Clergy

Two clergymen are known to have served both the Whatcoat Mission and the Christ United Methodist Church for the Deaf; Rev. Daniel E. Moylan and Rev. Louis Foxwell. As the leaders of the church, both men played an important role in crafting the scope and direction of the services provided. From the pulpit they shaped the contours of religious interpretation and enacted a meaningful religious discourse in signed language that mirrored the language and culture of the congregants they gathered. In the face of social pressures that sought to diminish or alter the use of signed language and eugenic ideology that sought to prohibit the marriage of deaf people, deaf churches provided an important respite for the early twentieth century deaf community.1

Clergymen like Moylan and Foxwell played an important role in preserving the use of sign language as well as creating spaces for socialization. The church brought community members together and encouraged the formation of clubs, organizations and sports teams. Church rooms often housed these social events and within these areas effected social and political space for the expression of deaf culture and language as normal. Furthermore, these meeting spaces enabled members of the community that may have found themselves largely surrounded by non-signing hearing people at home and work throughout the week. As Susan Burch has described, "For Deaf people in the early twentieth century, church-based events offered a constant link to the broader deaf community."2 In particular, Moylan and Foxwell engaged in a remarkable ministry that took them across the region and provided services and support to countless men and women in the area- linking them to one another. The work performed by these men has been largely overlooked.


Sources:

1. Burch. Signs of Resistance, 51.; R.A.R. Edwards. Words Made Flesh (New York: New York University Press, 2012), 109.

2. Burch. Signs of Resistance, 51.