ASL Spoken Here

Unity Spiritual Center of Lansing provides a signer for all Sunday Services.  If you know someone who speaks ASL, let them know that, not only are they welcomed here, but also that they can fully participate in a Sunday service.

And speaking of hearing, here is a valuable article from Unity Minister Lonnie Vanderslice on hearing challenges and how we can be more helpful to each other in our church environment.


“Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” Mark 4:9

(Yes, you DO need the microphone!)


Rev. Lonnie Vanderslice


This passage is often interpreted in a way that implies that the listener may not have the consciousness to understand the parable of which Jesus speaks.  But what if the listener’s has the appropriate level consciousness, yet the message cannot be heard?

A minister spends hours each week crafting a lesson, a talk, a workshop, a ceremony, ritual, or a sermon.  Topics are researched, carefully analyzed and cross-referenced for metaphysical and spiritual interpretation, cultural relevance, and congregational needs, taken to prayer and meditation, and finally, delivered.  Perhaps the most beautiful wedding ceremony, christening, membership induction, or a tender Celebration of Life is crafted and shared with the community of faithful attendees… 

But it may not be heard. 

Over 11% of the American population have been diagnosed with hearing loss totaling more than 36 million people.  In the next 20 years, this number is projected to increase to more than 51 million people and may rise to more than 65 million people in the United States.  This means that more than 11% of those gathered to hear your words of instruction, information, comfort, encouragement, or wisdom are missing the message or experience.

There are two sides to the communication process – the sender and the receiver.  Our leaders “sending” skills (i.e., form, content, delivery) – are honed to perfection with the expectation that the message will be heard and understood.  But what about the listener? The “receiver” of the information? Are we truly sensitive to our listener’s needs? 

How often do we hear or say “Oh, I don’t need a microphone – I talk loudly enough! Can everyone hear me?”  Guess what, the 11% of the population that have hearing loss are probably the 11% that didn’t nod or raise their hand.  This could be because they didn’t hear the question, for a number of reasons.

First of all, acoustics may be less than optimal, contributing to the ambient background noise already present (furnace or AC blowers, side conversations, street noise, children, movement in the room, and music – yes, the music under the meditation). These conditions cause additional echoes in the room, competing with the speaker’s message.  Other contributing factors (reverberation, feedback, distance from the speaker, type of sound system, volume setting, frequency of the speaker’s voice, dialect or accent, attention, listening skills and type of individual hearing loss) impact the ability of the individual to understand what is being said.

“Talking loud” does not adequately address any of these issues.  Succumbing to personal preference to NOT use the provided sound system not only does a disservice to the attendees, it is frustrating and disappointing to individuals who want to hear what you have to say.  Think about it – if it is important enough for you to say, it is worth making sure that everyone has access to the message. Furthermore, NOT using the microphone when available does not support our claim to inclusivity, besides being contrary to the American Disability Act.

"Churches and houses of worship (as well as other public spaces) are subject to the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This means that, for public meetings and services, ADA-compliant listening systems should be available on premises.​” (See for more information.)


There are several types of hearing loss, and other types of assistive listening technology in addition to a microphone may be needed for some individuals to be able to hear clearly.  While it is beyond the scope of this article to detail the various assistive listening systems and devices on the market today, technology reviews are plentiful on the internet.  For more information check out this link:

Nonetheless, there are additional things to consider that will make it easier for those assembled to hear and understand the message. 

·        Reduce ambient noise competing for the listener’s attention.

·        Face the listener when talking.  Don’t speak with your back to the listeners.

·        Close the doors between the sanctuary or assembly hall and the outside hallway.

·        Consider eliminating the music under the guided meditation.

·        Consider visual assistance – e.g. providing handouts, using PowerPoint slides during your presentation, simulcasting video so that all attendees can see the speaker’s face.

·        Reserve space in the front of the room for those who have difficulty hearing.

·        Use the technology you already have. 


It was only at the insistence of a family member that I agreed to have my hearing tested.  I have had a preference for years, to sit in the front, and to be positioned in a room so that I am able to see the speaker.  I did not know I had a measurable hearing loss that was affecting my quality of life. We had what I thought was a “joke” in my family for years – “Wait while I get my glasses, so I can hear you!”  Over the years, I had developed the coping skill of lip-reading.  If I cannot see your face, I often cannot discern the words you speak.


I was astounded to learn that my brain was spending an inordinate amount of time and energy “guessing” as to what had been said, filling in the gaps, and making meaning out of the pieces and parts I could actually hear.  The hearing loss I experienced fell in the range of “soft” sounds such as the letter “s”, “f”, “p”, “th” and such.  I “lose” parts of words, and as I attempt to fill in the gaps, I lose track of the end of the sentence, and thus the context.  I get lost.  Programmable hearing aids have helped significantly, and yet, I still need visual cues to fully understand what is being said.


I recently attended a daylong workshop.  I sat near the projector screen, assuming a PowerPoint would be used for presentations.  It was not.  I sat where I could see the podium and speakers. The podium was not used, the speakers wandered back and forth in the front of the room, sometimes walking away from me.  I sat to one side of the room, to reduce the ambient noise from conversations at surrounding tables. But there was no door between the main room and the vendor hall.  Then the attendees and chairs were moved about to accommodate a group exercise.  An afternoon speaker chose not to use the microphone.  “I speak loudly enough.”  Rather than being a renewing experience, the day required an inordinately large listening effort and energy expenditure as I tried to hear.


It’s not about the speaker.  It’s about the audience.  Use the microphone when one is offered. Please!  Whoever has ears to hear, LET them hear!