St Clements Signs In Worship Group (SCSW) was established in 2015 in an attempt to provide a uniform platform for using signs and gestures in worship, particularly for contemporary church music introduced by the musicians of the Worship Band led by Colin Crabb, who lead the family services here twice a month.
The group currently has 7 members led by George Raggett, a Trustee of Wiltshire and Dorset Deaf Association (WDDA), who has been teaching British Sign Language for 18 years and was encouraged to introduce signing in worship by Stuart Dimes, a curate at the time and also a BSL student of George’s back in 2002.
However it was only when WDDA established their signing choir, Significance in 2010 with Isobel Heaton, Evelyn Riggs and George from St Clements as founder members, that signing in worship became a regular occurrence for special services at Christmas and Summer Concerts in aid of Romanian Orphanages attending holiday camps at the House of Grace.
Significance have been competing at the annual Jersey Eisteddfod of Performing Arts since 2012 where Sign Choirs from around the UK are invited to perform 2 contrasting pieces. Inspired by some of the contemporary church music introduced by the worship band at St Clements, the choir always included one in their performance. In 2015 they performed a firm favourite at St Clements, “10,000 Reasons”, by Matt Readman and were thrilled to be judged overall winners of the Sign Choir section. They have since gone from strength to strength and were winners again in 2017.
The SCSW group has 4 members who are hard of hearing and are joined for practices by supporters who attend other local churches where signing is also used. Though St Clements is not regularly visited by profoundly deaf people who use BSL as their first language, preferring instead to worship at their own churches, they do come for the special services. The clergy, Worship Band and congregation at St Clements are very supportive of the extra dimension the group brings to worship and all are encouraged to join in. We love signing songs together, using everything but our voice to express ourselves and glorify God and our Lord, Jesus Christ.
During the enforced closure of St Clements due to the Social Distancing measures introduced to combat the spread of Coronavirus, the group have been meeting up once a week on Tuesday morning using online video links to sign songs to share via social media, read scripture and pray for the needs of the world. We would welcome anyone interested, to join us at any time, now or in the future – you do not need to have previous experience of signing. Founder member Jan Clark and Sally Pierce both joined when they first began learning Sign Language and quickly made huge contributions to both SCSW and Significance choirs, just as our two newest recruits, Michelle Merrell and Roland Newborn are doing since they joined. So come on…..
‘Raise your hands all you nations, sign to God the whole creation, how awesome is the Lord most high!’