Everything you need to know about D/deaf and hard of hearing inclusion in the church
In this section, you will find a wide range of information, guidance, and tips to help make your church welcoming, accessible and inclusive, explore your calling and vocation, and celebrate the contribution and ministry of D/deaf people. Scroll down to find out more.
The Oxford Diocesan Council for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
The ODCD was established 125 years ago for the support of D/deaf and hard-of-hearing people in the Diocese of Oxford, which is the Thames Valley regions of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire. ODCD works with D/deaf and hard-of-hearing people to meet their spiritual, social and general needs, and to help give them a voice and full participation in church and society.
The aim is to promote the spiritual wellbeing of those who are D/deaf or hard of hearing in the counties of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire through:
- Offering opportunities for worship in British Sign Language.
- Leading baptisms, weddings and funerals in British Sign Language.
- Encouraging vocations among D/deaf and hard-of-hearing people.
- Providing pastoral and spiritual care for D/deaf and hard-of-hearing people.
- Working to raise awareness among hearing churches of the needs of D/deaf and hard-of-hearing people to ensure they feel they belong to their local church and are enabled to actively participate in the life of the church and the diocese.
- Providing grants to churches and individuals for providing interpreters, installing loop systems, BSL and deaf communication training or meeting the cost of transport.
Chaplain amongst the Deaf Community
The Revd Hannah Lewis is the lead Chaplain for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in the Diocese of Oxford.
This important chaplaincy role supports the diocese to tackle the barriers facing Deaf and hard-of-hearing people in the Church, to continue to develop the Church as a place that is accessible to all people and to learn from one another to become a more Christ-like Church.
One of the main roles of the lead chaplain is running the Deaf Church for the diocese. This provides church services and spiritual and pastoral support in BSL. Scroll for more information about Deaf Church.
This provides church services and spiritual and pastoral support in British Sign Language. We have one dedicated chapel in a Deaf centre (Reading – recently redecorated and in the process of being refurbished) and other congregations that meet in various places around the diocese.
While the chaplain is a Church of England priest, anyone – of any Christian denomination – is welcome to our services. BSL crosses hearing church barriers! All our services are led in BSL, but some have spoken voiceover, written liturgy to follow, and other ways to help non-BSL users access to worship. Deafblind people are also welcome.
The Deaf church can also provide for baptisms, weddings, and funerals in BSL. These are Christian ceremonies, but not necessarily Church of England. The lead chaplain can also work in partnership with other celebrants where requested. These can take place (with the permission of the local priest or minister) in a local Church. Baptisms can also happen in the Reading Deaf Chapel, funerals can happen at a crematorium, woodland/natural burial site or at a graveside.
Top tips for churches
What does BSL stand for, how do Deaf Church services work, and what can we all do to include Deaf parishioners in Church life?
Chaplain among the Deaf communities of the Diocese of Oxford, the Revd Dr Hannah Lewis SCL, shares the history and culture of Deaf Church.
This is the third film in our disability top tips series - see the rest of the series on YouTube. A BSL-interpreted version of this series will be made available later in 2023 - we apologise it can't be sooner.
We can help with finding BSL interpreters/ communicators who are willing and able to interpret in church for Deaf people for a variety of reasons and also for funerals in any location.
We can also offer help with the cost of paying BSL interpreters for such occasions if the alternative is that the Deaf person will not have BSL access. We can help with the cost of BSL interpreters for any funeral within the boundaries of the Diocese of Oxford, including non-religious ones. We ask people to explore alternative sources of funding first.
For non-BSL users who are deaf or hard of hearing and struggling to access their local church, the lead chaplain can work with them and their church to explore strategies that can help improve access.
The lead Chaplain, Rev Hannah Lewis is available by email or text/WhatsApp 07933 199392. She generally works Sunday – Thursday but in an emergency will respond to texts at other times. If she is on leave, the out-of-office will be on her email with details so if no response to text it's always worth an email to see when she’ll be back.