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of the

OCTOBER 14, 1883

Extracted from the Appendix of the 11th Annual Report
Of the Church Mission to Deaf-Mutes


Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
Archivist and Historiographer of the Diocese of New York, 2010

Twenty-first Sunday after Trinity, October 14th.

In the morning an Ordination was held in the Church of the Covenant, Filbert street, above Seventeenth, the Rev. Richard Newton, D. D., Rector, when two deacons ministering among the deaf, and themselves deaf, were advanced to the Priesthood--the Rev. Henry W. Syle by Bishop Stephens, and the Rev. Austin W. Mann by Bishop Bedell. By the kindness of the Rector a large part of the church was reserved for the deaf, of whom about two hundred were present, and the services and sermon were interpreted by Drs. Gallaudet and Clerc and Mr. Chamberlain.

At 9 o'clock Morning Prayer was read, and at 10:30 the Ordination began, there being present Bishops Stevens and Bedell, the Rev. Drs. Newton, Gallaudet, and Clerc, Rev. D. S. Miller, D.D., of Philadelphia, an Examining Chaplain of the Diocese of Pennsylvania, Rev. E. R. Atwill, D.D., of Toledo, an Examining Chaplain of the Diocese of Ohio, Rev. Edward W. Syle, D.D., of Philadelphia (formerly in China and Japan), father of one of the candidates, Rev. F. W. Boyd, D.D., of Waukesha, Wisconsin, and Rev. Messrs. Chamberlain and Turner. The sermon was preached by Dr. Gallaudet, Mr. Chamberlain interpreting.



And He said unto them, "Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shalt be damned."--ST. MARK, xvi., 15, 16.

These and other sayings of our Blessed Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, show us very clearly the great work which was to follow His earthly ministry, His indescribable sufferings, His terrible death, His victorious Resurrection, His forty day ministrations, His wonderful Ascension, and the gracious outpouring of the Holy Ghost, i. e., the faithful, persevering extension of the Gospel system, the latter dispensation, the Church of Christ, which beginning at Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost should eventually spread throughout the world.

The apostles, and those whom they and their successors to the end of time should associate with them in the divinely appointed threefold ministry, were to unfold the full Gospel system to every creature, so far as Providential circumstances should permit them. The believing ones, with their children, were to be rescued from the fallen condition of the great human family, and baptized into the sacramental life, being made members of Christ, children of God, and inheritors of the kingdom of heaven; while the unbelieving ones, those loving darkness rather than light, were to be condemned, i. e., left to the consequences of their own sad choice.

From the whole tenor of the teaching of the Good Shepherd we perceive that He desires all mankind to enter His fold. And if all who have professed and called themselves Christians could have properly appreciated the unity for which the Saviour prayed on the night preceding His crucifixion, His loving purposes of mercy would have been more speedily realized. The seeds of discord which Satan and His emissaries have sown among Christians, in every generation, have borne bitter fruit, and myriads have thus been robbed of the opportunity of belonging to the royal priesthood in this world, and of reigning with Christ in the world to Come. While we lament the slow progress which has been made in the way of preaching the Gospel to every creature, we can, nevertheless, rejoice that in these latter days the children of the Heavenly Father who are deprived of hearing have been reached. After the times when the apostles and their followers had miraculous gifts, by which they could heal the deaf and the dumb, this portion of the human family could not have the Gospel preached to them by the ordinary methods. For centuries deaf-mutes passed their wretched earthly pilgrimage in ignorance and darkness.

