Disability Diaries - Part 4: A Children's Choir Signs the Way
Minna is a Deaf Christian in a church where the children's choir learnt sign language so she could be more included. Everyone was blessed by the results!
Award-winning Manchester children’s choir both signs and sings so more people can be included
We celebrated a children's ‘Choir of Angels’ from Sacred Heart & St. Francis parish, Gorton, Manchester for learning sign language and using drums to help include a deaf member of their church, Minna Moffatt-Feldman. Minna nominated the children for our ‘Luke 5 Award’ for disability inclusion.
Minna said, “I am deaf. I use both British Sign Language (BSL) and English. Although I can read the lyrics, I cannot follow hymns or music during Mass … This group of children aged 7–16 have taken it upon themselves to incorporate signing into their songs so I can be included.”
As a result, Minna says she has truly “felt included and become more interested in the sung words and their meanings. Before, I missed out on this part of worship and at times felt sad… It is wonderful how the choir have encouraged the whole parish to be involved and opened awareness even more – indeed the choir have been the role model.”
The wisdom of children
The Choir of Angels was stunned to receive the award – Minna had kept it a surprise! The children shared some amazing wisdom about why it’s important everyone is included:
Michelle, age 11 – It gives our choir a different touch and makes it better. And if any other deaf people join, they will feel even more welcome and special. I can't wait to learn more.
Deborah, age 10 – I feel happy when I sign, especially with others. I think it is really cool that we are helping individuals in our parish, as well as doing something that we love. I am really surprised at how the language has grown and how it has become a normal thing in our parish over time.
Isabella, age 7 – Singing whilst signing is good because the deaf will feel included and know what we're singing to praise God. Also, people will know a bit of sign language; that good skill will make people proud of themselves.
Joseph, age 12 – I feel happy that sign language has been introduced to our parish because it helped us learn a new way to help people with a disability (deaf people). Sign language will also help us in the future because we might find more deaf people and they might not be able to lip-read.
Samuella, age 7 – I like signing while singing because it helps people who have hearing problems know what you are saying. I also like it because it will teach people a bit of sign language.
Hope, age 17 – Thank you, God, for showing a different way of getting your Word to be spread to everybody. For truly you are for everyone, and you accept anyone to be in your ever-growing family.
Breaking down barriers
Minna is proud of the choir and is grateful that they have become so aware of barriers faced by deaf people, especially those who use BSL. This whole experience has really encouraged the parish, who are now asking to learn some sign language. It’s the plan now to teach them all, and the children’s choir has led the way.
Annette Stuart from Through the Roof said: “Many hearing people are nervous about how to communicate with deaf people, so if that is you, watch our Deaf Awareness video – and share it with your local church – see the webpage here: https://throughtheroof.org/2022/10/24/deaf-awareness-video/ ”
Minna works as Accessibility Coordinator for Caritas Salford. It is a local charity which runs services supporting people experiencing homelessness, isolation, poverty and disadvantage across Greater Manchester and Lancashire. In her role, Minna looks at ways to improve accessibility for people in Caritas projects and parishes within the Diocese of Salford. She was really touched when her own parish strived to make its worship more accessible for her.
Minna hopes that the Choir of Angels’ example of how small changes can improve awareness and community cohesion will encourage positive action. Other parishes can then help others overcome similar barriers to inclusion that they face.
Is your church or Christian community including disabled people in its ministry? – so that the God-given gifts of disabled people can be shared with others...
You can use Disability Awareness Sunday as a positive message to disabled people. Find out more at https://throughtheroof.org/forchurches/disability-awareness-sunday/