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Willow Brook Church in Boonsboro Launches ASL Initiative to Reach Deaf Community

The church offers ASL-interpreted worship services on the first and third Sabbaths of every month.

In a move to foster inclusivity, the Willow Brook (Boonsboro, Md.) church has launched a new initiative to integrate American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation during its worship services.

The initiative was spurred by the efforts of two deaf church members who had been inviting friends to the church to view sermon videos interpreted into ASL in another room while the congregation worshiped in the sanctuary. In response, members donated funds to hire professional ASL interpreters to translate the first and third Sabbaths each month so the deaf and hard of hearing can participate in the congregation’s main worship service.

“There are a significant number of deaf people who simply do not find a place where they can participate in worship and be part of the community,” said Nikolaus Satelmajer, Willow Brook interim pastor. “We don’t want our deaf members to feel that they have to go to a separate room and watch another program. We want them to be part of the total congregation.”

The church hopes the ASL-interpreted services will help bridge the communication gap between the church and the local deaf and hard-of-hearing community. Notably, the greater Washington metropolitan area, within which Boonsboro lies, is home to one of the largest deaf populations in the nation. This initiative is part of the church’s commitment to reach out to this often underserved community.

Since launching in March, Willow Brook has seen an increase in the number of deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals participating in its worship service, including several participating online from around the world.

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