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DeafChurch Together – Spring 2023 Update

April 18, 2023
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Greetings to the Gulf Atlantic Diocese! Here is what we have been up to early in the early part of this year:

Church Planting

The vision for the DeafChurch movement is to connect multiple small, home groups within a large region. Right now, I am working on St. Augustine-Jacksonville-Tallahassee (Christ the King, All Souls, Incarnation) for laying ministry groundwork. Incarnation has the beginnings of a Deaf ministry through the family of a Deaf teenager there. His parents have begun a Bible study in their home that seems to be growing. Kathy and I visited with that ministry to be supportive and were so impressed with what God is doing there. So much of my role is raising up the next generations of Deaf Christian leadership and “inspire, equip, empower” them for embracing God’s word and creating healthy (and healing) Christian Community. Part of this movement is casting vision for what God can do, in and through those whom He has called, for the spreading of his Kingdom.

Spiritual Formation

I began an online catechism cohort in American Sign Language of a group of bright, young, professional Deaf Christians who have an openness to the liturgical church. Five of the group completed the Lord’s Prayer, and we added two more for a 7-week study of the Apostles Creed (parts 1 and 2 of the catechism). Each of these remarkable young people lives in a different state: Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, California, Massachusetts. The maximum number of participants in these cohorts will be eight (so we can see each other well enough for signing). I am very excited about this cohort and equally excited about this model of instruction. I use the classic technique of asking questions that elicit thoughtful response. These young people also each come from a different denominational background. I pray for this to continue to be effective and life-transforming.

Pilgrimage to Israel 

We have five Deaf individuals and two interpreters (along with Kathy and me) going to Israel with Incarnation-Tallahassee, June 5th-16th. The two interpreters are also in Deaf ministry (and longtime friends). Two of the Deaf travelers are 14-years-old are mature in faith for their age and hungry for growth and excited about Deaf role models. This is a landmark experience for us and quite complex as we’ve recruited and coordinated flights, etc. The two interpreters are not charging us for their services, but we are covering all their registration and flight expenses. The goal of this trip is to open the door on these travelers to coordinate future trips for Deaf pilgrims. We have been very blessed by donations to make this trip possible for our Deaf group.

Mentoring and Ministry Coaching

I currently have three individuals involved with Deaf ministry (two deaf, one hearing) that I meet with at least twice a month for an hour. The hearing colleague is an Anglican deacon from Australia and leading a Deaf ministry in Laos. He is doing a creative “business-as-ministry” model where about ½ of his employees are deaf. Deaf ministry is so unique, it is important to relate to others who understand the linguistic-cultural challenges and successes.

Resource Development

142 weeks completed (of 156) for the entire three-year cycle of the lectionary in ASL on YouTube! Each video is 30-minutes long, liturgical and has discussion questions included. They are designed for small, home groups to worship, discuss, and pray together. I will still have to re-record some of the first-year services, but the goal is to have the entire lectionary set-up for Deaf/HH people to access in an ongoing way. Our online viewership is increasing slowly yet surely across the country. We regularly have Deaf viewers from other countries as well.

Administration and Development

I am very fortunate to have Flora Galbraith, a retired career administrator, who volunteers from Ambridge, PA with DeafChurch Together and meets with me monthly on a Zoom call to provide feedback and advice. Flora has been a wonderful blessing. Lives are being changed whether it is the “high-potential” leaders in catechism or a single mother with three kids in Ocala who faithfully watches the videos, takes in-depth notes, and applies what we are teaching to her daily life. She even donates monthly from her limited income (which overwhelms me). God is using this ministry to stir up the hearts of scattered, Deaf individuals in many places and we continue to encourage them to gather with other Deaf and signing Christians to grow in God’s word. I will continue to focus on building the network of Anchor Churches with a request to become part of their mission budget. This lays the groundwork for eventually having Deaf clergy and staff who can build upon a foundational income in their service to the Lord. 

Much to do! 

Thanks for your prayers for DeafChurch Together! I continue to work on developing pathways for Deaf/HH individuals to find theological training that eventually leads to opportunities for ministry positions. Please pray for the ongoing Anglican leadership development of Deaf/HH ministers. We have one young leader who is committed to fully engaging the Anglican church and seeking ordination. I hope that the trip to Israel will produce one or two more commitments. It is not about building the Anglican kingdom, rather praying and working for God’s Kingdom through revival in the liturgical churches: Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Lutheran. We lean forward to the coming Kingdom of God here on earth; one that is full of Deaf and hard-of-hearing Christians deeply committed to faith in Christ! As we experience the coming revival, we pray for our brothers and sisters in these other churches to experience it with us. God is so good, all the time. We have so much to do and the harvest is plentiful. 

Feel free to forward this update to others on the prayer and mission teams. What an amazing God we serve together!

Blessings Always,
Fr. Bob