One of the great privileges our chaplains have is the chance to be with deaf people at important stages of their lives such as baptisms, weddings, funerals or other occasional offices.
Sadly, it is often difficult for deaf people to fully take part in these key services, whether as a member of the congregation or as one of those involved, because provision is not made to ensure that their particular communication needs are being met. It is the responsibility of the parish church to make provision for appropriate communication for deaf people in their congregations, so we may all be equal before God and in God’s service. For these 'occasional offices', it may be the responsibility of the family.
Our chaplains can help to ensure that the services are conducted in a way that deaf and hard of hearing people can have equal opportunity of understanding and engagement.
Whilst it is easier for our Chaplains to conduct the services where a pastoral link is present, we are also able to provide for other clergy, a list of interpreters, and in special circumstances can interpret for the parish priest. It is important that the service is led at the right pace for deaf people and that the priest speaks at a normal level (speaking loudly/shouting can distort the lip patterns for those lip reading)!
If conducting the service ourselves, we welcome the additional use of sign language interpreters. It is important that interpreters are familiar with interpreting church services. When this occurs, the minister conducting the service and the interpreter need to work together closely to ensure that the best use is made of the interpreter’s skills and minister’s intentions.
Cremation services that are conducted in BSL, or have an interpreter present, usually take much longer than normal services, therefore the church, cemetery or crematorium need to be aware that twice the usual allocated time must be allowed for the service to take place. It is helpful for timings for other types of services to also be flexible.
Our chaplains can also:
Help prepare deaf couples for marriage
Support and guide deaf people in advance of baptism or confirmation
Liaise with funeral directors to ensure that arrangements take account of anyone involved who is deaf or hard of hearing
Provide advice to ensure that hearing loops are switched on, that microphones are at the right sound level, the sound throughout the church is clear and that anyone who needs to lip-read is provided with seating close to the front.
Work with the priest taking the service to ensure that words and actions during symbolic moments in the services are separated. This is to allow deaf or hard of hearing people to focus on each symbol, action, prayer or liturgical expression during the service. For example, when the bride and groom exchange rings, when the water is poured during a baptism, or when the coffin is lowered during a funeral the action and the accompanying prayers or liturgy should not be simultaneous.
We hope that by working together to ensure proper communication support at key pastoral services such as weddings, baptisms and funerals, ODCD can help deaf and hard of hearing people to engage with and take part in these important moments.