A newly formed Adventist Church for the deaf began with a special inaugural worship service at the Portmore Adventist Church in St. Catherine, Jamaica, last month. The event brought more than 80 people including deaf, or hard-of-hearing, individuals, family members, supporters, and church officials to the ceremony.
“You are empowering this community and that is very good”
Executive Director for the Jamaica Association for the Deaf, Dr. Iris Soutar, commended the Adventist Church for being the first to organize a church for the deaf. “You are empowering this community and that is very good,” said Soutar.
During the spiritual message, Pastor Carl Cunningham, Sabbath school director in the East Jamaica Conference, reminded the group that Jesus teaches acceptance of everyone, including the deaf and hard-of-hearing.
“God’s house should be a place for all people, including those with special needs,” said Cunningham referencing Isaiah 56:7.
Pastor Levi Johnson, president of Central Jamaica Conference and pastor of the Portmore district of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, said it was a blessing to gather those with special needs to the church. He thanked the three teachers of the Danny Williams Preparatory and Early Childhood School for the Deaf in Kingston, two of whom are members of the Portmore Church, for interpreting during the service.
“Our members of the deaf community have real welfare and spiritual needs that need to be addressed,” said Johnson.
Earlier this year, the Adventist Church in Jamaica, during the first “Day of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing”, announced plans to establish a church for this special group.
Since then, through a partnership with the Jamaica Union, the Central and East Jamaica Conferences and the Portmore church, the establishment of the congregation is now a reality, Johnson said.
Johnson outlined that the ministry to the deaf community will not merely be during the services on Sabbath. Plans are in place to appoint Pastor Coniel Morgan, who is the only pastor in Central Jamaica trained in sign language, to head the new church and help bridge the communication gap.
Johnson outlined that the ministry to the deaf community will not merely be during the services on Sabbath.
While not all the persons in attendance are members of the Adventist Church, Pastor Johnson said that they are all members of the Sabbath School.
Johnson charged the new congregation to “own the church” by taking responsibility for every aspect of the church from here on. Johnson also explained the leadership structure and services of the Adventist Church.
Plans are in place to start a sign language class next month to assist parents of deaf children and other members of the church who would like to assist in ministering to the deaf community, said Johnson.
Though a name for the church has not yet been agreed upon, the group meets on the upstairs section of the Portmore Adventist Church which seats up to 150 persons. The section is currently being remodeled to include a restroom and air conditioning units, Johnson said.