With a congregation of 6000 and three services daily, Shadow Mountain Community Church
in El Cajon, California, found a long-term solution for integrating their non-English-speaking congregants: real time interpretation with wireless technology from Listen Technologies.
Located in the eastern part of San Diego County, El Cajon is home to the nation’s second largest Arabic population. Shadow Mountain also has a large number of Spanish-speaking members, as well as German and other non-English-speaking visiting family members from time to time. Prior to acquiring their Listen system, separate church services accommodated Spanish- and Arabic-speaking parishioners. Timothy Hunten, the ministry’s technical director, looked into how to best address the church’s unique multilingual needs and found Listen Technologies.
Now services are more fully integrated, allowing for a greater degree of multicultural fellowship.
The real-time interpretation
is conducted from five booths, each equipped with a video monitor and headphone allowing interpreters to observe what they are hearing during the approximately 90-minute services (sermons, which are the main portion of the interpretation, last approximately 40 minutes). Up to five channels may be accessed during a given service, one dedicated to assisted listening. Hymns, announcements, and dramatic enactments are not interpreted, but non-English-speaking churchgoers find having their own language right in their ears helps them more fully understand and follow along.
Looking back, the entire acquisition process was really easy, says Hunten, who found Listen’s equipment to be “not only superior in sound quality, but a fraction of the competition’s cost.” The system has been worry-free from the start. Well, almost.
“We underestimated how much cable would be needed to set up the antenna (our church is quite large). We purchased the additional cable from a local retailer and we goofed. We bought the wrong kind. We couldn’t figure out why things weren’t working. Next thing I knew, Listen sent someone out get the problem resolved. We were astounded that a company would provide that kind of personal service for an account so small.”
“We’ve been thrilled with our investment,” he adds. “Once we tuned it in and tweaked it for optimum output, we haven’t had to do much with it. In fact, the only maintenance issue we’ve encountered is changing the batteries, and you can’t really call that maintenance, can you?”
The church’s 50 headsets are wheeled out to the lobby on a custom-built cart so churchgoers simply pick up headsets as they enter. “It has been so rewarding to look around during church services and see so many different faces, to have such a clear picture of who we are as a community,” says Hunten, who takes pride in knowing the church’s Arabic- and Spanish-speaking members feel at home, despite the language differences. The system’s assisted listening component has also allowed quite a few elderly members to more fully participate in the church.
Impressed with Listen’s quality equipment and customer-oriented approach, Hunten says he has recommended the company to three or four other churches in the area, as well as other businesses that might find such a system useful. “I figure if our four-year-old system is this good, the newer Listen products have got to be even better.” We like the sound of that.