Summer School last week turned out to be fantastic! (I knew it would be really!) Everyone was really friendly and supportive and it felt a very safe environment to sign in whatever level of learning people were at. The week was organised by 'Signs Of God' a national organisation who specialise in supporting people who sign or would like to sign in a Christian setting. People didn't have to be Christians to attend or anything but I suppose because of what it was 85% of people probably were. (people didn't ask each other!).
In the welcome at the start of the week we were given the talk about what going to happen. We were told that as it was an ecumenical group there would be a worship session of about half an hour every morning and evening of different types.
For example the first evening was quite a medium traditional Church Of England with an old Hymn, a modern worship chorus, and set prayers. Wednesday evening was a cafe church service with worship music that was very rave in style.
Every element of the worship sessions were listed and we were asked to volunteer to sign something during a session in the week. The list had the ability level at the side to give everyone a chance A being the easiest and E being the most difficult. 'The Lords Prayer' was an A/B where as interpreting any preacher talking was a D/E etc. (I was level C). After tea in the first group lesson we were told that we had been volunteered as a group for leading that evenings service. I was quite happy about that because then the worst would be over and I wouldn't have it on my mind for the rest of the week. We could choose from various elements and then work together in threes and fours to translate the pieces. The group I was in translated the old hymn 'Be Thou My Vision' which is quite old English and was a level C/D you have to dig deep to find the theology behind it and think about what the writer may have been actually saying. BSL isn't a sign for a word language, it has it's own grammar and is quite pictorial. Sometimes it is a sign for a word, sometimes it takes six or seven signs to describe one word and sometimes one sign can cover six or seven words.
We split it up and in the evening the three of us stood at the front and I signed V's 2 &3 -
Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.
Be Thou my battle Shield, Sword for the fight;
Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight;
Thou my soul’s Shelter, Thou my high Tower:
Raise Thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.
It's funny how you sing hymns for years and never really think deeply about what they actually mean!We had a couple of lectures every morning - I really enjoyed the one about the BSL Bible Translation Project as that was the subject I did my presentation on at college this year. It was really strange to actually meet the man who I had described in my presentation as 'The clever university theology expert who knows ancient Hebrew and can translate it into Greek'.
In the afternoon we had lessons in ability groups. We went through lots of the different elements of BSL that we have learned at college and then used them to help us tell bible stories. At one class we had to translated a five min film clip from 'Pride and Prejudice' (unfortunately not the famous Mr Darcy moment!)
On Saturday evening we had a posh evening meal and we had an entertainment evening. We were told about it before we went so I was able to get dressed up and give them the shock factor! The main organisers of the week had known me for about four years and had never seen me out of jeans. So I got lots of people telling me how great I looked!
Then on Sunday morning I signed on my own at the front for the first time ever - well the first time ever in front of a group of 98 people who all know exactly what I was saying!
Usually in a large group there maybe 4 or 5 Deaf people and everyone else has no idea whether what your saying is right or wrong!
I must explain that in BSL there are no metaphors! for example you can't sign 'Apple of my eye' as anything to do with apples and eyes. You've got to sign what it means. Therefore the signing for Jesus be the centre is completely different from what is being sung as the song is just metaphor after metaphor!
be the centre
Be my source be my light
be the centre
Be my hope be my song
Be the fire in my heart
Be the wind in my sails
Be the reason that I live
be my vision
Be my path be my guide
I went for a tutorial and the first thing I was asked was - Are you asking Jesus to be the centre or saying that he is? I answered that I thought I was asking but now she'd suggested that I could be telling, the signs could be more powerful and dramatic. Next she asked - So what are you telling him he's the centre of? What exactly do we mean by source and light? etc. etc. etc. The 'wind in my sails' translates to gently encouraging onwards (but its a movement that cleverly looks a bit like wind blowing against a boat!)
Someone told me later that they had once seen someone use the sign for sauce instead of source followed by the sign for a table lamp for light which I thought was quite funny!
So it was a really great week. I've learned such a lot, made some new friends, caught up with old ones, signed in public for the first time and come away hopefully signing faster and more fluently than before I went!
T'was reight brill! :)