STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. - The strains of Hallelujah ring out at the Hands for Christ Community Church on Staten Island's south shore.
But the two dozen congregants attending this Sunday service can't hear the music. They're deaf. Still, they sing along.
"I feel at peace. I feel a connection with God. I feel that relationship. And I feel comfortable," said Roseanne Stockman, a worshiper.
The congregation was founded seven years ago for people who are hard of hearing. Many churches employ a sign language interpreter. Here, just the opposite occurs. The pastor quietly leads services in sign and a translator gives voice to the words - the only church in the borough to do so.
"It has been wonderful to be able to truly understand how the deaf want to come to know God," said Pastor Mary Bacheller.
Bacheller says she began signing when she was eight months old, because both of her parents could not hear. She operated a sign language school for 25 years, before deciding to create a ministry specifically for the deaf.
"If I could do that, for the people that they could have services through interpreting, then why not this? this is really more my heart," Bacheller said.
By this year, the Hands for Christ Community Church had grown so much, it needed a larger space. And so it moved, meeting once a week at St. Paul's Methodist Church on Amboy Road. The larger space already draws larger crowds and the service resonates with those who attend.
"One of the greatest things that I heard after the first worship service was the people walking out of the church and some of them signing - 'we could feel the music.' Cause they turned it up way high. And they hadn't been able to feel the music in so long," said Pastor Lillian Hertel.
The goal of the service is to be as inclusive as possible and so while it takes place on Staten Island, it is also live-streamed in New Jersey, North Carolina, West Virginia and Texas.
The ministry has even more ambitious plans. Pastors are working to translate sections of the Bible into sign language and they plan to hold one service for the hearing and the hard of hearing on major religious holidays - ceremonies that everyone can feel.