Hospitality for Easter
By Rev. Leo Yates, Jr.
churches are steeped in the Lenten season, and many
clergy and pastoral staff are preparing for Holy Week and Easter services. With
Easter being the most important worship service on the Christian calendar, it
is important to be welcoming to all, including Deaf and hard-of-hearing
persons. The global pandemic has caused most churches to provide online
services, and there is a strong likelihood that churches will provide online
services, with some having some sort of modified in-person service, on Easter.
older adults have some sort of hearing loss (e.g., 1 in 3 sixty-five-year-old
adults have mild hearing loss). Some recommendations to make online services become more
hospitable and better accessible for Deaf and hard-of-hearing people include:
Online Services –
- A pre-recorded service is uploaded in advance, and set to
play at a given time.
- CAPTIONING – pre-recorded video can easily include
captioning. If using YouTube, enabling the caption function is a start,
though it is not a perfect transcription. The National Center on
Disability and Access to Education offers a helpful cheat sheet. Be sure to include lyrics to the Easter hymns and songs
together in one downloadable document, as YouTube does not caption music
- DEAF-FRIENDLY - Making the service Deaf-friendly also means
making it more visually appealing by using nature scenes, views from
different parts of the sanctuary, human stories, a sign choir, a lesson to
teach “happy Easter” in sign language, and such.
- INTERPRETER - Including a sign language interpreter is
certainly helpful. Ideally, the interpreter will record themselves prior
to the finished video, submit it, and the video editor will insert the
interpreter’s video as a picture-in-picture (similar to the work in
virtual choir editing).
- ASK – If pastoral staff is aware of persons viewing/participating
with hearing loss, then be intentional to ask how the online services are
working for them. Asking every 3 to 6 months is a good best practice. This
helps the church to work at better inclusion.
- Support: with assistance from volunteers, reach out to any unengaged elderly members and
offer to play the service for them so they can hear it by phone (place
your phone by the laptop or tablet speaker).
Online Services –
Zoom and Other Platforms
- PLAN AHEAD -- all of these options require planning ahead—don’t
fall into the trap of thinking that you can simply flip a switch as you
begin and proceed.
- CAPTIONING - New releases of PowerPoint offer a captioning feature,
which can be helpful. Other services available include Rev.com, 3 Play Media, Otter, and Zoom. Using otter.ai on an iPhone is another way that persons can
follow along (placing the iPhone near the laptop or computer) to better
improve captioning accessibility for an individual.
- CAN – In place of captioning, using CAN (computer assisted
notetaking) is an option where a paid or volunteer typist places summaries
in the chat. Here is an example.
“CAN: Announcements are being shared. Guests are
encouraged to stay after for fellowship.”
“CAN: The hymn being played is ‘Christ is Risen
“CAN: Sermon – The scripture was explained. A funny
story was shared about the pastor as a child.”
If the scripts and sermons are available to the assisted
notetaker, then he or she can copy and paste them throughout the service. CAN
services can better include all people, deaf and hearing alike.
- INTERPRETER - If a sign language interpreter is on the Zoom
call, recommend that the host “pin” the interpreter. Also, it is helpful
if the interpreter renames him- or herself as "Interpreter" so he or she is
easy to identify.
- HANDOUTS - Make scripts and sermons available for download
(or to be emailed) for Deaf and hard-of-hearing persons who request it in
case other communication access is unavailable. Be sure to announce or post
this so it is known.
- DEAF-FRIENDLY – Learn and sign “Good Morning. Happy Easter.”
Include a cultural moment during announcements that teaches a new sign or
phrase each week, and mention that the church is making efforts to improve
- LARGE PRINT – For churches that are mailing or dropping off
bulletins to parishioners, include the option for a large print version for
those who need it. Be sure to contact parishioners you suspect need might
benefit from large print materials ahead of time.
- INVITE – It is ALWAYS good practice to announce at the
beginning of the service a request that persons who need better accessibility
or accommodations inform the pastoral staff or church secretary (or some
other assigned person). Be sure to include a blurb on the church website
- SUPPORT -- Easter is a good time to reach out to the elderly by phone and encourage participation.
- HOSPITALITY -- Consider a small care package (with an Easter spin). Ask a family to adopt a
senior who has been less engaged. This is a nice idea for Deafblind persons
too. Remember, some seniors or older adults have some type of hearing loss AND
Phone-in Services – Conference Call or call in services
- INVITE -- As we state above, it is important to share Easter with unengaged persons,
like older adults. Make an exerted effort to invite them to call in.
– If a few folks share concerns of not being able to follow along on a call,
then offer a smaller group call or even an individual call that offers a short
Easter devotional. This can be done by pastoral staff or volunteers on the Easter
Vigil (Saturday) and anytime on Sunday.
– Be sure to send any handouts, such as bulletins and music ahead of time,
large print versions as well.
– Consider a small care package (with an Easter spin). Consider the church
youth group to prepare care packages for seniors or older adults who have been
less engaged. This is a nice idea for Deafblind persons too.
consider these points collected from a survey of people with different disabilities as you work for
inclusion. Easter is a joyful time of the year, and practicing accessibility
and inclusion will make it a widely-shared and remembered time. Jesus made accommodations
for us; we should offer the same for others.
* For questions or more information, please contact
Rev. Yates at RevYates@eumclaurel.org.