Gallaudet Pioneered Religious Services for the Deaf
THOMAS HOPKINS GALLAUDET, concerned for the deaf, developed means to communicate with and educate them in an era when this was not often attempted. He married a deaf woman, Sophia, and two of their sons became workers with the deaf. Thomas Gallaudet, named for his father, became a minister to deaf-mutes. Edward Miner Gallaudet became president of a deaf-mute college in Washington, D.C. and an expert in international law. He also wrote his father’s biography.
The younger Thomas Gallaudet was born in Hartford, Connecticut in 1822. Like his father before him, he took up the problems of teaching the deaf. While studying to become an Episcopal priest, he began a ministry to the deaf in St. Stephens Church in New York City. It quickly outgrew the space allotted him, even before he became a priest in 1851. Like his father, he married a deaf woman, Elizabeth Budd, who had been one of his students when he taught at the New York Institution for Deaf-mutes.
The untimely death of a deaf student from tuberculosis convinced Gallaudet that not enough was being done to meet the spiritual needs of people who could not hear. With backing from his church, he established a congregation of the deaf. On this day, 3 October 1852, Gallaudet led one of the earliest-reported church service for the deaf in the United States, meeting in Washington Square Chapel at New York University. Later, his congregation bought a church building, and St. Ann’s Church was founded as the United States’ first deaf church. St. Ann’s undertook mission outreach.
One of Galludet’s pupils, Henry Syle, became the first deaf-mute person ordained by the Episcopal Church. In 1885, Gallaudet opened yet another work, the Gallaudet Home for Deaf-mutes, near Poughkeepsie, New York.
Gallaudet wrote at least one hymn. Titled “Jesus, in Sickness and in Pain,” it reveals his need of Christ:
Through all my pilgrimage below,
Whate’er my lot may be,
In joy or sadness, weal or woe,
Jesus, I’ll turn to Thee.
View the witness of a modern day deaf woman in Sue Thomas: Breaking the Sound Barrier.
Sue Thomas: Breaking the Sound Barrier can also be streamed at RedeemTV