Greater Loch Raven: Sign of the times is means of communication at Hiss United Methodist

Attending church, listening to the sermon, singing hymns and reading the creeds and response readings are activities that most of us can access easily. Not so for the deaf and hearing-impaired population.

Most deaf people depend on American Sign Language to communicate and often miss most or all of spoken English.

At Hiss United Methodist Church, 8700 Harford Road, an American Sign Language interpreted service is offered at the 9:30 contemporary service each Sunday.

The church's Hand to Hand Ministry of the Deaf actually began in 2009 when local resident Barbara Zufall no longer felt comfortable driving to Arbutus for services at Christ Church for the Deaf, and was attending Hiss to get as much as she could from the spoken service.

She made her needs known and the church decided to add an ASL interpreter for the 9:30 service, since it already had components which were more visual — a screen, multi-media aspects and more drama-related presentations.

To make other deaf persons more welcome, Zufall volunteered to teach basic American Sign Language to worship greeters and the choir for that service. She also offers a sign language class on Monday evenings for the public.

The number of deaf people attending the service has increased. Interpreters are Diane R. Appel and Janelle M. O'Meara, and reserved seating for those who may need it is located in the front of the church on the right side of the sanctuary.

Dianne Thompson, director of Evangelism and Communications at Hiss said, "the more deaf and hard of hearing we have in attendance, the more services we would be able to offer.

"Though we do not have a large group taking advantage of this special ministry, we get positive feedback from members and visitors about how moving watching the signing can be.

"Barbara often will sign a special hymn along with the choir which adds greatly to the spirit of worship."

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Think spring, and attend the Green Acres Garden Club on Monday, Feb. 6, from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m., at Divinity Lutheran Church, 1220 Providence Road.

The club meets on the first Monday of the month from September through June, and meetings feature a speaker or program following a brief business meeting.

At the Feb. 6 session, members will share gardening tips and ideas, and on March 12, Alice Hisley, an orchid curator at The H.P. Rawlings Conservatory, will speak on home orchid gardening.

This meeting was moved to second Monday due to many members attending the Philadelphia Garden Show is on the first Monday of March.

Two times a year, a group of about 10 members from the club host a flower arranging class for residents at Stella Maris.

Club members bring all the supplies — greens, seasonal flowers that they've attached to floral picks, soaked oasis and containers.

Residents (usually about 20) bring their creative ideas and design beautiful floral arrangements to take to their rooms.

Marie Kramer, membership chairwoman, said that the state organization, the Federated Garden Clubs of Maryland Inc., District III, has awarded the Green Acres Garden Club an award for its Garden Therapy Efforts in 2010.

"It was a well deserved award," said Kramer, "and our members are very proud to have it."

In addition, the club performs plantings and gardening at the church which hosts its organization, Divinity Lutheran Church.

The club, which currently has 22 members, is celebrating its 36th year this year and was started in by a group of women who lived in the Green Acres development off Providence Road and north of Cromwell Valley Road.

People interested in gardening, bird watching or landscaping are invited to become members. Annual membership dues are $30. For more information about membership or meetings, call Marie Kramer, at 410-668-4862; or Patricia Sipes, president, at 410-296-0208.

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