July 3, 2012
One of the West Coast’s biggest religious gatherings of the deaf and hard-of-hearing will return to Norco Friday through Sunday.
About 1,500 people are expected at the regional convention from throughout California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah and parts of Colorado, Pasch McCombs, a spokesman for the convention told me.
The convention has been held in Norco for several years, and I attended two in the past few years. I spoke to deaf people who traveled hundreds of miles to worship with hundreds of other deaf and hard-of-hearing Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses have been the leaders, along with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (also known as the Mormon church), in serving the deaf and hard-of-hearing in the Inland area, experts told me in a 2008 story I wrote on religious outreach to the deaf.
Since I wrote the story, the number of Inland Jehovah’s Witnesses congregations with services that are entirely in American Sign Language has increased from four to six. Both new congregations, in Riverside and Ontario, were added last year, McCombs told me.
Nationwide, the number of ASL Jehovah’s Witnesses congregations is approaching 200, he said. There were fewer than 150 four years ago.
Experts told me the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Mormons have been most successful in outreach to the deaf because of the two denominations’ stronger emphasis on evangelism.
But it’s not just the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons. Other denominations also are offering more ASL services. That’s a result of deaf and hard-of-hearing folks increasingly requesting ASL worship services and the realization among religious institutions of the need that exists.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses conference is at the Assembly Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses, 1001 Parkridge Ave., Norco. For more information, email ASLJWConvention@aol.com.