Detroit Free Press Article about SignWriting

Valerie Sutton sutton at SIGNWRITING.ORG
Mon Feb 13 22:08:42 UTC 2006

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A joyful noise from Shores Deaf Church

Pastor works on the cutting edge


January 24, 2006

The Rev. Ronald Dettloff uses sign language in a hymn Sunday at the  
Shores Deaf Church in St. Clair Shores. Detloff, 56, is not hearing  
impaired, but studied sign language in college and helped found the  
church in 1987. (JERRY S. MENDOZA/Special to the Free Press)

The Rev. Ronald Dettloff helped found the Shores Deaf Church in 1987  
to spread the word of God in a language that hearing-impaired people  
could understand.

What he didn't foresee was how that language would change in the next  
20 years.

What sets the St. Clair Shores church apart from the 10 or so other  
deaf churches in metro Detroit is the extent to which it uses  
SignWriting, a series of printed symbols that represent signed  
languages, in this case American Sign Language.

Through use of a computer software program, Dettloff is working to  
translate the entire Bible into SignWriting. The church began using  
it about six years ago.

"We're very successful with teaching people through SignWriting,"  
Dettloff said. "We're the only church in the world that translates  
the Bible to SignWriting."

During services, Dettloff speaks and signs simultaneously. He uses  
the SignWriting on a projector in lectures at the church throughout  
the week.

"Seeing people understand and get to know God," said Dettloff, 56,  
who lives in St. Clair Shores. "That is the most rewarding thing."

Dettloff, who began studying sign language in college, said he felt a  
calling to start a church for deaf people. But it wasn't until after  
he was a pastor at the Shores church that he researched his family  
tree -- he was adopted -- and discovered one of his grandfathers was  

Christian churchgoers come from as far as Romeo to attend services at  
the Shores church, an Assembly of God affiliate at 10 Mile and  
Harper. The church, which has about 50 parishioners, uses a bus to  
pick up those who don't have rides to the Sunday service.

Annette Usher, 44, has been attending the Shores church for more than  
three years. Although Usher also worships at other parishes with her  
family, she has grown fond of the Shores services.

"I like to sit and pray in sign language so I can worship God  
myself," said Usher, who lives in Detroit. "At the hearing church, I  
can't understand the service because there is no interpreter."

Through the church, parishioners can participate in games, movie  
nights and an annual trip to FaHoLo deaf family camp in Grass Lake.

After the Sunday service, the church hosts a meal and social for all  

For some, like St. Clair Shores resident Bob Doyle, 63, church- 
related activities are the main instances of social interaction  
during the week. Doyle is deaf and partially blind.

"We have a great time," he said. "It's a wonderful way to get out and  
meet new people."

Clinton Township resident Nicole McReynolds, 18, has met many new  
friends through the church, including her boyfriend, Clinton Township  
resident Ken Benando, 32.

"In the fellowship, there are many different people to meet and we've  
all come to worship God," McReynolds said.

Copyright © 2005 Detroit Free Press Inc.

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