But somewhat more than a century ago, kind-hearted, ingenious, indefatigable Christian men appeared in several of the countries in Europe to enlighten the minds of deaf-mutes and lead them up to the knowledge of the Christian religion and to the enjoyment of all its blessed privileges, helps, and hopes. While there was a difference in methods, many of the instructors saw the necessity of cultivating a sign-language (suggested by the natural signs of deaf-mutes and children themselves) for the rapid expressions of ideas and for moral and spiritual culture. It would have been of great service to deaf-mutes in general if their early teachers in different countries could have agreed upon a common sign-language. Such, however, was not the case. The French and the English differed so radically, that we, in America, who received our signs from the Institute at Paris, cannot converse in this way with deaf-mutes in Great Britain and Ireland. The manual alphabets also differ. We use the single-hand, while the English use the double-hand. The underlying idea of both systems is, however, the same--i. e., the use of motions instead of sounds. The former impress the inner life through the eye as the latter do through the ear. Ideas having been graphically and vividly imparted to deaf-mutes in the sign-language, they are trained in the classrooms of the institutions to correctly express these ideas in written grammatical language, and also to understand the sentences of printed pages. I will ask your attention, brethren, for a few minutes to an explanation and illustration of the sign-language which is common to all deaf-mutes in our country. [* A few illustrations are hereby given: Pressing the right hand on the heart signifies love; grinding the heart with the closed hand, sorrow; making a circle in the air with the fore-finger, eternity; pointing to the print of the nails in the hands is the personal sign for Jesus Christ; pointing up with reverence represents God.]

I think you will now agree with me that signs are essential to preaching the Gospel to deaf-mutes, and I am sure we will all unite in praising God, that thus the apostolic commission can be more completely fulfilled in this age of the World than in any preceding one since the use of miraculous powers.

It fell to my father's lot, he having the cordial co-operation of Mr. Laurent Clerc, the French deaf-mute gentleman who accompanied him to this country, to found the first school for deaf-mutes in the United States at Hartford, Conn., in April, 1817. He was led to a greater appreciation of the importance of signs in the worship of God and the imparting of religious truth than any of the European teachers had felt, for he was the first to establish in the Chapel of his Institution a daily sign service, with instructions from Scripture texts, making, of course, the Sunday services more elaborate and the instruction of greater length. All this soon had its effect upon the youths and children who had come from the obscurity which pervaded their home-life to the cheering and elevating influences of the new wonder-life of this blessed beacon-light. There the gentle Alice Cogswell, of whom the poetess, Mrs. Sigourney, had written, the dear child who was the Providential guide to the education of her deaf brethren and sisters, was nurtured in the genial influences with which the Holy Ghost enlightened her soul until she became a bright example of Christian life. Being faithful unto the end, she was peacefully taken by the angels to the home of the blessed.

Among the first pupils who surrounded my father in his school-room was one who in the course of a few years became his wife. Being born deaf-mute, she had reached the age of nineteen in her country home with no knowledge of her Heavenly Father, and of what He had done for our race through His dearly beloved only-begotten Son. She soon responded to the truth as it was gracefully and graphically unfolded by signs, and in due time was able to read the Book of God. She became an intelligent, consistent, cheerful Christian, and after a long life of usefulness in her own home, and subsequently during her widowhood, in the Institution for Deaf-Mutes at Washington, D.C., she was, as it were, translated to Paradise. Reaching her eightieth year, she had passed an evening with some friends, appearing in perfect health and spirits. Returning to her room, she was found kneeling by her bedside in an unconscious condition. She breathed gently through the night, and on a Lord's Day morning was doubtless blessed with hearing and speech as she joined her husband in the great company of the redeemed. I could refer to many similar instances among deaf-mute men as well as women. I have often been told of the wonderful, gracious, expanding influences produced upon their minds as the Gospel was preached to them by signs.

