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Learning Sign Language for the Church Setting

Learning Sign Language for the Church Setting
Coreen Gruppuso recently provided American Sign Language interpretation for a Disability Concerns leadership training.

At the Disability Concerns Leadership Training in August 2021, the ministry launched a program titled “Who’s Missing in my Church?”

During the training event, disability concerns advocates heard from allies who spoke about what the church must do to fully engage a younger generation of people living with disabilities.

Trying to practice what they preach, organizers of the training offered closed captioning, simultaneous translation to Spanish and Korean, and American Sign Language interpretation. Coreen Gruppuso led the ASL team. Here is her story in her own words:

I have always been fascinated with language, especially American Sign Language. Looking back, I am so thankful I was guided by two significant women in the church on my journey.

I grew up in Bobcaygeon, Ont., where we attended Lindsay Christian Reformed Church (now Jennings Creek CRC). Debbie, the wife of the town’s Baptist pastor, interpreted for a deaf couple at church.

I was so mesmerized that my mom and I arranged for Debbie to teach me all she knew. But she had not learned sign language from a Deaf person. And to progress, you need to learn the language from someone from the Deaf community.

When I got my driver’s license, I drove Debbie and myself to night school at Fleming College in Peterborough to learn more.

After two years of weekly night classes with her, I was ready to attend the four-year interpreting program at George Brown College in downtown Toronto. Sadly, while I was in college, Debbie passed away. 

During my time at GBC, my husband and I attended Clearview CRC because they had ASL interpretation. There I was able to watch, learn from, and be mentored by another woman, Nellie. She had graduated from GBC too and was the support I needed to get experience interpreting in a church setting.

I improved my interpreting skills at Clearview while giving back to the church community in a way that is so meaningful for me.

I continue to use my ASL interpreting skills in medical and community settings.

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