I attend an Episcopal church which uses the Book of Common Prayer which contains almost every word of the service, excluding the sermon. My church also hands out weekly service bulletins which include a printed copy of the Scripture readings for the day. So for a late deafened person like myself, the service is fairly accessible. But, one thing I always missed out on was the church choir's music. For a time, I moved from my normal pew, located close by the pulpit, to sit near the choir. I could definitely hear the music much better there, but only at the expense of not hearing the sermon, so I ended up moving back.
Recently, two events occurred that motivated me to seek access to the choir's music. First, the church hired a new choir director. Also, about that time, there was a parish interest in improving accessibility, although it was focused on folks in wheelchairs. All the same, I decided to take a chance and speak to the new choir director and ask if he could get me a copy of the words the choir sang during the offertory and communion. I explained my situation - that I was unable to comprehend the words of their songs and was missing out on their ministry through music. He was very understanding and said he had done this before at other churches.
I never heard anything further on the matter and I didn't follow up on it as my church attendance fell off while I was concentrating on my grad school work. Coming back to church during the Christmas season, I was pleasantly surprised to read the following words in the service bulletin below the listing for the choir music: See anthem texts on insert. I found the words to the songs printed out on the back of the announcement sheet inside the bulletin. Excellent! I thanked the choir director after the service.
Last week, I showed the words on the insert sheet to a longtime member who also has trouble hearing. I was startled to realize she did not know the words were now part of the bulletin. I had assumed that an announcement had been made on one of the Sundays I had missed church.
Today, after the service, I showed the words to my good friend, Ann, who also attends the church. I found out she had not known about it either. Just at that moment, our minister walked by, and I reached out to tell her thank you. She had no idea that these words were helpful to us. She had thought they were printed there for the music lovers in the congregation. I explained that they were very helpful, I had inquired about it, and that printing them regularly made them accessible to anyone who needed them without their having to ask. In my heart, I think true accessibility requires no special requests.
Today the choir sang the song "Far away, what splendor comes this way?" With access to the words of the song, I felt my worship experience expressed in these four lines:
Now I hear the sound of music clear:
A page is singing with a voice of silver;
Now I hear the sound of music clear;
Such singing never heard I far or near.