St. Barnabas’ Episcopal Church of the Deaf, a mission within the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, seeks to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to deaf people in the diocese and to promote the spiritual and earthly welfare of the deaf community by providing regular Sunday worship in sign language, opportunities for fellowship and Christian education.The Vicar of St. Barnabas also serves as Episcopal Chaplain to Gallaudet University, providing opportunities for regular worship, faith discussion groups and priestly counseling to the Gallaudet community.The members of St. Barnabas seek to serve and participate in the church community and the deaf community through our presence, witness, service and support.
St. Barnabas' Church actively participates in the Episcopal Conference of the Deaf, the organization of the Episcopal Church USA which oversees deaf ministries throughout the United States.
Why a Deaf Church such as St. Barnabas?
Why have separate services in sign language? Why not use interpreters at services to integrate deaf people?
1. Sign language is the primary means of communication for a large section of the deaf community.
2. In a signed service, the emphasis is on the visual.
3. The pace of the service is measured for the use of sign language.
4. Deaf people fully participate without having to use interpreters.
5. Members of the congregation serve in any capacity such as Lay Eucharistic Ministers, Lay Readers, chairs of committees and all other leadership positions.
6. Having a Vicar who is skilled in sign language makes possible one-on-one personal counseling and general ease of communication with the congregation.
7. The content of the sermon is focused on and relates to the Deaf community and Deaf culture.
The Vicar of St. Barnabas' also serves as the Episcopal Chaplain for Gallaudet University and the Diocesan Missioner for Deaf Ministry.
Gallaudet University provides St. Barnabas' with an office and use of an ecumenical chapel where worship is held. St. John's, Norwood Parish, provides St. Barnabas' with office space, shared sacristy, and scheduled use of St. Mary's Chapel for worship and Hines Hall for coffee hour.
We minister to each other and the Deaf community through Bible study, worship, discussion and a monthly newsletter.
Though we are serious about our faith, we enjoy the God given humor of life. We laugh and have a wonderful time together. Jesus said, "I have come to make your joy complete." We celebrate his gift of joy, as we serve each other.
The history of St. Barnabas' Episcopal Church of the Deaf in the Diocese of Washington began with The Rev. Thomas Gallaudet, called the "Apostle to the Deaf" in America.
On February 27, 1859, The Rev. Dr. Gallaudet visited Washington, D.C. on a missionary trip from New York City and officiated a service in historic St. John's Church, near the White House, with six deaf people in attendance.
Numerous services in various churches were held in Washington by The Rev. Gallaudet who was assisted by different ordained missionaries, all being deaf, except one, who came to Washington to conduct services. Active missionary work began in the 1880's and regular services were started in 1897.
In 2009, St. Barnabas' will celebrate 150 years of ministry with Deaf people in the Diocese of Washington.