Thursday, August 27, 2009

Thomas Gallaudet

Today the Episcopal Church calendar marks the death of the Reverend Dr. Thomas Gallaudet (June 3, 1822 - August 27, 1902). He was the son of Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, who founded the first school for the deaf in the US.

After graduating from
Trinity College in Hartford, CT, the younger Gallaudet taught at his father's institute for a time before turning to the Episcopal priesthood. In September, 1850, as a deacon, he started a Bible study class for the deaf at St. Stephen's Church in New York City.

Gallaudet was ordained as a priest in 1851. He believed that the formal liturgy of the Episcopalians, which closely follows the Book of Common Prayer, could be easily followed by deaf persons through sign language, and that sign language could be taught to other priests. He started St. Ann's Church, which held its first services on the first Sunday in October in 1852. Both deaf and hearing parishioners worshipped together, and over time the church was known for welcoming all people regardless of race or disability. One of the church's members,
Henry Winter Syle, with Gallaudet's encouragement and support became the first deaf person ordained in the Episcopal Church (Syle is also commemorated today).

Gallaudet continued to expand his ministry by traveling to various other churches throughout the country where he taught sign language to priests and established deaf ministries in several other locations. He also founded a home for aged deaf people in Poughkeepsie, NY which continues today as a charitable fund, long after the building was closed.

According to the CyberHymnal, this hymn was written by Thomas Gallaudet, (though some sources attribute it to his father).

Jesus, in sickness and in pain,
Be near to succor me,
My sinking spirit still sustain;
To thee I turn, to thee.

When cares and sorrows thicken round,
And nothing bright I see,
In thee alone can help be found;
To thee I turn, to thee.

Should strong temptations fierce assail,
As if to ruin me,
Then in thy strength will I prevail,
While still I turn to thee.

Through all my pilgrimage below,
Whate’er my lot may be,
In joy or sadness, wealth or woe,
Jesus, I’ll turn to thee.

Thomas Gallaudet, 1845
William B. Bradbury, 1844

This tune by William Bradbury was named for a Biblical city near the Jordan River. The first line probably sounds familiar, but it was written many years before MUELLER, a popular tune for Away in a manger.

One Year Ago: God's All-Inclusive Love

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