The Northshore UU Church has made significant changes to its hearing assistance system in order to improve accessibility for those with hearing loss.
The new system will be ready for use at the September 8 service, when the 2013-’14 church season begins.
The impetus for change came from the Tuesday Morning Small Group Ministry, 10 church members who meet twice a month to share experiences and insights. Some members of the group said they were struggling to hear Sunday services, even when using the assistive listening equipment. As a result of this conversation, the group surveyed the congregation.
The survey showed that an effective hearing assistance system was “important” or “very important” to 95 percent of the respondents. Nearly half “sometimes” or “frequently” have had problems hearing in church. More than half of the surveys returned had comments, which provided valuable suggestions for improvement. Informed by the results of the survey, the group began to seek solutions with the involvement of church administrator Nancy Paskowski.
Paskowski learned that the Unitarian Universalist Association would donate a used assistive listening system but that it would need to be properly installed. A free consultation with a representative from the Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing revealed that several changes to the current set-up would make the new equipment work even better.
But all this had to be paid for. That’s when the Small Group Ministry swung into action, brainstorming several ideas for raising money and encouraging the congregation to participate in the project.
Church member Barbara Haight proposed a church-wide yard sale, with proceeds to benefit the project. This raised more than one-third of the budgeted project cost. Several church members made significant individual contributions. The Small Group Ministry, which sells fair trade coffee at cost as a service project, made a small increase in prices and is donating the profits to the project. The church service on Sunday, September 29, will be on the topic of raising consciousness about hearing issues. The offering collected that Sunday will go to the hearing-assistance system.
From a few words of discouragement spoken at a Small Group Ministry meeting early in 2013 came a church-wide effort to improve accessibility. Members of the Small Group Ministry have been so energized by the enthusiastic response to their efforts that they are now looking at ideas for the next church improvement project.