Neil Robinson was ordained a deacon in Salisbury Cathedral in June. He has taken up the post of diocesan chaplain to the deaf and hard of hearing in addition to serving as assistant curate of Bemerton, in Salisbury Diocese.
My name is Neil Robinson, a profoundly deaf BSL (British Sign Language) user. I was born into a hearing family – my parents took my deafness and physical disability very hard but they treated me the same as my brothers and sister.
What attracted me to become an ordained clergy? God called me three times to this ministry. I rejected His first calling about 15 years ago, because I was a member of a local charismatic church at the time. I was a residential support worker working for SENSE, an organization supporting deafblind people with additional disabilities while I attended this church.
But finally, God spoke to me clearly through a vision during 2011, while I was driving past St John’s College, Nottingham. The vision I saw showed me standing in front of a mirror and I saw my reflection wearing a clerical shirt and He told me to go ahead with it! I thought I was crazy but I immediately realised that God made it clear to me that He has indeed called me to this ministry.
What made me decide to become an Anglican? Well, I used to dislike the Anglican tradition of worship. But when I first came to St. Alkmund’s Church Derby under God’s guidance, my eyes were opened to see the rich diversity of worship and it made me realise that there is a great spiritual need in the deaf community. I somewhat enjoy worshipping God in a traditional way, for example, the liturgical worship.
The journey into ordained ministry was quite tough especially for me because formal educational and formative training posed me with a lot of difficult challenges. But I thank God for the wonderful BSL interpreters who gave me full access to lectures and group discussions.
Being the only culturally deaf person within this educational setting was a difficult experience for me because I am in a hearing non-signing environment. It took me a long time to help hearing students to understand the issues I faced daily, for example, experiencing minority stress that led me to have a short spell of depression.
Before I was called to ordained ministry, I used to work for Action Deafness as a Community Support Worker. I loved this job but I feel that being an Assistant Curate will be the best job in the world! Despite facing challenges of barriers, I recognize God’s clear calling on my life to become an ordained clergy. Although things seem impossible to me, nothing is too difficult for God.
Bob Shrine, a retired deaf priest, once quoted, “Deaf people are not incomplete hearing people; they are complete Deaf people.”
I strongly believe that Deaf people can become ordained clergy, not just onlookers within the church community. I know for sure that God can use them to glorify Him through serving faithfully in the life of the Church. God loves Deaf people so much that He longs for them to experience His love and enter into the relationship with Him through a language they can understand.
The cross clearly demonstrates God’s ability to draw everyone together as a family, regardless of their backgrounds.
Neil Robinson is 50 years old, and was born and brought up in Chatham, Kent, into a hearing, non-signing family. He worked in various fields of deafness as Residential/Community Support Worker for SENSE and Action on Hearing Loss and was an Assistant Care Manager with Deaf People for West Sussex County Council’s Social Services before being called to ordained ministry.
The Limping Chicken is the UK’s deaf blogs and news website, and is the world’s most popular deaf blog. It is edited by Deaf journalist and filmmaker Charlie Swinbourne.
Please note that the views of the writers are their own, and not necessarily the views of the Editor or site as a whole. Read our disclaimer here.
- Phonak: innovative technology and products in hearing acoustics
- Ai-Media: Remote captioning. Check out these captioning fails!
- Bellman & Symfon: home alerting solutions
- Deaf Umbrella: sign language interpreting and communications support
- Clarion: BSL/English interpreting and employment services
- Appa: Communication services for Deaf, Deafblind and hard of hearing people
- Signature: Find out about the Signature conference here.
- SignVideo: Instant BSL video interpreting online
- 121 Captions: captioning and speech-to-text services
- Hearing Direct: Online hearing aids
- The National Theatre: Captioned and BSL accessible theatre in London
- Doncaster School for the Deaf: education for Deaf children
- SignLive: Online video interpreting for Deaf people
- RAD Tax Advice: Tax and Tax Credit info for Deaf people
- Deaf Independent: Deaf care and support services
- Signworld: online BSL learning and teaching materials
- Performance Interpreting: BSL interpreting at concerts
- National Deaf Children's Society: The leading charity for deaf children
- DCAL: Find out how to study at the Deafness Cognition and Language Research Centre, London
- cSeeker: Deaf-led educational communication support service
- Signed Culture: Advocating for BSL access to arts and culture
- Sarah Gatford: BSL interpreting, training and consultancy
- SignHealth: healthcare charity for Deaf people
- CJ Interpreting: communication support in BSL
- Sign Solutions:, language and learning
- Action Deafness Communications: sign language and Red Dot online video interpreting
- BSLcourses.co.uk: Provider of online BSL courses
- British Society for Mental Health and Deafness: Promoting positive mental health for deaf people
- deafPLUS: Money advice line in BSL
- Happy: Microsoft Office courses taught in BSL and SSE by a Deaf trainer – all abilities catered for
- Hamilton Lodge School in Brighton: education for Deaf children
- Lipspeaker UK: specialist lipspeaking support
- Ozen: Australian hearing aid specialists
- Elmfield School, Bristol: Inclusive education for Deaf pupils
- Exeter Deaf Academy: education for Deaf children