Windsor group to perform worship songs in American Sign Language at Country Music Hall of Fame |

Windsor group to perform worship songs in American Sign Language at Country Music Hall of Fame

Kelly Ragan

Kristi Baker was really sick. She went into septic shock after experiencing bad kidney stones. It sent her into organ failure. She didn't know if she would make it. She was intubated for much of her time in the hospital, so she couldn't speak. She used what basic sign language she knew, which was mostly the alphabet, and wrote down messages when she needed to communicate.

She did recover. One Sunday at Bethel Lutheran Church in Windsor, she saw a notice for a group called Hands in Praise. Hands in Praise worked to interpret worship songs using American Sign Language to ensure everyone could participate and enjoy the music.

Baker saw that as the perfect way to give back since she was still here, she said.

Elaine Mainwaring, director and founder of Hands in Praise, founded the group in 2008 in Windsor. She'd signed songs at churches from time to time, but it wasn't official until Bethel Lutheran Church asked her if she'd teach a class. She decided to go for it. She taught the class for four weeks, and her pupils got to sign a song they learned in front of the church during a service. It didn't stop there. The group now has 21 different members, mostly from Weld, who belong to 10 different churches in northern Colorado. They interpret worship songs for weddings, funerals, regular church services, Easter services, Christmas services and more. "I hope that people experience another way to connect with God," Baker said.

Hands in Praise will perform Nov. 13 at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tenn.

Kathy Rickhart, co-manager of Tigges Farm and member of Hands in Praise, said the trip to Nashville began as an attempt to get everyone together to visit a choir member who moved out there.

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There was a workshop available at the Country Music Hall of Fame, Rickhart said, so they decided to sign up. Then, Rickhart said, Hands in Praise was invited to perform a 30-minute show at the Hall of Fame. A couple other churches in Nashville requested they perform at their services, too.

The group has been working to learn and practice new songs since early spring, Rickhart said.

Signing songs is different than interpreting, Mainwaring said.

"With music you expand the sign to make it flowing," Mainwaring said. "It's like how you make your voice bigger when you sing. It's almost like dancing with your hands." After the excitement of the Nashville show, the choir will go back to signing and serving in churches in northern Colorado.

Rickhart hopes it helps people who are deaf experience the music and feel loved.

"I hope it helps them know they are not forgotten," Rickhart said.

To see the group

» To see Hands in Praise in action, go to the “Celebration Concert,” 6:30 p.m. Nov. 19 at Bethel Lutheran Church, 328 Walnut St. in Windsor.

» To donate to help cover travel expenses and the cost of the workshop in Nashville, call Elaine Mainwaring at (970) 443-7972.

To learn more about the group, go to