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Old 07-30-2011, 02:48 AM   #1
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Conestoga Mennonite brings deaf signing to church service

Conestoga Mennonite brings deaf signing to church service - Tri County Record - Berks-Mont News

Thanks to a helping hand – six hands actually – Conestoga Mennonite Church in Morgantown is offering deaf signing interpretation with their regular 10:30 a.m. Sunday morning services.

The primary motivator for the deaf signing service, said Pastor Robert Petersheim, was a regular member of the congregation who is deaf.

“We are inspired by his faithfulness to keep attending and wanting to be involved in our church life,” said Petersheim, “and we recognize that there are other members of our community who are deaf and want to be part of a church family, so having (deaf signing services) is a choice which is mission driven.”

In the past there was a member of the Conestoga Mennonite congregation who offered the deaf signage ministry, yet four years ago the congregation went through a difficult time and split. When this split occurred, Conestoga Mennonite lost members, including the person who was offering the deaf ministry.

Now, as they continue to expand their ministry and reach out into the community, the church elected to contract outside help to provide the deaf signing service.

About six months ago, church member Lois Ann Mast began the search for deaf interpreters. Initially she had no success, despite contacting deaf schools in Philadelphia and Goshen, Indiana. Then, according to Mast, there was a sudden breakthrough. Now the church has three different interpreters coming every third Sunday. The interpreters - Beth Hillman, Beth Setley, and Marsha Barr – were connected to the Conestoga Mennonite through Thea Schock of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services in Lancaster, a non-profit, United Way charitable organization. The three interpreters are skilled contractors which the church happily pays for.

“Of course, it all happened in God's timing.” Mast explained. “What a blessing it is to offer this service for our community.”

Petersheim said that the congregation elected to have the interpreter positioned in the front of the church, facing the congregation - though just off to the side of the semi-circular auditorium.

“One of the blessings for the congregation has been seeing the hand movements during the singing and during the worship,” Petersheim said. “A number of people have told me that it moved them to tears simply seeing the signing professionals and the parishioners as part of the expression of worship. There was a concern that it may have been a distraction, but quite to the contrary it has been a wonderful addition.”

The church’s community does not currently have any additional needs beyond the deaf signing service, though Petersheim stated that if the need for a service arose - such as a special bible study for deaf children - that Conestoga Mennonite would “respond (and) hope to fulfill the need."

To find out more about Conestoga Mennonite Church, located at 2779 Main Street, Morgantown, visit Conestoga Mennonite Church I Morgantown, PA I or call 610-286-9124.

To find out more about Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services in Lancaster go to DHHS - Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services of Lancaster County or contact them by voice or teletype at 717-291-1839.
"Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light."
- Helen Keller
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