Second Annual Joy Conference, focusing on ministry opportunities for the disabled, is set for Friday and Saturday, March 29-30, at First Baptist Concord — and will kick off with a miraculous testimony from a 17-year-old blind and autistic New Hampshire singer during a worship service.
Christopher Duffley, who also is a musician, speaker and podcaster, will lead the 6:30 p.m. service March 29, at the church.
His disabilities, some of which stem from his premature birth, reflect the focus of the conference, which is to help equip church leaders and laypersons, along with caregivers, to minister to those in the community with disabilities.
“Our general and break-out sessions will focus on caregiving, starting a disability ministry and improving existing ministry,” stated a press release.
FBC, which has been offering a multitude of special needs ministries during the last 26 years, is partnering with the local chapter of Joni and Friends to present the conference.
“There is real need for churches to include families and those impacted by disabilities,” said Beck Bernier, church engagement manager for Joni and Friends.
“And churches don’t understand that they don’t have to ‘have a program’ in place to help the disabled and their families. It is just about inclusion, and welcoming them.”
“This has really resonated with me,” said Diane Knudsen, a coordinator for FBC’s Helping Hands ministry, which serves 24 adults with disabilities on a weekly basis who is overseeing the conference.
“We want to share with the community, what we have been able to do. Some people may not know what is here, or what is offered,” she added.
“But not just at FBC, but there are other programs in the area that work with those affected with disabilities.”
Bernier said disabilities don’t have to occur at birth, but can happen at any time.
“And when someone is disabled, it impacts the entire family,” she said, noting that Joni and Friends, founded by disabilities advocate Christian evangelist Joni Eareckson Tada, a quadriplegic, is an organization that addresses that very issue.
“We see this conference as a way of bringing the community together,” Knudsen said. “We are all walking hand-in-hand for and with the people we serve.
“It takes all of us to do it.”
Cost of the conference is $45 per person, and registration will be accepted up through the night of Thursday, March 29.
For more information or to register, call the church at 865-966-9791, or visit fbconcord.org/joyconference.