and most importantly, meeting and learning from some of the most amazing and generous national leaders in the faith and disability movement. Without a doubt, people like Rev. Bill Gaventa, Erik W. Carter, Ginny Thornburgh and others help put me and Faith Inclusion Network on the right path.

This is why, as our FIN Board began planning this year’s conference last summer, I proposed an outrageous vision. “Let’s hold a retreat for faith and disability national leaders. And while they are here in Virginia Beach, let’s professionally film them and create a resource to share with both our local and the national community.”

In March, this vision will become a reality when FIN friends from 9 different states will come to Virginia to participate in a retreat hosted by FIN and then stay to share their expertise at our daylong conference on Friday, March, 20. While I am immensely grateful and excited to welcome all of our guests to Virginia, I am even more overwhelmed with gratitude to an amazing God, who has been a part of the FIN ministry from the start. No one could have been less prepared then I to undertake such a venture as starting a regional faith and disabilities network. But I did ask…and that can be a very dangerous thing to do! Praise God!


FIN-LOGOKaren Jackson is the Founder and Executive Director of Faith Inclusion Network of Hampton Roads. She is the author of the newly published book, Loving Samantha, Stories of Family and Friends, Faith, Love and Community in a World that Includes Autism and Special Needs, http://www.faithinclusionnetwork.org/loving-samantha

For more information and to register for “That All May Worship-2015, Embracing Inclusion”, go to https://finconference2015.eventbrite.com or contact Karen at faithinclusionnetwork@gmail.com


About Dr. G

Dr. Stephen Grcevich serves as President and Founder of Key Ministry, a non-profit organization providing free training, consultation, resources and support to help churches serve families of children with disabilities. Dr. Grcevich is a graduate of Northeastern Ohio Medical University (NEOMED), trained in General Psychiatry at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at University Hospitals of Cleveland/Case Western Reserve University. He is a faculty member in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at two medical schools, leads a group practice in suburban Cleveland (Family Center by the Falls), and continues to be involved in research evaluating the safety and effectiveness of medications prescribed to children for ADHD, anxiety and depression. He is a past recipient of the Exemplary Psychiatrist Award from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Dr. Grcevich was recently recognized by Sharecare as one of the top ten online influencers in children’s mental health. His blog for Key Ministry, www.church4everychild.org was ranked fourth among the top 100 children's ministry blogs in 2015 by Ministry to Children.
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