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Church of the Deaf Perseveres In Face of a Changing Culture

"We are more flexible, we are more informal," she said.

During the Nov. 2 homily, Allen led the congregation in a lively discussion about the nature of saints and souls following Halloween and All Saints' Day.

"Often, I will ask questions of the group and have them answer," she said before services.

A lay Eucharistic minister, Tom Hattaway, who is deaf, signs in unison with Allen during several parts of the services, with hands of congregation members signing responses.

Allen said that her signing abilities will never be on par with those who have used sign language their entire lives. But she said that good sign language must involve lively facial expressions and distinctive body movements.

"Americans think sign language is just hand movements, but it is not," she said.

St. Barnabas' is trying to extend its outreach through streaming videos of services on its Web site, http://stbarnabasdeaf.edow.org. It is also trying to make sure that deaf senior citizens in nursing homes have more access to the church.

But each Sunday, Allen's focus is on her congregation. Concluding the discussion of All Saints' Day, she reminded worshipers of the power of their faith.

"You can be a saint. You don't have to hear. . . . All that's required is to love God and to serve God," she said.


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