Color And Sound Barriers

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  With real-time captioning, a voice interpreter and audio loop system, Baltimore’s Christ United Methodist Church of the Deaf uses cutting-edge technology to reach its members.  It’s added another tool to its high-tech arsenal – a digital camcorder.  Founded in 1895, the church has a rich history – much of it overlooked and unrecorded until now.  
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Congregation: “I can feel his mighty power …”

Christ United Methodist Church of the Deaf is one of America’s oldest deaf churches. But while researching its history, the pastor discovered something missing.

The Rev. Peggy Johnson: “There are no pictures of what happened to the black people.”

The scrapbooks show a century of memories – all white save one.

The Rev. Peggy Johnson: “This is all we ever saw, and that got us started on this project.”

The Rev. Peggy Johnson interviewing black church member: “Would you explain about that, how you ran church?”

Armed with a video camera, the Rev. Peggy Johnson set out to capture the faith stories of church members who were rejected by society for being black and deaf.

Sarah Hawkins / Member, Christ United Methodist Church of the Deaf:  “Back then, there was not a whole lot of interaction.”

Members say the prejudice didn’t stop at the church’s door.

Charles Waters / Member, Christ United Methodist Church of the Deaf: “The white people had a room upstairs in the church and the black deaf met downstairs, so we didn’t worship together.”

The Rev. Peggy Johnson:  “People such as these folks have seen the worst of racism and discrimination and yet it didn’t make them bitter or mean.”

Johnson will use the video as a teaching tool to help the youth in the church understand and appreciate the struggles their elders went through.

Stephon Williams / 18-year-old Member, Christ United Methodist Church of the Deaf: “You know, it wasn’t easy a long time ago – black and white being separated, being against each other – so I’m really lucky that I was born today and not a long time ago.”

Of course, Baltimore’s church for the deaf now opens its doors to all – a lesson learned the hard way.

The Rev. Peggy Johnson: “And somehow the gift of oppression is to remember what it feels like and to then extend the hand of welcome and hospitality to those on the margins.”


Pastor Johnson plans to interview about 20 black deaf members.  The completed video will premiere in January 2005, at the church’s 100th anniversary celebration.