by Jim Silver
"I wonder why I came to church today? I couldn't hear a thing."
Sadly, that was the comment my wife Janet made more than once as we attended worship. There were no assisted listening devices, or they didn't work. There were no microphones; or they weren't used properly. My wife's frustration pushed me into the "Accessible to All" (A2A) team at our local church, and then on to join our Conference Disabilities Ministries Team.
If she were still with us, she would have applauded vigorously for the new development at First Church of Christ, Middletown, where she attended until she died a year ago. The church has put a hearing loop (T-coil) under the floor of the sanctuary. This electronic assisted listening device, along with new headsets, has immeasurably increased the ability of those with and without hearing aids to hear. The change has been startling. The first Sunday after the hearing loop was installed one member of the church stood up and said that for the last ten years despite having hearing aids he had been unable to hear. As a result, he had felt isolated and left out, but now he could hear. What a difference! Those words were echoed by a number of others.
As I heard this my heart swelled to think that we were making the richness of the worship of God a reality in more people's lives. We were moving forward with "Accessibility to All." So many of us hear at the beginning of worship that in the United Church of Christ we welcome everyone. But those words can ring hollow when a church is oblivious to the special concerns of the people who have hearing, or visual, or mobility issues.
At First Church of Christ, Middletown, we are moving to be more accessible. We have installed an assisted listening device, which in our case is a "Hearing Loop." Let me add that "Hearing Loops" are being installed in all sorts of places where people congregate. This includes theaters and even airports.
I urge others to go down the path of accessibility and build the worship experience of those people who have hearing concerns. We don't want anyone to say, "Why did I come to church today. I couldn't hear a thing."
Rev. James Silver is a retired UCC pastor who lives in Middletown and worships at First Church of Christ. He is a member of the Disabilities Ministry Team. Jim is also the Prayer Station pastor at our wider church meetings!
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