The coronavirus pandemic has tested the faith community in many obvious ways.
One less highlighted factor has been the impact that the lockdown and social-distancing has had on young people within the church.
Students across the island have had to adapt to a “new normal” which stripped them of everything they were used to: physically going to school and church, spending time with their peers, extracurricular activities — all of it came to an abrupt halt.
Silent Praise, a sign language group at the Bermuda Institute, decided to transition classes online.
It proved to be a blessing during the last few months of change and uncertainty as some students struggled with the domino effects of the pandemic.
Jadyn Teart, a senior at the Seventh-day Adventist school, shared its impact on her.
“Covid-19 has affected me because it has prevented me from being able to have a traditional graduation and has caused me to miss out on my last few moments as a senior with my fellow classmates.
“Online school has also made it difficult to be self-motivated to finish strong. However, by connecting with the Bermuda Institute sign language group it has definitely uplifted my spirits.
“Being a part of this class has improved my relationship with God while providing an opportunity to inspire others.”
Other students have shared similar sentiments.
Angel Seaman said: “The Government’s decision to keep school closed has presented challenges, however, my sign language group is not only a means to minister to others, but it is truly an outlet for me to express my gratitude to the great God. When I sign, I feel so free as it always tends to lift my spirit whilst creating a greater sense of the character of Christ.”
Indio Francis added: “I miss interacting with my schoolmates, and our face-to-face chapels, but when it comes to sign language, I am grateful that we can still meet via Zoom. This unique class helps me to connect with God in a distinctive way as I cry out through my hands.”
Silent Praise was created to bring awareness and encouragement to the hearing-impaired community.
The group has been in existence for ten years and teaches the basics of sign language for communication through song.
In addition to that practical skill set, it has become a ministry performing in worship services around the island; last year, for the first time, it was even in the Christmas parade.
The group’s weekly Zoom meetings has allowed Silent Praise to expand to include students from other schools and connect with alumni of Bermuda Institute.
Alumna Zharia Bean, who is studying occupational therapy in Lincoln, Nebraska, was thrilled to reconnect with the group having had to return home because of the pandemic.
“With the Covid-19 coming into place it has negatively affected my schooling because my courses are mostly hands-on,” she said. “However, signing allows me to connect with God. It has been a vital part of my life since the second grade. In fact, I plan to implement sign language in my chosen career path as a healthcare professional.”
Instructor Latoya Tull is proud of the way the after-school programme has evolved and how students used it as an expression of God’s love through the pandemic.
“I often wondered why these young people continued to select the option of service to God through this ministry, especially because it’s an extracurricular class and therefore they don’t receive a grade.
“Then it clicked to me that the reason they select the option to minister is because it’s a reflection of their growing relationship experienced while repeatedly uplifting Christ. According to John 12:32, ‘And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.’ The songs they sign speak of the word of God through their hands and is a constant reminder of our Creator. That is what holds them together.
“Even before Covid-19, they would show up at church services and events on their weekends. These teens chose to minister in Silent Praise during their spare time when they could have been anywhere else.”