Advent Retreat in British Sign Language
The Jesuits in Britain are launching an Advent Retreat specifically geared to the deaf and hard of hearing community. The service has been developed by the team that provides the daily prayer session for use on portable devices, Pray As You Go, which started in 2006. It now has more than 60,000 users per month, in 180 countries for the English language version alone (it is also available in six other languages).
Using British Sign Language (BSL), the sessions follow the usual retreat format of a time for stillness, followed by a passage of scripture and questions for reflection. It does not include music and other sounds, but relies instead on signing. Readings are taken from the lectionary for each of the Sundays of Advent, with reflections written by Jesuit-in-formation, Christian Keeley SJ. The retreat was developed in conjunction with the Diocese of Westminster’s Services for Deaf and Hard of Hearing People and deaf people themselves, including an inmate at Her Majesty’s Prison Brixton.
“The idea for this retreat for people who are deaf or hard of hearing originated at Magis – the international event for young adults wishing to develop their faith further,” explains Ruth Morris, Digital Communications Manager for the Jesuits in Britain. “People with hearing difficulties have occasionally contacted Pray As You Go to ask whether we could provide a series of reflections that don’t depend on audio. Despite the challenges, Advent seemed like the ideal opportunity to develop this service. It’s been a very interesting venture!”
In addition to Christian and two signers from the Diocese of Westminster, the Advent Retreat is signed by Fr Paul Fletcher SJ, a native sign language user who ministers to the deaf community throughout the UK.