Sign up to our monthly newsletter

Please confirm that you are happy to hear from The Church of Scotland:

You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of our emails. For information about our privacy practices, please visit the Privacy Policy on our website.

We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. By clicking below to subscribe, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing. Learn more about Mailchimp's privacy practices here.

Home  >  Features  >  Looking Back: Ordained in his own tongue

Looking Back

Friday February 6

Looking Back: Ordained in His Own "Tongue"

Published in 1965, the story of a deaf man being ordained as an Elder.



AT Lochgoilhead recently there was an unusual, perhaps a unique occasion.

In the presence of the congregation Andrew Monroe was ordained to the eldership. He is the beadle. He is deaf and dumb.

Long ago, for a brief interval, Andrew was taken to an educational institution in Edinburgh to be educated. That much was required by law. But after education had given him some awareness of things, he still had to take back his pressing problem of deafness and live with it in his village.

If he had lived in a city he might have enjoyed the community life available by the presence of others who communicated through the sign language and manual alphabet. Andrew, however, was forced by the simple economics of existence to live his life in an admittedly lovely but isolated environment.

For over half a century he has accepted the handicap and diligently applied himself to the daily round and clung to the periphery of social intercourse.

Goodwill, an unfailing cheerfulness and diligence have earned him a real place.

He attended the old kirk in Lochgoilhead after the fashion of his ancestors. He did what he could. This included ringing the bell. It seems paradoxical that he should sound the call to worship, a sound which he never hears himself.

There’s a knack in bell-ringing which Andrew has mastered. Pull the rope, and properly pulled, at the right point there’s a click. Muff it and you’ll never get that solid contact which means the sound goes forth with all its mellow appeal.

Andrew of course is a “twicer”. He has listened to thousands of hymns, psalms and sermons which he has never heard. For him the service is an hour of silent meditation, but then silent meditation has never detracted from worship.

Own tongue

It was one Sunday evening last winter when I went to Lochgoilhead to preach. I was introduced to Andrew as he rang the bell in the old vestry. I spoke to him in his own “tongue”. Rallying from his surprise, he nearly forgot to keep the bell ringing.

Following this, the Rev. Harry Thomson, the minister of the parish, told me that the idea of inviting Andrew to become an elder had been raised. Was it feasible?

The language barrier was never considered a disqualification for eldership.

Andrew was invited to become an elder. He accepted. His life was his argument and his gratitude.

It was decided that the minister would conduct the ordination service and that I should interpret because my experience as a minister to the deaf many years ago.

The form of service for ordination of elders, even for hearing people, may seem archaic and in need of interpretation. Concepts of service, of character and relationship are woven into the mellow phrases. Face, arms and fingers were all compelled to the solemn task of initiating an elder into the open mystery of his calling.

It couldn’t but be moving. Finally the questions were put, the formula signed, the right hand of fellowship given, and Andrew became an elder.

Looking Back menu