I learned this powerfully descriptive method of communicating ideas from my mother. I remember well how I watched her face and hands as she affectionately tried to train me in the right way. The ideas came to me directly by signs without any connection with the grammatical arrangement of the English language. In my maturer years it was one of my greatest treats to have my mother tell me by signs what she had done and what she had seen during our absences from each other. Having taught deaf-mutes for fifteen years of my early life and tried to serve them as a minister of Christ and steward of the mysteries of God for thirty-three years, my youthful impressions in relation to this language of motion have become so intensified and settled that I feel that I am a credible witness, when I give my testimony as to its being a clear and distinct language by itself. In conducting a service I have the Prayer Book before me, and put its ideas rapidly into signs; but when I preach to a congregation of deaf-mutes, after spelling out the text with the manual alphabet I lose all consciousness of the English language. I think directly in signs. Pardon me, right reverend fathers and brethren of the clergy and laity, if I have brought thus my own personal experience too prominently forward. It seemed to me one of the best ways to convince you and the Church at large that signs can make up a real, living language as well as sounds. If this be so the imparting of the sacramental life, according to our Lord's appointment, cannot surely be limited to the latter. Educated deaf-mutes, it is true, have the Book of Common Prayer, with all its blessed offices, as well as those who hear and speak; but they delight in graceful, graphic signs, as we do in the modulations of the human voice, to bring out the richness and fullness of the services. The systematized use of distinctly-defined signs is the language understanded by the peculiar people to whom we are specially alluding. There is no reason, therefore, why deaf-mute men, fitted to be admitted to priest's orders, should not minister among their own kind in the language which makes prayer and praise common to those who have assembled (intelligently, notwithstanding their terrible deprivation) around the table of their Lord and Master, the Christian altar, and as they stretch forth their hands so eagerly and earnestly to receive the consecrated elements, and to spiritually feed on the Body and Blood of Christ, to know in their inmost souls the meaning of the encouraging word, "Ephphatha." It may satisfy some who cannot enter fully into these ideas, which seem so clear to us, to know that in the case of these dearly beloved and well-tried deacons, they were some five or six years old before they lost their hearing. They, therefore, retain enough of speech to utter the words of baptism, and also those of the consecration of the elements in the Holy Communion service. They can speak these words as they sign the ideas to the deaf-mute congregation. But the more we think of the whole matter, the clearer we shall see that sounds are outward symbols of ideas, as well as signs, and that in the sight of God for the benefit of His silent children, the language of motion is the real, genuine method of conducting a service, whether it be sacramental or otherwise.

The Christ-like work of enlightening the minds of deaf-mute children went steadily on for years, as one institution after another was founded in different parts of our country, till at length the time came for the more effective preaching of the whole Gospel system to the interesting people who had left the fostering care of their teachers to fight the battle of life in the various avocations which were open to them.

A Bible-Class for the adult deaf-mutes of New York city and vicinity, which it was my privilege to begin in September, 1850, led the way for me to found in New York on the first Sunday of October, 1852, St. Ann's Free Church for Deaf-mutes and their hearing friends, with services arranged for both divisions. Then we had a fair field for preaching all the principles of the Gospel--the glad tidings of the Good Shepherd who gave His life for the sheep. In 1859 the preaching of the Gospel in its fullness was extended to other large cities of our country. It was difficult to find the means to support the work and the men to conduct the sign services and preach the Gospel to these children of silence. But we were providentially encouraged to persevere in patience. At St. Ann's Church, New York, I had several dearly-beloved associates, among whom were the Rev. Dr. Ewer (recently gone to his rest), the Rev. Dr. Pennell, the Rev. Eastburn Benjamin (taken to Paradise some years ago), and the Rev. Stephen F. Holmes. They acquired some knowledge of our signs and manual alphabet, and did what they could for our deaf-mute brethren. But they were called to other fields. At length the Rev. John Chamberlain was led from the Diocese of Iowa to cast in his lot with us. By family ties he had become quite familiar with our methods of communicating with deaf-mutes. For twelve years and upward he has worked steadily on in the Church's mission to deaf-mutes at St. Ann's and elsewhere, and I trust he considers himself permanently consecrated to it. The Rev. Francis J. Clerc, D.D., after years of earnest labor in Missouri and Carlisle, Pa., was instrumental in unfolding Gospel truth to a large number of deaf-mute residents of Philadelphia, while he was the Rector of Calvary Church, and afterwards while he was the Warden of the Burd Orphan Asylum. While he held the latter position he conducted Sunday afternoon services for deaf-mutes in St. Stephen's Church, the late Rev. Dr. Rudder, Rector, which they have since found to be one of their spiritual homes. Though Dr. Clerc is not at present regularly engaged in Church work among deaf-mutes, he aids it effectively in various ways. It is a great comfort to have him with us this morning, and especially to me when I think of his father and mine as co-pioneers in the education of deaf-mutes in our land. Dr. Clerc's parents having been both deaf-mute, he would doubtless add his testimony to mine in relation to the reality, significance and vital importance of the language of motion in preaching the Gospel to deaf-mutes.

