Strictly Come Dancing could soon be featuring in sermons preached in the Diocese of Oxford, following the crowning of Rose Ayling-Ellis as winner of the Glitter Ball Trophy.
The EastEnders actor is the first deaf contestant in the show’s history. Her story has inspired the Rev Dr Hannah Lewis, who is the recently appointed chaplain to the deaf community in the Diocese of Oxford.
Dr Lewis says she’ll use the Strictly Come Dancing winner’s experiences as an illustration in sermons about God’s creation and His purposes for each of us.
“When Rose says ‘I’ve become more Rose’. Well in my mind she’s becoming more who God created her to be. She’s growing into the capabilities that God had given her.
“Others had underestimated (her). She’s underestimated (herself). But God never underestimates us. God knows what we can do.”
Credit: Janice Connolly
Hannah Lewis says the zStrictly final and Rose’s victory generated huge excitement in the deaf community.
“When the result was coming I was rooting for Rose.
“ Just watching how happy Rose and Giovanni were, how excited they were. And how excited everybody was. And I just felt ‘yes’”
The chaplain to the deaf community hopes the publicity around Strictly Come Dancing will help churches recognise the need to be more open and welcoming to people with hearing difficulties.
Dr Lewis welcomes the reported increase in the number of people starting to learn British Sign Language and hopes churches will, over time, become more inclusive.
Rev Dr Lewis suggested that a full transcript would help people from the deaf community access the interview. That seemed like a great suggestion.
Premier: What was the reaction to the final among people in the deaf community?
Rev Dr Lewis: Rose even just getting to the final was amazing. And then when she actually won – I think we were all completely stunned.
Premier: What was your own reaction watching it on tv?
Rev Dr Lewis: I mean, like an awful lot of people I started the night being happy with either of them winning. Because I mean, obviously John and Johannes have been breaking down barriers as well. And they’ve been really excited dancers. And I really enjoyed watching all six dances.
But when the result was coming I was rooting for Rose.
I’m not the sort of person who gets exciting watching telly but just watching how happy Rose and Giovanni were, how excited they were. And how excited everybody was. And I just felt, “yes”.
It’s nice when we can show we can do it – and the whole world believes in us for once, if that makes sense.
Premier: At the start of this series of Strictly Comme Dancing, thirteen weeks ago, I admit I was puzzled about how Rose would cope. I didn’t think she’d do very well because she can’t hear the music. If I was dancing I’d have to hear the music. Do you think in general the hearing community, people like me, underestimate what deaf people can achieve?
Rev Dr Lewis: Oh yes. Regularly. Personally I’ve experienced my whole life people underestimating what I’m capable of.
What I found really interesting is that I don’t think Rose was aware what she was capable either. She believed in herself – I mean, you don’t get to be an actor on Eastenders without believing in yourself. But it was very much pushing the boundaries and an experiment for herself.
She was saying in her interview and the thing that most moved me was her saying “I’m more Rose now than I’ve ever been”. Because she’d discovered what she was capable of.
I think some of the way that deaf people underestimate ourselves come from the fact that everybody assumes you can only do things one way. You can only do things the way you’re used to.
Premier: Do you think you’ll be using Strictly Come Dancing as an illustration in some of your sermons?
Rev Dr Lewis: Oh I’m sure I will (laughs). When I talk about how people are created. God created human beings. Because when Rose says “I’ve become more Rose”. Well in my mind she’s becoming more who God created her to be. She’s growing into the capabilities that God had given her.
Others had underestimated. She’s underestimated. But God never underestimates us. God knows what we can do.