Deaf Awareness Week: BSL Interpreted Services at Christ Church Chilwell

Ensuring that church is a welcoming and inclusive place for all people is at the heart of offering BSL interpretation in the church services. Twice a month, services are signed at Christ Church, Chilwell, which means that Deaf people can attend.

Sylvia plays a bodhran (Irish drum) as part of the worship band – she is able to watch the guitarist or feel the beat from the drums and feel the rhythm she is playing through the bodhran. This means that she contributes to as well as participating in worship. She says the interpreted services are “brilliant and it means that I feel included.”

Andy comes from Mapperley to Chilwell because he too needs the services to be interpreted so he knows what is happening. Knowing that God forgives and loves him is very important to him and coming to church reminds him of this. Alongside the interpreting there is also the offer of advice and guidance related to Deaf awareness, and how adjustments can be made to make all aspects of worship accessible.

Neither of the interpreters are professionals but have taken qualifications to allow them to interpret effectively, learning Christian signs as well as the BSL taught on the courses. It can take hours of preparation to ensure songs, readings and sermons are translated helpfully into British Sign Language.

Margaret’s journey to learning sign language started as a call for justice. She attended a session teaching signs for hearing people to use in worship. After the session, she realised that they were using BSL to help hearing people while Deaf people were unable to attend services because of the lack of interpreters. God challenged her with the question: “So what are you going to do about it then?” From there, she took BSL courses for several years until she was able to interpret services.   Peter started to learn sign language after being encouraged by Margaret to befriend a deaf church member. After communicating through notes passed between them, he decided that learning how to communicate effectively using BSL was the answer. There followed a number of years attending BSL classes and getting involved with the Nottingham Deaf community, including as a volunteer barman. As his confidence increased so did his involvement with interpreting in church.

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