Over the last several years, St. Barnabas Church of the Deaf, the diocesan mission for deaf ministry, found themselves in much the same circumstance as many of our small congregations: struggling to find a part-time priest who could support them. One of their hopes was to continue worshipping in their space at St. John’s Norwood; another was to worship in new parishes that might be accessible to the deaf community.
In 2014, they bravely decided to explore this latter, new model of ministry by asking Christ Church Capitol Hill to consider a part-time ASL interpreter. Capitol Hill has a large deaf population due to its proximity to Gallaudet University; and the Christ Church leaders graciously welcomed the opportunity to explore whether their deaf neighbors might want to worship with them.
As Rev. Cara Spaccarelli reports, the results were gratifying. “Having an ASL interpreter this past year has been a blessing to the whole congregation. It has attracted some ASL families and a few who previously had not had a place to worship. A few weeks ago we had our first baptism in one of our new families. For everyone, the interpreter has added a visual element to our worship that is engaging; frequently, congregants find themselves watching the interpreter and experiencing the sermon, the readings, the worship,in a whole new way. At our Passion reading on PalmSunday, the youth tended to watch the interpreter because she was so expressive in the reading, and we decided we would get three interpreters next year – one for each reader to strengthen the experience for all. Sometimes children will get in the aisle and mirror the interpreter, learning to worship God in a new language. We are so thankful to St. Barnabas for their initiative, financial support, and guidance this last year.”
Christ Church is excited to announce that they just received a $6,000 grant from the Episcopal Conference of the Deaf to continue providing the ASL interpreter at Sunday Services and major parish events in 2015. They look forward to strengthening this ministry in their community in the coming year.