By Alexander Ogheneruemu
When the video clip of a choir ministration performing in sign language by the Deeper Christian Life Ministry choir hit the online space on July 23, many respondents were excited at the initiative.
The Sign Choir rendition featured deaf members of the church. They performed right before DLCM Superintendent, Pastor Williams Kumuyi in Kado, Abuja, at a combined worship service. It was the first of its kind in the church’s history to be aired to a global audience.
A dream come true…
The move was a dream come true for a minority section of the church that has long craved greater involvement. It represented a big boost in the ministry’s rating in church inclusiveness – offering heightened hopes of better things. It is proof that the call for inclusion is yielding results
But it wasn’t always like that…it took a long in coming
As is common when people of different backgrounds, affinities, and orientations come together, there have been complaints of poor inclusion, inaccessibility, lack of options, and subtle neglect, from various quarters among the special brethren (deaf specifically). So for those who have been following the narrative, Sunday, July 23, spoke loud to one effect: “A potent push for better inclusive options is indeed going on behind the scenes”. And it is getting the nod of the man at the helm of the ministry.
The first glimmers of hope came on the heels of the Global Crusade with Kumuyi (GCK) sometime in August 2021, during the Enugu edition.
There, the bookmakers may recall that for the first time, there was a televised worldwide broadcast of the church’s evangelistic forays which included sign interpretations for the Deaf. That move gave a global Deaf audience unprecedented access to the crusades in real-time. The ensuing excitement cannot be forgotten in a hurry.
Indeed, since the advent of the GCK in 2021, Deeper Life has taken great steps in utilizing information and communication technology for propagating the gospel. This is Commendable!
Still, there will always be room for more. And it’s only fair that everyone is carried along.
In the aftermath of that encouraging inclusive move that auspicious Sunday morning in Kado, Abuja, I was particularly drawn to look at what the ministry is doing to build on this growing legacy of “no one left behind”. I had chats with inside sources – key players in the ministry’s inclusion campaign.
Commenting on motivations behind the move, Mr Emmanuel Abiodun, a sign language interpreter at the Abuja church hints at the proliferation of gospel music today, most of which has no accessibility options for deaf Christians in the form of captions (on-screen lyrics), signed versions, etc.
He said: “We want a situation where these brethren (Deaf) have gospel songs in their desired language (sign language) so they can better assimilate the message”.
This, he said propelled the vision to have something done for the Deaf.
This is my story, this is my song…
Pastor Petrius Andrews, (husband of Uche Andrews, a Deaf sister) while throwing light on the lengthy build-up to that historic Sunday, recalls:
“Long ago when the GCK choir from all nations began, Sister Andrews expressed a desire for a time when a Sign Language choir will also feature in the programme”. This longing was communicated to Pastor Garry, the State Language Coordinator who promptly swung into action – reaching out to the State Overseer, Pastor Elijah Adebiyi.
Abiodun recalls, “The cry for inclusion has been on for some time, so our church is ready and always open to new ideas that will better the lives of all. Many churches are not yet ready, but I believe we will get there”.
Deeper Life, Abuja – setting the pace
My findings reveal that the Abuja church has been particularly progressive in matters of inclusion. According to Pastor Andrews, a special Impact Program (an offshoot of the GCK dedicated to building exceptional teens and youth) was organized for the Deaf on May 1, 2023. There was choir ministration in sign language at the local event which had over 100 participants in attendance.
But the big one that projected Deeper Life’s exemplary readiness to lead the way in church-inclusive practice to global audience and awareness was when the General Superintendent came visiting in July this year.
The dream goes Global…
“Yes, the GS was aware”, replies Pastor Andrews when I angled my question in that direction – out of curiosity. “In fact, he gave approval for the performance”.
Corroborating this, Mr Emmanuel who lauded Pastor Kumuyi’s ready assent for the signed choir performance, remarks: “The GS is the champion of this (inclusive move) because without his approval we wouldn’t have had the opportunity for a signed choir ministration.
Indeed, at the end of the brilliant performance, Kumuyi joined in the applause – lending credence to hopes for more and better. The response of the General Superintendent was encouraging, according to our media crew, says Pastor Andrews. “This is just the beginning, he continues. In fact, we have been charged by the State overseer to prepare for more visibility in the GCK programs,” he added.
Hopes are high that very soon the Global Crusades with Kumuyi and other programs of the church would get even more inclusive. This calls for more active collaboration by the special brethren (who wear the shoe, and best know where it pinches) and stakeholders. According to Pastor Andrews, the church is open to new ideas and suggestions on the way forward.
The Gospel by all means is the Gospel of Inclusion
Pastor Kumuyi’s ultimate goal remains to make the gospel accessible to everyone and the Inclusive approach (in its broadest interpretation) is one sure way this may be done.
Accordingly, the revered gospel minister has extended a welcoming gesture that strongly resonates with the spirit and letter of 1 Corinthians 9: 19-22. In those verses, the apostle Paul advances intelligent flexibility and fervor in proclaiming the gospel with one grand objective in mind – “that he might, by all means, save some”.