Lovers Lane Deaf Ministry moves to new location
by Rev. Dr. Thomas H. Hudspeth
On July 1, 2020, after 18 months of discussions, an unique adoption-merger agreement went into effect between Lovers Lane United Methodist Church and Walnut Hill United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas. Approximately 3.5 miles apart, the two churches combined to share resources, mission, and staffing.
Senior Pastor Dr. Stan Copeland assigned the pastoral care of Walnut Hill Church to Rev. Dr. Tom Hudspeth, who is also the pastor for the Deaf Ministry of Lovers Lane. Also, Dr. Copeland invited Tom and the Deaf ministry to establish a new, global Deaf worship home at Walnut Hill Church. Worship space would be three times larger than at Lovers Lane, and provide a location to continue livestream worship that had begun on March 22, 2020, in response to the pandemic.
Beginning in January 2021, the teaching pastor of Walnut Hill, Rev. Andy Nelms and Rev. Tom Hudspeth met with Deaf Lay Servants and ministry leaders for a series of four vision-casting sessions, to identify and match the Deaf ministry’s gifts and mission with the communities intended to serve. Meanwhile, Lovers Lane helped Walnut Hill to upgrade its internet services, as well as repair wall and floor damages from 10,000 gallons of water that had been unleashed in February’s ice-storm-shattered water pipes. The church was also repairing damage from an October 2019 tornado that had toppled its steeple, knocked out windows, torn off roof shingles and damaged the stained-glass windows in the sanctuary. By mid-July 2021 most of the repairs and upgrades were completed.
On August 15, 2021, the Deaf ministry re-launched its worship at Walnut Hill Church, with in-person and livestream services. The large space allows in-person worship to observe COVID-10 protocols of social distancing. In the three weeks since the move, viewers have participated in our live-stream worship from Thailand, India, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Ghana, New York, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Oklahoma, California and Texas.
In another example of sharing resources, Walnut Hill’s Creative School provided a scholarship to a preschool child of a Deaf couple. In turn, the Deaf ministry will provide interpreter support for the family in parent-teacher conferences and other pre-school events.
Costs for these improvements have been covered by insurance claims, contributions to the Deaf ministry, and designated funding for lighting and audio-visual equipment in the new multi-purpose worship space. The challenges for the Deaf ministry will be to follow through on its mission to reach out to Deaf families, those living in social isolation, and provide on-line worship and inspiration for Deaf and friends of Deaf around the world.