Deaf Ministry
how to chat with a deaf person

Have you ever tried to introduce yourself to a person who is Deaf or hard-of-hearing?  It can be awkward or uncomfortable if you’re not sure how to communicate.  On Sunday, March 3, Fr. Dick Mahaffy will be offering a brief workshop following our worship service from 11:30 am to 12:15 pm on “How to Chat with a Deaf Person.”  He’ll introduce us to some basic sign language and offer helpful tips that make communication easier.  Providing a welcome for all people is part of the mission of the Church.  In this workshop, we’ll learn how to extend that welcome to those who are Deaf and hard-of-hearing.

a warm welcome
Dick MahaffyHello!  My name is Fr. Richard (Dick) Mahaffy.  I am an ordained deaf priest of the Episcopal Church.  I communicate with people orally (i.e. through speech and lip-reading) and with Sign Language.  I was educated at the Clarke School for the Deaf in Northampton, Massachusetts, and the Williston-Northampton School in Easthampton, Massachusetts.  I went on to earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Religion from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut.  I worked in the insurance, investment, and financial service industry for over fifteen years.  In 2011, I began attending the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts and earned a Master of Divinity degree in 2016.  I was ordained as a deacon in May 2016 and as a priest in January 2017 through the Diocese of Western Massachusetts.   In June 2017, I was elected President of the Episcopal Conference of the Deaf (ECD) at their convention in Birmingham, Alabama.
 
Many people don’t know that the Episcopal Church welcomes everyone and celebrates them as children of God regardless of their gender, race or sexuality.  The love of God is our central message because it was the central message of Jesus, who showed God’s love by welcoming the marginalized and the outcasts. 
 
A deaf church should be a place that welcomes deaf (and hearing) people, no matter what their particular spirituality might be.  We hope to engage with the deaf and hard of hearing to form an Episcopal community that worships primarily in Sign Language, with oral support.  Most deaf people prefer to worship together in Sign Language rather than attend interpreted worship services which are designed for Hearing people.  Deaf worship reflects deaf culture.  It allows deaf people to be themselves, and to worship in their natural language.  The deaf church is an important place for deaf people to meet and socialize, to learn about their faith and share it with others in a welcoming environment.  We want to attract deaf people to the gospel of Good News.
 
At the time of the Reformation, Anglican Churches gave people the opportunity to worship in their own language rather than in Latin.  Deaf people also have this right, and churches for the deaf offer creative ways to give deaf people equal access to God’s Word and to the Church’s sacraments.  In deaf congregations, our services are in American Sign Language and reflect the norms of deaf society.  The liturgy is adapted to meet the needs of the deaf people who are present, and to encourage their full participation.
 
We want to focus on new ways of ministering to deaf people and offering them the resources they need. We’d love to have you join us!  We are always eager to find out what deaf people want or need from the Church.  If you have ideas or suggestions, we would be glad to receive them! 
 
I can be reached by text to 413-387-9837 or email and I hope to hear from you!
 
Blessings to you!