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St. Thomas Deaf Church has been serving the St. Louis Metropolitan area since 1876. First located at Christ Church Cathedral in downtown St. Louis and then moving to Grace Episcopal Church in Kirkwood, Missouri.
Throughout the 145+ years of St. Thomas existence, they have never had a building of their own but instead rented space from other churches. Also, throughout St. Thomas' history there have been long stretches without a Vicar (priest) that worked at the church. Instead, traveling priests fluent in American Sign Language (ASL), some deaf themselves, would come to the St. Louis area and gather the deaf for Sunday services (See more about this by clicking on "About Us and Our History"). However, for the past 14 years, St. Thomas has been fortunate to have a part-time priest, the Rev. Dr. Emily Hillquist Davis, who learned sign language in order to serve the members of St. Thomas in their own language.
After 14 years with St. Thomas, Rev. Emily was offered a full-time position as rector of The Episcopal Church of the Advent, located in Crestwood, Missouri. Emily's prayer was that Advent would allow her to bring St. Thomas with her and she could still be their vicar but hire someone else to do the business end of things. However, much to Rev. Emily's surprise and delight, the Search Committee for Advent, invited St. Thomas to follow her to Advent.
The decision by the members of St. Thomas was not an easy one. They loved their church, the people, the space where they were already worshipping, but they also loved that they had a priest who was fluent in ASL.
On October 3, 2021, Rev. Emily held her first service at Advent and all of the members of St. Thomas went to Advent to support her. They were not sure if they would be back the following week when they walked through the doors that morning but at the end of the service and the day, many were willing to give it a try.
On December 14, 2021, the Vestry of St. Thomas held a meeting and the congregation voted to either stay where they had been located at Grace Episcopal Church in Kirkwood, Missoruri, or if they would continue with Rev. Emily as their vicar at Church of the Advent. The vote was in favor of Church of the Advent.
St. Thomas did not "merge" with Church of the Advent but instead the two churches are partners. Each church has its own vestry and will keep their finances separate. This will allow St. Thomas to be independent and to be led by Deaf lay ministry as it has been for the past 145+ years.
At this time, St. Thomas' office is still located at Grace Episcopal Church in Kirkwood, but will be moved to Advent. Some items have been moved but the big move will take place in January 2022, and be completed no later than Feb. 28, 2022.