We had the good fortune of connecting with Dr. Lamar Hardwick and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Dr. Lamar, where are your from? We’d love to hear about how your background has played a role in who you are today?
I was raised in a military family so my family moved quite a bit growing up. I was born in Texas and our family eventually returned to Texas when my father retired from the Army. So if I have to say where I’m from it would be El Paso, Tx. That’s where I finished high school. In addition to being a military man my father was also a minister. Both he and my mother were pillars in the faith community. This has a great influence on me growing up because I learned from an early age from both the military and the ministry the importance of giving my life to something greater than me. I learned as a child that we all have a purpose in life.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I am a pastor, bestselling author, and disability rights advocate. In 2014 after years of silently struggling with sensory processing issues, social anxiety, and a host of other challenges, I was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder at the age of 36. I have spent the last 6 years serving as an advocate for those with disabilities. As a pastor, my primary focus has been helping to educate and train faith based organizations on the need to become more inclusive of persons with disabilities. I have been privileged to speak at conferences all across the country sharing a message of disability inclusion. I have also had the privilege of being a contributing writer to a number of national media platforms, writing about my experience as a pastor, husband, father and community leader from the perspective of a person with autism. Online I am widely known as the “Autism Pastor.” Interestingly enough that’s not a name a choose for myself. It came about because of the large number of families in the autism community who found me to be their only source of pastoral care because they struggled to find a faith community that was truly inclusive. Many families impacted by disability do not have a faith community to support them. The work I do is very challenging yet also very rewarding. I’ve learned that the most important part of success is to remember your reason why. The reason why I advocate for others is because I believe in the tremendous resource that the faith community can be to persons and families impacted by disability. I also strongly believe that persons with disabilities can have a tremendous impact on the faith community. When their voice is missing from conversations about faith and spirituality, a huge void is present. My most recent book Disability and The Church is a great resource for faith communities and leaders.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I’ve lived in the metro Atlanta area for over two decades and I love Atlanta. I’m a huge Atlanta sports fan, so my first objective would be to attend any Atlanta sporting event. Falcons, Braves, Hawks, Dream, United, any team really. There’s nothing like Atlanta sports fans! Atlanta also has a rich civil rights and social justice history so I would visit the King Center, the Apex Museum, and the Center for Civil and Human Rights. Of course Atlanta is also famous for its state of the art Aquarium as well as the World of Coke and many other attractions. Finally we would grab lunch at one of my favorite spots, Mary Mac’s Tea Room.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
In 2005 I was in seminary at Candler School of Theology and although I was nearing the end of my educational training for ministry I was experiencing perhaps on of the most difficult seasons of my life. I was ready to quit. After meeting with an academic advisor, I was encouraged to do my contextual education with a pastor in Marietta named Sharma Lewis. I would spend the next two years under her tutelage and although she is now a Bishop in the United Methodist Church in the state of Virginia she continues to be a great mentor to me 16 years later. A great deal of my success is due to her leadership and counsel over the years.