The Rev. Thomas B. Berry, having for several years been a teacher of deaf-mutes in the New York and Maryland Institutions, was ordained a deacon at Christ Church, Rouse's Point, in November, 1871. The devoted Bishop Selwyn assisted the Rt. Rev. Bishop Doane on that interesting occasion. Since that time, having subsequently been admitted to priest's orders, Rev. Mr. Berry has accomplished much for the object to which our attention is so prominently directed to-day. He is now Rector of the Church in Trumansburg, N. Y., and holding services from time to time in the dioceses of Central New York and Western New York. Under the general guidance of the clergy to whom we have made allusion several deaf-mute lay readers have been of great help to our mission.

The increasing general work at length assumed such proportions that it was deemed best to incorporate "The Church Mission to Deaf-mutes" in the city of New York, in October, 1872. The object of this society was to promote the temporal and spiritual welfare of adult deaf-mutes. It at first extended its operations throughout the country, increasing the number of sign services, and founding, in New York City, a home for aged and infirm deaf-mutes. At length, however, the Good Shepherd was pleased to subdivide the field in order to make more effective the invitation to the scattered deaf-mute sheep and lambs to rejoice in the safety of the Gospel Fold.

Just seven years ago, in October, 1876, midst the patriotic rejoicings of our centennial year, at St. Stephen's Church, Philadelphia, the Rt. Rev. Bishop Stevens considered it his duty and privilege to admit to deacon's orders Mr. Henry Winter Syle, a deaf-mute lay reader, who had proved himself eminently fitted to be set apart for ministrations in holy things. Those who took part in that service will never forget its touching associations and softening impressions as they prayed to God to bless the first deaf-mute deacon who had ever appeared in the Church since it was founded in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost. The Bishop's sermon on that occasion was printed, and produced abiding impression throughout the great Anglican Communion. Mr. Syle's labors in Philadelphia and vicinity eventually prepared the way for the Diocesan Commissions on Church work among deaf-mutes in Pennsylvania and Central Pennsylvania, and other arrangements for New Jersey and Delaware, giving him a field for which he was responsible, and having no official connection with the society referred to.

On the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, January 25th, 1877, at Grace Church, Cleveland, Ohio, the Rt. Rev. Bishop Bedell admitted to deacon's orders Mr. Austin W. Mann, who had been for some time a faithful deaf-mute lay-reader in various Western dioceses. The Bishop having been for years a Director in the Institute for Deaf-Mutes while he was Rector of the Church of the Ascension in New York, entered heartily into this second most encouraging Ordination Service, and has been a friend and father ever since to his deaf-mute deacon. The Rev. Mr. Mann has persevered in systematizing and extending his work throughout at least thirteen of the Central Western dioceses, and is responsible to the Bishops and Rectors of the parishes in which he works. He has been blessed indeed in his efforts to preach the Gospel to his brethren, having led 160 to become communicants in the various portions of his extensive

On a bright Sunday in January, 1880, at St. Paul's Church, Richmond, Va., the Rt. Rev. Bishop Whittle received to deacon's orders Mr. Job Turner, a deaf-mute lay-reader, who had passed the greater portion of his useful life as a teacher in the Institute for Deaf-Mutes in Staunton, Va. With the approval of the Bishops of the Southern dioceses, and the loving co-operation of many of their Rectors, he has striven to preach the Gospel to his fellows throughout his immense district. He has several times been in Texas, and a year ago last spring he accomplished a pilgrimage to deaf-mutes in the City of Mexico. The Bishop of Virginia, with whose diocese the Rev. Mr. Turner is canonically connected, has always manifested a deep interest in this deacon, and I trust will, in due time, have the privilege of receiving him to priest's orders.

