Rev. John Kinghan, who was a teacher in the Ulster Society for the Promotion of the Education of the Deaf, the Dumb and the Blind in Belfast - and a Presbyterian minister - started a mission to the deaf in 1857, using a room in the city’s Sandy Row area. He later moved to a schoolhouse on Great Victoria Street but moved back to Sandy Row and new purpose-built premises called ‘The Bethel’ in the 1870s. The Mission remained there until it moved to its present site in 1899.
Looking forward to attending the special service Dr. Sellar said, “Rev. Kinghan was a forward thinking individual who realised even at that time that deaf people in the city shouldn’t be excluded from knowing the gospel in their own language and having their own place to worship.
“In the Gospel of Jesus Christ we have good news to share and declare – the hope of salvation, and it is for everyone. In Romans 10:15 the Apostle Paul says, “As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’” As the services are signed, Kinghan Church has being doing just that with their hands for over a century and a half and I give thanks for their work, witness and ongoing mission in the city.”
Supported by the Presbyterian Church in Ireland’s (PCI) Council for Social Witness, the ground floor church was especially designed to meet the needs of deaf and hard of hearing people.
Mary Carson has attended the church since she was eight-years-old. Now a grandmother, whose grandchildren also attend she said, “Every Sunday, we walked to Kinghan Church from the local deaf school, for our weekly service. There was no Sunday school available at this time, so this gave us an opportunity to meet other deaf children from the other deaf school."
Years later Mary met her husband Tom at the church. They were married and had their two children, who are hearing, were baptised there. “The congregation at that time was very mixed both old and young. Quite a lot of my friends and I had married and had our children around the same time, which gave us the chance to let our families integrate and interact,” she said.
“Although the congregation’s dynamic was changing, as my friends and I became grandparents, we brought our grandchildren to church to help teach them the work of Lord as a family, again integrating and interacting with them and keeping the fellowship strong. This was very different in my childhood days as it’s special having your family with you at times of worship.”
While currently without a minister, the worshipping community meets every Sunday morning at 11am, with various groups, both within and outside of the church, using its facilities and services during the week.
The 160th anniversary service will take place at Kinghan Church, Botanic Avenue, on Sunday 21st May at 11am. All welcome.
Members of the Kinghan Church choir leading worship
Mary has written about her lifelong association with Kinghan Church in a speical blog, 'Signing praise'. You can read it here in our blog section.