THE Kirk’s only deaf minister has revealed she relies on her dog for an alarm clock, doorbell and fire alarm.
Rev Mary Whittaker, 55, who was born with no hearing, relies on a five-year-old labrador retriever called Scott as her ears.
Scott is responsible for waking her up when her alarm goes off, and gives her a sign when someone rings the doorbell.
If a fire alarm sounds, he signals to her to let her know she may be in danger.
The pooch can also understand sign language, and wags his tail with happiness when Mary signals to him that he is a good boy.
She even suggests the devoted canine has a spiritual side to him.
When members of the General Assembly turn to each other to shake hands in a ceremony known as the Sign of Peace, he lifts his paw in unison.
She said: “He sees us giving the sign of peace and he says, ‘What about me?’ God created him as well as he likes giving the sign of peace to people.”
Scott stood by her as she made history at the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland this week, when she became the first deaf minister to give a speech.
He has been with Mary for three years, and she says he helps “empower” her by giving her the chance to live a normal life.
She became a minister four years ago and leads services for the deaf in Moray.
She said: “I can’t hear if someone’s shouting my name, but they can shout Scott’s name and when he turns to look so do I.
“When the doorbell rings, he gives me a sign and I follow him and he will take me to the door.
“It’s most important when I’m travelling because if a fire alarm rings he can let me know with a special signal.”
Mary wants more deaf people to join the clergy, and is calling for a review on the Church’s guidelines on ministering to the deaf community.
She said deaf people need to feel welcomed into the ministry so they can speak for themselves and worship in their own language – sign language.
“It’s about empowerment – empowering deaf people to become leaders”, she said.
“I feel that’s important because for so long other people spoke for us. Deaf people want to study, pray and preach, and I want to welcome people to use those gifts.
“They are only deaf. There is no reason they shouldn’t be able to use their gifts.”