In December 2018, the Reverend Mary Whittaker was Introduced as the Minister for the Deaf Congregation of St John’s Aberdeen and the North Region of Scotland in December 2018.  Mary has been actively reaching out to her congregation as the Minister of St John’s Church for the Deaf. Many of her church members are profoundly deaf and cope with other disabilities as well. During the Covid-19 pandemic when most of the church community has adopted electronic methods of being together as a church, Mary explained that there are limitations to her members’ use of electronic communication.  Mary has instead opted for personal letter writing. She is gifted in her ability to create art work and her envelopes and letters would be a delight to receive.

Click here to see examples of her envelopes

Her letters have to be written very differently incorporating British Sign Language (BSL) within their format.

She explains:

  • In English “What is your name?”      BSL “NAME YOU WHAT?”   Questions usually at the end not beginning but if use question at beginning it must be repeated at the end.
  • In English  “A man is standing on a bridge”    BSL “BRIDGE MAN (ON)”    Use of visual concept – object come first.  Wee words like ‘a’, ‘the’, ‘of’, ‘on’ (in this case we use sign of PERSON and place location in relation to the bridge), etc are not signed – you might have noticed that in my letters!
  • In English  “I went swimming last week”    BSL “LAST WEEK ME SWIM” – we sign first the tense whether past or future then we carry on as if in present tense.

Mary has shared some of her letters with us

Click here to read 3rd Feb Newsletter

Click here to read 9th Feb Newsletter

Mary receives replies to these newsletters and in this way can keep her contact with members more personal.  The Press & Journal have been interested in this inclusive way of communicating and have published this article:

Mary Whittaker: Meet Scotland’s first deaf minister who has a black belt in kickboxing

We have recently enjoyed Mary’s enthusiastic and rhythmic signing during the Sea Shanty video arranged by the Rev Peter Johnston.

https://churchofscotland.org.uk/news-and-events/news/2021/church-of-scotland-sings-up-a-storm-with-a-noah-sea-shanty

Here’s a YouTube clip showing Mary’s training at Aberdeen University