College Mennonite Church (Goshen, Indiana), already blessed with a fully accessible building, has taken steps to extend hospitality to people who use a visual language. In September 2011 they began hosting a monthly worship service in American Sign Language (ASL), followed by a carry-in meal. The Deaf Ministry Advisory Committee (DMAC), a local group of Deaf and hearing people is organizing the services. Pastor Phil Harden, a Deaf* man from Church of the Nazarene in Warsaw, and committee members will bring the message.
Sheila Yoder interprets for a speaker during the weekly worship service
Sheila S. Yoder, member of the DMAC, says: "Deaf people, particularly those who use ASL, have limited opportunities to worship in their own language. To the best of our knowledge, there are no other congregations in Elkhart or LaGrange counties offering a worship service in American Sign Language. The larger church is incomplete when any language group has limited access to worship opportunities. Deaf people have unique gifts and skills to offer the church that will deepen our understanding of God. We, the DMAC, believe God has called us to provide an intentional fellowship to identify and release these gifts!"
In addition, to the ASL worship service, College Mennonite Church began providing Sign Language interpreters during their traditional morning worship each Sunday.
* Deaf persons (with a capital D) have a hearing loss, use a distinct language – American Sign Language (ASL), and identify themselves with a cultural group – North American Deaf Culture. Although Deaf persons may be regarded as disabled by others, they often understand being Deaf as belonging to a cultural minority rather than having a disability.
Learn more: ADNotes info sheet on hearing and deafness.