How Shall They Hear: Is Anybody "Listening"?
By Pat Gardiner
As you read in our last article in the September JCR, our team was built and, once again, we were up and captioning. When you start to caption for a church, you soon begin asking yourself some questions: Is anybody really watching my captions? Does anybody care? Am I being appreciated?
We got the answer to our questions when we received the following:
"Let me tell you something about the captioned services at New Life Church. They have made the world of difference for me. My name is John. In spite of having a serious hearing loss all my life, I was always very active in my local church. I even spent a couple of years doing youth work with a home mission board. Participation in weekly services was very important. The music and celebration of special times like Christmas were the high points of my year. But, by my mid-40s, my hearing got so bad I was lost in church. I went, sat there, wondered what this week's message was about, and tried not to make a fool of myself by singing the wrong hymn. I never knew if the announcement was someone's funeral or wedding. Frustration, stress and embarrassment are not supposed to be emotions related to attending church. I had to stay away for the Christmas season because not hearing my favorites just hurt too much. Finally, I gave up completely.
"At the end of '98, I heard about a captioned church in Milton. It interested me. I decided to give it a try. It made a lot of sense to me. After all, I never considered watching a TV show that was not captioned. It was almost a year ago that I first attended a morning service at New Life. I have been back almost every week since. This year, Easter and Christmas have been joyous renewals of my faith.
"What is really important to me is that the captioned access to the service has not only brought me back to church, it has brought three generations of my family back. My daughter and my baby granddaughter come to the services each week because my wife and I do. Three generations sit together in worship and praise because we can all follow the service. My wife is hard-of-hearing. She could likely manage to follow most of the service without captions, but she too makes use of them. Why should she make do with only 'most' of the service when she can have all of it? The captioned service is so much less stressful for her when she knows she will get every word.
"So many assistive device systems for the hard-of-hearing don't help those of us with severe losses and never seem to dependably work on a regular basis. At New Life, it worked today, it worked last week and I can fully expect it to work next week. Pat Gardiner, the coordinator, and the volunteers who provide the captions take a quality and professional approach to their task. They are a team that works well together. They have expanded their provision of access to include community concerts offered jointly by several local churches. In the future we can hope to see their expertise put to work in more areas of church outreach to present the gospel to even larger groups."
We now know for sure we are making a difference, and there are millions just like John!
One frequently asked question we receive from reporters is "How do I get started?"
We are going to take the conservative approach to this question. People often resist change, so you may not want to overwhelm your pastor or religious leader with your enthusiasm when you first broach the idea of captioning.
Start by making an appointment with your pastor. When you meet with him or her, explain your profession. Explain CART and very basically explain what that involves. If you haven't done anything like this before, get it out in the open, but tell him or her you know there are churches doing this and it is proving to be very successful. Just keep to the basics. Don't get technical unless, of course, he or she inquires.
Ask if it would be all right if you brought your machine in on the following Sunday morning and sat in the service and tried writing just for yourself. Maybe ask if you can sit up at the front. That way others in the church will see you, and you will start to generate an interest, as well as, of course, building your church dictionary. Be prepared to do this for months. What you are doing is forming a trust between your pastor and yourself and demonstrating your commitment. Ask any pastor and he or she will tell you many people volunteer to help out only to give up and quit a short time later. That is the last thing your pastor wants to happen.
If you decide that captioning every Sunday is too much for you and maybe once a month would be better, then do that. Remember, consistency is the key.
After you have done this for a while, ask to bring your laptop in and to set that up. Continue to make appointments with your pastor from time to time, as you feel your confidence building, and get a little more technical as well as sharing more information you are learning about people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. Always be sure your pastor knows exactly what you are doing and establish that bond of trust. Then the captioning in your church can grow from there!
We have put together a package of articles and information for any reporters interested in captioning for their churches, and we would be happy to send it to you free of charge. Also, please forward any comments, articles or information you would like to share that would be of encouragement to others. And, because we are already getting requests as to where churches are that have captioning, please e-mail us and let us know your name and geographical area if you are or have in the past captioned for a church. NCRA will keep this list, as will we, and it will be distributed upon request.
Another key to success is to create a good religious dictionary. Here are some suggested outlines.
Jesus Christ SKWR-BG
About the Author:
Pat Gardiner is from Milton, Ontario, Canada. Please forward your ideas and comments to her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her site about CART/Captioning in churches- http://www.newlife-milton.org/captioning/2nd.htm.