A north-east woman made history yesterday after she became the first deaf minister to address the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.
The Rev Mary Whittaker, who has increased participation at churches for people with profound hearing loss in Aberdeen and in Elgin, called on people proficient in British Sign Language to consider joining the clergy.
The 55-year-old of Lhanbryde, who leads the Moray Deaf Church, said she was “proud” to have stood up in front of around 750 people to call for a review of the Kirk’s procedures in regard to recruiting deaf ministers.
Ms Whittaker leads services at St John’s Church for Deaf People in Aberdeen, attended by 32 people, Moray Deaf Church and also regularly visits Shetland to preach to deaf people who have no church to attend.
Speaking through translator the Rev Rosie Addis, the minister, who was born deaf, said: “In the future we want people whose first language is British Sign Language to become ordained ministers.
“BSL is separate to English and the language of the deaf community.
“I have seen Aberdeen deaf church grow over the last few years because people see a minister using their own language that encompasses their own culture.”
Ms Whittaker, who has been a minister for four years and is assisted by her faithful hearing dog Scott, 5, said it was “crucial” that the Kirk ensured that more deaf people were able to fulfil their dreams of becoming ministers.
“For too long deaf people have just been talked to by translators but they can become ministers in their own right and take on that mantle and responsibility,” she added.
“It is about empowering people so they can get up and do it for themselves.
“We must ensure that people who feel that call to ministry have a way of achieving what God is calling them to do.”