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Friday September 30 2021

Looking Back: Pattern for the Future

Published in September 1959, as the Church of Scotland was considering 'the future of women in the Church', praise for a pioneering deaconess in Greenock.


WHILE the 1959 General Assembly was discussing the future of women in the Church, a new pattern of service by them was already visible in the parish of St. Ninian’s in Greenock – a pattern which must commend itself in further consideration of the place of women in the service of the Church.

One of the 72 parochial deaconesses, Miss Mina Beaton of Fort Augustus has been in St. Ninian’s for six years, where she has been to all intents and purposes sharing a team ministry with the Rev. W. D. Cattanach.

A tour of the Larkfield district with Miss Beaton revealed that indeed she is “a friend to the parish.” In six years she has won a welcome into hundreds of homes, and into the schools and hospitals of the area.

Every week-day she visits the homes of people in the congregation; once  a month she widens the scope and calls on the parish at large. New members also find her on the doorstep with a welcome into the congregational life of the church.

Miss Beaton shares these duties, of course, with the minister, as also her calls on the two hospitals in the parish.

She is a “well-kent” figure in the corridors and playgrounds of the school. She conducts a monthly service for the scholars and gives religious instruction to infant classes.

On Sunday mornings many of these children look forward to meeting “the lady-in-grey” again at the Primary and Beginners Sunday School. Their parents may hear her reading the lesson or conducting the worship occasionally at the evening church service and thereafter she mixes with the teenagers at the Youth Fellowship.

One of the “most worthwhile” parts of her work, to use her own words, is the sharing of the leadership of some of the 14 house church groups which have played such a prominent part in building up Christian fellowship in Larkfield. There she not only assists with Bible Study, but contributes to discussion on problems affecting the life of the parish. During her time at St. Ninian’s she has been a permanent guest at all Kirk Session and Board Meetings.

The expanding nature of the work of Miss Beaton and her sister Deaconesses must be a pointer to the future place of women in general in the Church. They not only render a vital service in an era of shortage of ministers but they are making a vital contribution to parish life and to the courts and councils of the Church.

This article followed the call of the 1959 General Assembly for comments on 'the theological and practical consideration of the admission of women to the courts of the Church'. Women were finally accepted into the eldership in 1967, and the Ministry of Word and Sacrament the year after.

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