Interpreting at Flatirons

This weekend I interpreted for Flatirons Community Church for the first time. Overall it went very well. A Flatirons’ service strongly resembles a service at Gateway: there are a handful of contemporary worship songs, announcements, the band plays a cover song, the sermon, and a final worship song or two. The order can change but the basic components are generally there.

The worship songs are fairly straightforward and you usually interpret them ‘frozen’ meaning almost word-for-word instead of conceptual. This is because the words are up on the screen and the Deaf are signing along with you. Everything else you can generally sign ASL which uses more conceptual signs.

The cover song can be literally anything. In Gateway I recall interpreting a Nirvana song for example. This past Sunday at Flatirons it was Dig by Incubus. Interpreting it was an interesting endeavor since it uses the word ‘dig’ in many different contexts: to pick on, to like someone, to move dirt. I try to honor the writer’s intent of such play on words with similar signs, hand shapes when doing signs, or movement between signs but in this case I had to toss it out altogether and go with just the concepts. I thought it turned out OK.

The announcements are usually a very straightforward interpreting exercise. This Sunday, however, they played a video of someone standing outside in the snow doing the announcements. He starts out “It’s really cold out here so this is going to be quick.” and then he starts speed-reading the announcements. Interpreting someone reading something can be challenging as people speak faster when they are reading something than if they are speaking normally. Interpreting someone speed reading something is oh-my-gosh impossible. I did manage to convey all of the announcements but for two of them I bailed and signed “see your program for more information”.

There are some distinct differences on how the Gateway production team interacted with their Deaf ministry folks (ie: me) compared to Flatirons, and I have to say that Flatirons has the upper hand. One important aspect is that I’m an interpreting peon and no longer a ministry leader — I like it better this way! Someone else (Tracy) told me when to show up and where to download the music and lyrics ahead of time. Another difference is that the Flatirons production crew sets up and breaks down our interpreting station (stool, music stand with music, light, and TV monitor!) whereas at Gateway we fended for ourselves. At Gateway I did have them trained to provide us with copies of the music there at the end, but everything else we had to set up ourselves — and often that involved finding a stand to use from the back. Flatirons does a full dress rehearsal prior to their first service. And I do mean full dress rehearsal — it includes all of the music, the announcements, even the sermon — everything but the prayers if I recall correctly. This was wonderful as you had a chance to sign the music and sermon and struggle through some of the hard concepts to convey before doing it live.

The downside is that you show up 1.5 hours before the first service starts. Add to that the 30 minutes it takes me to get to the church and the same amount of time back and you have a lot of time involved — about 3.5 to 4 hours. This is in sharp contrast to the 1.5 hours needed for interpreting at Gateway (during which I lived 5 minutes from the church). Another downside is that Benjamin is without a car during the time I’m away from the house on a Saturday evening (service is from 5-6pm Saturday). These aren’t going to dissuade me from volunteering but they will severely limit how much I’m able to volunteer my time. Luckily they have several volunteers and we should be able to space folks out accordingly.

The Deaf ministry folks are amazing. I really liked working with them and look forward to doing so again. They are warm, friendly people who I took a liking too immediately. They reminded me of my old Gateway interpreting posse (Terri, Cara, & Jan – I miss you!) although they could never replace them.

I’m looking forward to my next interpreting gig, whenever that time comes. All the interpreters are meeting Jan 11th to go over the plans for the year and I expect I’ll be able to volunteer for dates at that time.

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I'm a gay geek living in Seattle, WA.

4 thoughts on “Interpreting at Flatirons”

  1. ASL

    I’m so glad to hear that you’ve gotten back into something I know you enjoy so much. Also, interesting note…I’ve just signed up for an ASL class myself through ASL School here in Austin. I don’t know if that’s where you went or not, but Mitch and I are going there starting in January, and we’re really looking forward to it!


    1. Re: ASL

      Cool! It’s probably the same place – I think they renamed it after the lady who started it (Fran) passed away. That happened before I left Austin however. Are you two signed up for class 101?


  2. The Great Church Search

    It sounds like The Great Church Search finally has a happy ending! It’s very good to hear that you’ve finally found a congregation that suits you and that you can fully participate in like this.


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