SD Parent Connection plans local workshop

SD Parent Connection plans local workshop When a congregation builds a ramp to the entrance of their church, most of its members feel that they are prepared to include the 12 percent of our population with disabilities (ranging from Attention Deficit Disorder to Developmental Disabilities).

According to Mary Fast, Director of Training for South Dakota Parent Connection, appropriate information and training are essential to building a program accessible to everyone.

To meet that need, South Dakota Parent Connection has developed "All One in the Image of God," a statewide, interfaith program to teach professionals and volunteers how to successfully include individuals with disabilities in the life of a congregation.

"At SDPC, we visit with many people who have unsuccessfully attempted to involve a family member with a disability in church activities. Many families end up leaving the church as a result," Fast said.

In most cases, she believes that congregations are open and willing, but they simply don't know how. In these situations, both sides are missing out, she said.

People with disabilities are missing out on an opportunity for social and spiritual growth. The church is missing out o the abundance of abilities, gifts and talents that individuals with disabilities and their families have to share.

"Sunday school teachers, youth volunteers, nursery workers as well as professional staff need to be taught how to make it work. And we plan to do just that," Fast said.

The "All One in the Image of God" inclusive worship project, funded by a grant from the Developmental Disabilities Council of South Dakota, will include workshops to be given in seven locations throughout the state of South Dakota. The sponsoring communities include Rapid City, Pine Ridge, Chamberlain, Vermillion, Brookings, Watertown and Sioux Falls.

The workshops will offer common sense advice and practical solutions to improving hospitality, building accessibility, adapting curriculum, and developing special programming. A free booklet on inclusive worship will also be distributed to workshop participants. There will be no charge for the workshops. No pre-registration is necessary.

The Vermillion workshop will be held Tuesday, Nov. 9, from 7 to 10 p.m. at Hillside Community Church.

South Dakota Parent Connection will also sponsor a "That All May Worship" Conference at First Lutheran Church, Sioux Falls, on Friday, Oct. 29 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Keynote speaker for this event is Ginny Thornburgh, Director of Religion and Disability Program for the National Organization on Disability.

Thornburgh is the mother of four sons, one of whom has a developmental disability. She is also the wife of Dick Thornburgh, former governor of Pennsylvania and Attorney General of the United States.

Thornburgh is well known throughout the country as a speaker, author and advocate for including individuals with disabilities in the spiritual community.

This all-day conference will feature breakout sessions on specific disability issues and an "ask the experts" panel discussion.

The "That All May Worship" conference is open to all individuals with disabilities, their family members, service providers, professional and lay workers in the church or synagogue.

The conference registration fee of $15 will include all sessions, a catered lunch and resource materials. To register call South Dakota Parent Connection at 800-640-4553 or 605-361-3171, or send checks to SDPC at 3701 W. 49th St., Suite 200B, Sioux Falls, SD 57106.

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