American Sign Language, used primarily by Deaf communities in the U.S. and Canada, uses body language, body orientation, the hands, and facial expressions for communication.
There are churches entirely for the Deaf community, but churches also sometimes employ sign language interpreters for the Deaf community, or subtitles and hearing assistance to the hard-of-hearing community, to widen their reach and be more welcoming. If your church provides sign language interpretation for the Deaf community, don’t neglect to add your church to the online lists, so they can find you.
There are a number of very good websites online, able to help the acquisition of some basic signs, and the manual alphabet. It’s not difficult, and even a little will help. A web search will turn up the most popular results, which will likely include: nad.org, aslpro.com, deaflibrary.org, handspeak.com, and many others. When communicating, be sure to focus your attention on the Deaf or hard of hearing person, speak slowly and clearly while keeping your mouth clearly visible. That said, don’t talk down or insist on helping where it’s not necessary. Rather than assuming you know what’s needed, it’s okay to ask.
By the way… the Deaf community embrace the word Deaf, which encompasses an entire culture.
ASL can be beautiful to watch, and very inspiring when incorporated into praise dance. For those new to the language, a word of caution: it’s not as straightforward as it might first appear. ASL is its own language, and quite different in significant ways from English. Like any language, it’s best learned from a native speaker.
Below are two musical offerings featuring American Sign Language. The first is especially suitable for youth ministry. The second might lend itself to praise dance performance. We hope you will enjoy them in the spirit with which they are offered here.
Garden In My Soul – Kids Version
Garden in My Soul – Concert Version
The performance videos (and sheet music) are made available on this site courtesy Commodore Callahan, and feature ASL interpretation by Barry Nickelsberg. Performed by Commodore Callahan at the inaugural fundraiser of Boys Hope Girls Hope San Francisco. Available on the band’s inaugural album, Love is Here. The above videos feature: Alison Lewis and Lauren Speeth, vocals; Josh Workman, guitar; Ross Gualco, piano; Don Kane, bass; Kent Bryson, drums; Barry Nickelsberg, ASL. Lyrics Lauren Speeth melody Tammy Hall. Copyright © 2012 and prior, Elfenworks Productions, LLC, www.elfenworks.com, and posted with permission.