Unique church service caters to deaf community
JEFFERSON CITY - When you think of attending church, you might think of church bells or hymns, but the 11:45 a.m. service at Bible Baptist Church in Jefferson City looks and sounds a little different.
"I think God had it all planned," said Pastor Randy Dignan. "He had me born into a deaf family. My mom and dad are deaf. My sister's deaf. My grandparents on both sides are deaf and my great-grandparents are deaf. We even had a deaf dog growing up."
Dignan, who can hear, became pastor at the church 16 years ago. His first Sunday there, he started a deaf service completely led in sign language.
"The hearing people have their own culture and traditions, and the deaf also have their own culture and traditions. So, a lot of times the biggest difference is not language barriers. A lot of it is cultural differences," said Dignan.
The deaf service is interactive and lively. Often the sermon turns into a conversation rather than a presentation. Dignan says part of the culture difference includes the deaf feeling comfortable to raise their hands and comment or ask questions during the middle of his sermon. The focus on deaf culture has changed the way many deaf church members understand their faith.
"Growing up in my childhood, all the churches I went to didn't have an interpreter," said deaf church member, Shawn Campbell. "Church was boring for me. There was nothing exciting about church to me. So, being able to be a part of this deaf ministry I was able to understand Christ."
While the two services are very different, there's a strong bond between both the hearing and deaf members of the congregation. Bible Baptist Church offers sign language classes on Wednesday nights, and many hearing members there have learned to sign through those classes. On Sunday, August 10, the church will hold a deaf awareness Sunday. At the 10:30 a.m. service Dignan will lead the service in sign language and someone will voice interpret to help the hearing gain a better understanding of the deaf service and culture.