Church holding hearing-impaired services

Published 4:44 pm Friday, February 17, 2012

Steven Glass lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. And, at 44 years old, he has spent a very small portion of his life within the friendly confines of Marengo County. But Glass may yet have a long-term impact on many in the county.

Glass was born deaf, an impairment that saw him attend school in Talladega before going on to Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. and ultimately complete his education at RIT, the National Technical Institute for the Deaf in Rochester, N.Y.

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But Glass visited his family in Dixon’s Mills recently and inadvertently brought to the attention of some that church services in this part of the country are rarely deaf friendly.

“We’re supposed to be ministering to everybody that we can, especially families in our church. I recognized this was somebody that was really out of reach for me,” Aaron Carpenter, pastor of Central Baptist Church in Dixon’s Mills, said.

Glass’ mother, Debbie, has been a member at Central Baptist for approximately five years. And while she has enjoyed her experience there, she found it difficult to share that sentiment with her son, whose hearing impairment made it difficult for church members and officials to communicate with him.

“We tried to bring somebody down who could talk to him, who could not only give him counsel but could talk to him about the scriptures and talk to him about the Lord,” Carpenter said.

Help was only a state away as Carpenter contacted some familiar folks at the Bill Rice Ranch in Murfreesboro, Tenn., an organization that focuses on ministering to hearing impaired individuals.

“When I was a kid growing up in a church in Michigan, our youth group used to go there every summer,” Carpenter said of his connection to Bill Rice Ranch. “My personal experience (in deaf ministry) is very slight. Going back to the church I grew up in, we did have interpretation services for a short period of time at least. So I was exposed to it.”

In contacting the group, Carpenter was able to enlist the help of Nathan McConnell, Deaf Ministries Director for Bill Rice Ranch. McConnell traveled to Dixon’s Mills and spent time working directly with Steven Glass.

But the relationship that was born of a visitor from Canada needing the help of a visitor from Tennessee may produce new avenues for many people who have never heard of either.

“We got into the fact that he teaches sign language schools for the purpose of presenting the gospel to deaf people,” Debbie Glass said before turning her attention to others who, like her son, need liaisons. “There are deaf people in the area that travel to Montgomery to go to church. They do video churches where they have someone signing the service. They are going to try to help me find other people in the area.”

Through their newfound friendship with McConnell, the members at Central Baptist now have an opportunity to become sign language literate and open themselves and their message to a whole new demographic.

“Basically, we are wanting to have enough people at our church that can interpret the sermons or the Sunday school classes for deaf people. We’re just trying to get started and see where this leads,” Debbie Glass said.

While McConnell is on hand, the church will offer deaf services during its worship Sunday, Feb. 19 and Sunday, Feb. 26 at 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. each day. In between, members will spend time learning how to become interpreters to the hearing impaired. Those sign language classes will be Monday through Friday from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. and again Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon.

“Them wanting to do this is really amazing and a wonderful thing to do for the deaf people in the community,” Debbie Glass said.

“I would like to see this become a regular part of our ministry. This is something I felt that the Lord handed to us. We’re just kind of taking it one step at a time. I don’t know how it is going to turn out and where the Lord is going to lead this. But I would love to see this become a regular ministry,” Carpenter said. “It obviously requires that we have some deaf people attending. The people who do it are only going to be as good as they have opportunity to do it. The side benefits of course would be that as individuals gain skill interpreting, they may find avenues in interpreting weddings and funerals. This kind of a skill just creates an avenue, not only of ministry, but also of relationship with others in the community.”

Those interested in more information regarding the classes are encouraged to contact the church at 334-992-2351.