Church Interpreter Students Return to St. Paul, Coldwater to Interpret and Renew Friendships2 min read

Students and staff from the Church Interpreter Training Institute (CITI) join deaf church members following a service at St. Paul, Coldwater on Sunday, July 1, 2018. Students took turns interpreting parts of the service for the deaf members and enjoyed fellowship with them, as well as getting some critiques from them.

On June 28, 2018, twelve students were welcomed onto Concordia Theological Seminary’s campus in Fort Wayne, Ind., with the Kramer Chapel bell tower reflected in the quaint campus pond. The story might end there for some, but this group of individuals was not in Indiana just for Midwestern sightseeing. They were gathered for a unique purpose. The Church Interpreter Training Institute (CITI), which was started by the Rev. Dr. George Kraus in 1985, was ready for its 2018 summer program. This four-day intensive training program, a ministry of Lutheran Friends of the Deaf, serves to train “students to better serve deaf people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to equip them for continued growth in faith and leadership in the Christian Church.”

This year, CITI was divided into essential classes related to church interpreting in American Sign Language, including classes such as learning how to sign religious vocabulary, interpreting Scripture, studying ASL linguistics, signing hymns, understanding deaf culture, learning the art of facial/body expressions in deaf communication, exploring the scientific approach to deafness, listening to a presentation on the history and current status of deaf ministry and missions, and enjoying a Bible Study on the hermeneutical Christology of the poetry in the Psalms.

Attendees then put their hours of training into action by interpreting for the 11:30 a.m. service at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Coldwater, Mich., where some deaf members regularly attend. The Rev. Aaron Chittick serves there as head pastor. When asked why he believes that deaf people gravitate to St. Paul’s, Rev. Chittick quickly responded, “It’s simple. We offer the Gospel in a language that they can understand. God shows deaf people that he has provided a deaf service for them, so they come because God takes care of deaf people too.” Chittick continued, “[By] bringing in the CITI attendees to interpret for us, St. Paul’s is able to see that there is [not just a need in our church], but a need everywhere for church interpreters. It makes me proud to see that the Church is raising up new workers to bring the Gospel to deaf people.”

To find out more about the Church Interpreter Training Institute’s regional workshops or other programs offered by Lutheran Friends of the Deaf, visit or email CITI co-director Deaconess Heidi Sias (

To find resources for Deaf ministry in Michigan, visit our website.

Featured photo: Deaconess-intern Kaitlin Sheridan (left) and Patti Oberbeck, both CITI students, sign a hymn as a part of a sign choir during the 2018 summer CITI program.

Photos courtesy of CITI

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About the Author

Deaconess-Intern Kaitlin Sheridan has attended the Church Interpreter Training Institute (CITI) at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, and is currently doing her deaconess internship with the Ephphatha Lutheran Mission Society in the Michigan District, LCMS.

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Doris Drake - January 9, 2019

I am so thankful that LCMS sees the need for Deaf Ministry. I have two grandsons who are deaf. They were taught by Pastor Tyler while at Mi school for the deaf and were confirmed by Pastor Michael Wentzel at Saint Mark in Kentwood. Our Pastors Wife signs for them when they attend with me. What a blessing this has been.

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