In the various departments of Church work among deaf-mutes thus briefly sketched, there are several devoted deaf-mute lay-readers. The hearing mother of a deaf-mute young lady has a Bible-Class for deaf-mutes in St. Paul's Church, Troy, N. Y. I have not time to speak in detail of them and their faithful labors for Christ and his Church. We pray God to bless and guide them all. Though "The Church Mission for Deaf-Mutes" at New York is now limited to the Dioceses of New York, Long Island, Albany, Northern New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine, our society extends a cordial sympathy to all Church Workers among deaf-mutes, and will be glad to print their reports in the Appendix of its own Annual Report. The Second Conference of all Church Workers among Deaf-Mutes is now in session at St. Stephen's Church in this city. May its deliberations be productive of most beneficial results. It would be a grateful task, dear brethren, to give you some statistics on this occasion. I can only say, that the offices of the Church--for Baptism, Confirmation, the Holy Communion, Marriage, and Burial, have been used among deaf-mutes and their families thousands of times, and that the results can only be known at the Day of Judgment.

And now it remains for me to try and say a few words personally to you, my dearly-beloved brethren and well-tried friends, who are about to be advanced to a higher degree of usefulness in the sacred ministry of the Church of Christ. What a pleasant thing it will be for you to remember, midst the ministrations to which you will be called (some of them being very humble, and appreciated only by the Omniscient One), that your ordination, as priests, took place while a General Council of the Church, in its administrative and missionary functions, was intensifying the zeal with which the Gospel should be preached to every creature, thus making it possible for your respective Bishops to lay their hands upon you at the same encouraging service. As you feel the touch of the outward symbol, open your hearts and minds, I beseech you, to receive a rich blessing from the Holy Ghost, proceeding from the Father and the Son. One of you has the encouraging example of your earthly father to help you to be faithful in a long-continued ministry, and you both have, in common, fathers and brethren, counsellors and friends among the clergy and the laity, who will always extend to you loving hands, and give you the best wishes and prayers of loving hearts as they bid you, after the manner of an apostle, never to be weary of well-doing. You and I have been drawn very near to each other. We have grasped each other's hand under the most deeply interesting circumstances of our fleeting pilgrimage. We have consulted with each other personally. We have sent to each other numerous important letters. We have known each other very intimately. You have given me your confidence. I shall endeavor to be worthy of that sacred trust as we strive, for a while longer, to preach the Gospel to our deaf-mute brethren, till we are borne to Paradise to be ready for the Resurrection, the Judgment, and the mansions of the City of God. Then, indeed, shall the ears of the deaf be unstopped, and the tongue of the dumb shall swell the Song of Moses and the Lamb.

After the sermon the candidates were presented--Mr. Syle by Dr. Miller, and Mr. Mann by Dr. Atwill. The Litany was then said, and the first part of the Communion service. After the Gospel (which was out of St. JOHN, Chap. X), the Address to the candidates was then read by Bishop Stevens, interpreted by Dr. Gallaudet. The candidates were then examined, each by his own Bishop, Dr. Gallaudet still interpreting, and each answered in such manner as had been previously directed by the Bishop; Mr. Syle, having prepared the answers in writing on slips of paper, handed each to Dr. Clerc, who read it aloud and handed it to Bishop Stevens. Mr. Mann said each answer by means of the manual alphabet, Dr. Gallaudet repeating it aloud after him to Bishop Bedell. After the Veni, Creator Spiritus, and prayer, followed the laying of hands upon each candidate by his own Bishop. The Presbyters ministering among the deaf, Drs. Gallaudet and Clerc and Mr. Chamberlain, united in laying hands on both candidates; Drs. Syle, Newton, Miller, and Boyd, also laid hands upon Mr. Syle, and Dr. Atwill on Mr. Mann.

The Communion Service was then resumed, Bishop Bedell consecrating. The deaf Communicants (of whom about seventy were present, some of them from distant places) received the elements first, from the hands of the newly-ordained priests; and then the hearing Communicants from the other priests. The congregation was dismissed with the Benediction by Bishop Bedell.

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