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Church and the Deaf:

Also see: Church 2 |

Dean Hoodenpyl

Church on a Sunny Sunday

     While heading to church on a sunny Sunday fall day in rural Eastern Oregon, I struggled with what topic to use in my school research paper -- time was running out! At church I found my seat and tuned in my Cochlear implant to listen to the opening message. Once the music began, as usual, I turned off my implant (regardless of what is promoted about the blasted things, to a once trained musician, music through an implant all sounds like gobblie goop). I then tuned in for the message. As usual, despite all efforts on behalf of the church to accommodate my hearing loss with sound system, I spent the majority of the message changing channels and volumes trying to keep up with pastor's excitement. Many a sermon has found me given up and snoozing or daydreaming…….. Ah hah (or in this case I guess the appropriate term is "Pah"), there was my research project, namely, the movement of church involvement in working with the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

     The Deaf and HOH Culture Information page has a brief but well diagramed history of people who were influential in communication development for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. Interestingly enough church clergy had a significant involvement early on. In the 1500's Pedro Ponce De Leon, a Catholic monk, established the world's first school for the Deaf. From the 1600's through the 1800's others such as; Charles Michel De L'Eppe , a priest, Abbe Roch Sicard, and German Pastor J.F.L. Arnoldi had a profound impact on communication development, not to ignore the fact that they surely were advancing the purpose of the church. Unfortunately the churches clergy were absent (absent in at least this historical resource) from the 1900's through the present (Lauri, 2004). So what's up with our modern day churches work with the Deaf and Hard of Hearing anyhow?

     Pastor Brian Sims of Brentwood Baptist Church in Brentwood Tenn. stated that recent studies have shown that between 80 percent and 90 percent of Deaf people don't attend church. He believes this is due to a lack of interpreters and other accommodations (French, 2007).   Kathy Black, professor at Claremont School of Theology and a former chaplain at Gallaudet University said "there are likely fewer deaf ministries now then in the past because many don't get the funding they need to survive" (French 2007). Ah ha! There you have it! One of the plagues of the modern church in America "MONEY". I bet that Ponce and the aforementioned clergy didn't allow finances to block their way! It seems that Pastor Sims found some finances somewhere. He started the Brentwood Baptist Deaf Church. He placed more than 30 speakers under the floor of the church so Deaf members could feel the music. He put in a loop system for hearing aid users to tap into. He made the pews larger for signing room (French, 2007).

     Delightfully, Canaan Baptist Church out of Michigan has put together a 10 member Deaf choir for their church called "Hands or Praise." The response has been phenomenal and has given new life to the Deaf ministry in that area (Jaksa, 2005). 

     Brentwood and Canaan Baptist Churches, according to the National Association for the Deaf, are among the only 1000 Deaf congregations in the US -- and there are over 30 million Deaf and Hard of Hearing (French, 2007). Obviously the Church as a whole has dropped the ball in this area and those hard working few in the aforementioned churches are the example that needs to be followed.

     In an article titled "Ten Reasons Why the Church Needs to Embrace the Deaf Culture" number 7 reads as follows; "Deaf people think church is a hearing culture function. They don't feel a sense of connectedness to church. It's rare that you'll go to church where there's an interpreter with phenomenal skills who understands Deaf Culture. That results in information transfer so slow it's a waste of time. That's why many well-educated people don't go to church!" (Anonymous Deaf person, 1998)

     While at church on a sunny Sunday late fall day in rural Eastern Oregon, I asked the pastor of our small Baptist church, "Mike, how would you accommodate a truly Deaf individual who wanted to attend this church?" and he answered  " Sorry, but we have nothing to offer the Deaf" …….  We got some work to do!




Lauri (2004, November 23) Deaf History Deaf and HOH Culture Information (formerly Lauri's Hompage) Retrieved 3, Nov. 2007  <>


French, Rose (2007, February 22) Baptist Church Leads the way in Deaf ministry   The Christian Post .  Retrieved 3, Nov 2007  <>


Jaksa, George (2005, October 29)  Deaf choir fills church with signed music   Hearing Loss News and Reviews. Retrieved  2, Nov 2007 <>


Anonymous Deaf person (1998) Ten reasons why the church needs to embrace Deaf Culture  Deaf World Ministries. Retrieved 4, Nov 2007 <>



In a message dated 10/11/2011 9:59:52 A.M. Pacific Daylight Time, othermollie writes:
The notes on churches and services etc that i saw on the site were a little old. You maybe have this information. There are sign language congregations all over that use sign language. Here in US, ASL. Call Jehovah's witnesses wherever you are to find locations in the area. Sometimes the drive is a little long, sometimes in your area. There are about 65 people in my congregation in Eugene, Oregon. Also, conventions (bible based) happen three times yearly with between 600 -1000 attending. Also they offer a FREE Bible in full ASL (not just close captions).
- Mollie Jones

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