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Williamsport church hosts service for hearing impaired

June 15, 2005|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

WILLIAMSPORT - It was anything but quiet recently when the associate pastor and a choir from Christ Church of the Deaf in Baltimore visited with the congregation of Rehoboth United Methodist Church for a special Deaf Ministry Sunday.

"There was a bass drum in the front of the church so the choir could keep time with the music," said Rehoboth Pastor Jim Swecker. Choir members signed along with a hearing person, who also helped them stay together in the music.

The Rev. Jason Hays not only is associate pastor at the Baltimore church but also is on the faculty and is chaplain at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., a well-known school for the deaf.

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The choir has come to Williamsport for five or 10 years and Swecker said the members like it because the Rehoboth congregation enjoys what they do.

"It puts a value on what they do," Swecker said.

Congregation members put them up while they are in town and that makes the experience richer and more fulfilling for all involved, Swecker said.

Hays is hearing but he chose to minister to the deaf, Swecker said, adding there are very few United Methodist churches for the deaf.

While services for the deaf aren't new to Rehoboth members, Swecker said it was impressive to experience the dedication involved in bringing such a ministry to a deaf and hearing congregation.

Rehoboth provides an interpreter for the deaf every Sunday at the 10:45 a.m. service.

"We have between one and five hearing-impaired people in church each week," Swecker said.

The interpreter sits in a chair just below the pulpit facing the congregation. A special pew is reserved at the very front of the sanctuary for the hearing impaired, although they may sit anywhere they want, Swecker said.

Usually, Christine Shenberger signs for the services. DeafNet works with the congregation to make sure someone is available, Swecker said.

"There are a couple of our young people who say they want to work with the deaf and others are learning sign language," Swecker said.

Regular Sunday services are also at 8:15 a.m. when the services for the deaf aren't available.

"Having the services signed is great for everyone, not just the deaf," Swecker said of the 10:45 a.m. worship hour experience each Sunday.

For more information, call 301-223-9554 or visit the Web site at rehobothumc.org for the church at 30 E. Salisbury St.

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