New PW President looks to new opportunities

7.5.2022 | Congregational Life, Presbyterian Women, Church Life, Mission, Women’s ministry.

Esther Parker, the new President of Presbyterian Women (PW), has told its annual conference, which met in Belfast today that the forthcoming year would be ‘a period of opportunity’ as the world transitions to ‘something that feels more normal’ following the pandemic. With over 1000 women in attendance at the Presbyterian Church in Ireland’s (PCI) Assembly Buildings, the organisation – which is a part of PCI’s women’s ministry – announced that during the past year members had raised just under £1/3 million for mission projects at home and overseas.

With the exception of PCI’s General Assembly, PW’s annual conference is largest annual meeting held by the Church. Founded over 130 years ago, women came together from its 465 PW Groups around Ireland to elect a new president, worship and hear from God’s Word. One of the invited guests,who gave an address of welcome, was Presbyterian Moderator, Right Reverend Dr David Bruce.

Speaking to the conference, PW’s new president, Esther Parker, who worships in Belfast’s historic Sinclair Seamen’s Presbyterian Church, where her husband is minister, said, “As the world tries to transition from pandemic restrictions to something that feels more normal, we in Presbyterian Women find ourselves facing the same challenge. However, this challenge presents us with an opportunity, one we would do well to grasp. How will we move forward?

“Before going forward we need to look back. Our history is important; we need to assess it and learn from it. We must also remember the recent history of the past two years, which have proved that we can, and sometimes should, do things differently but that it does not mean losing what we stand for – to be women living for Jesus, living as His disciples.”

Mrs Parker continued, “A disciple is a learner so, as disciples of Jesus, we continually learn from Him; our own thoughts and opinions are not enough to lead us forward. We must prayerfully seek God’s way and not rely on our own ideas and preferences. During this period of opportunity, I am looking forward to visiting groups and encouraging them to take up this challenge: to both assess the past and plan ahead in an attitude of prayerful submission to the will of God; to take our theme for the year to heart and to go deeper together in knowledge of and obedience to God’s Word, and in our relationships with God and with each other.”

During the morning session and afternoon celebration, guest speaker Amy Summerfield, the Derbyshire-born evangelist who has served God in full-time ministry positions since she was 18, spoke on PW’s theme for the year, ‘Deeper Together.’ Inspired by Romans 12:10, it seeks to enable the organisation to take all that it has learned about what is important over the last two years, assess where PW has come from, where it is, and decide how best to move forward together.

The meeting also heard how PW and women’s ministry had contributed to the life, mission and ministry of the Church. Across Ireland, for example, PW Groups raised over £293,331 (€344,781) for mission at home and overseas. During the forthcoming year it was announced that the Presbyterian Women’s Special Home Project will support the work of PCI’s International Meeting Point (IMP) in North Belfast. Set up in 2018 to meet the practical and spiritual needs of migrants and asylum seekers in north Belfast, it is hoped that £15,000 can be raised.

The Special Overseas Project will see PW seeking to raise the same amount to support PCI’s partner, the Evangelical Christian Church in Timor, and their restoration of the Suara Kasih Radio Station, which was badly damaged by 2021’s Cyclone Seroja.

This was the first time the annual meeting has taken place on a Saturday and the first in-person all-Ireland PW gathering since 2019. In her outgoing president’s address, Heather Clements said she was “…thankful for the tremendous privilege of serving the Lord in Presbyterian Women for such a time as this. It was certainly very different; groups were unable to meet and the normal lines of communication were unavailable because staff members were furloughed…”

Mrs Clements, who worships at First Limavady Presbyterian Church, continued. “Although I missed the opportunities of visiting many of the groups I am thankful that I was able share in some services online and when staff resumed work again to be involved in communicating with groups. Most of all, I am thankful to God for His faithfulness to us as an organisation and for blessing us in so many ways as we seek to encourage women to live for Jesus.”

Photos: (1) Worship during the Annual Conference of Presbyterian Women (2) Presbyterian Moderator, Right Reverend Dr David Bruce, with Pauline Kennedy, Women’s Ministry and PW Development Officer and front row, outgoing PW President, Heather Clements, her successor as president, Esther Parker and keynote speaker, Amy Summerfield (3) the Moderator with Heather Clements and Esther Parker.

An election to pray for

2.5.2022 | Moderator, Church in Society, Prayer, Statements, Public Affairs.

As Northern Ireland goes to the polls this Thursday with a choice of over 200 candidates to fill the Northern Ireland Assembly’s 90 seats, Presbyterians have been reminded of the responsibility of all citizens to vote and have been encouraged to prayerfully consider how to use their vote. Congregations have also been urged to ‘pray that those elected will serve with integrity, generosity of spirit and with a commitment to the common good.’

In a joint letter to all of its congregations in Northern Ireland, the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, Right Reverend Dr David Bruce, and the denomination’s Clerk of the General Assembly, Rev Trevor Gribben, encouraged ministers to make time during services ‘to pray for the candidates who are standing for election, those who will be working in the polling stations and count centres, and all those who will exercise their vote, especially those doing so for the first time.’

The two senior Presbyterians also encouraged members ‘to pray that those elected will serve with integrity, generosity of spirit and with a commitment to the common good,’ and ‘to exercise their right to vote as informed citizens’. To assist in this the Moderator and Clerk pointed to a number of Christian organisations that have prepared helpful resources to inform decision-making in the run up to the election.

These included CARE NI’s websitewhich details party policies, voting records of candidates who were MLAs in the last Assembly and a list of all candidates. The Evangelical Alliance NI’s ‘Use your vote, use your voice’ resource, includes a number of questions on social and topical issues, which could be asked of a candidate while out canvassing.

The Moderator and the Clerk also made the point in their correspondence with ministers that, ‘While it can be tempting to disengage with the local political process we are reminded in Scripture that the “authorities that exist have been established by God” (Romans 13:2) and are encouraged to make petitions, prayers, intercessions and thanksgiving for all people, including all those in authority (1 Timothy 2:1-2).’

Speaking about the forthcoming election from Portugal, where he is on an overseas visit, Dr Bruce also said, “The Clerk and I concluded our letter by saying, ‘Casting a vote on polling day may, on the one hand, seem small and insignificant. On the other, it is a way of engaging and participating in the democratic process, and seeking the peace and prosperity of the places to which we have been called (Jeremiah 29:7).’”

The Moderator went on to say, “Being able to vote and participate in an unfettered way in a democratic process is a precious right, something that is denied to so many across the world. While we can vote for different candidates in this ‘1,2,3…’ PR election, we can all pray the same prayer in hope that when the last transfers are made and the final MLA is declared, the common good will be served. It is also my prayer that those elected, from whatever party, will serve in that same spirit.”

Photo: Parliament Buildings, Stormont.

PW set to return to Assembly Buildings

26.4.2022 | Congregational Life, Presbyterian Women, Church Life, Mission, Women’s ministry.

With the exception of the General Assembly, the largest annual meeting held by the Presbyterian Church in Ireland’s (PCI), is the Annual Conference of Presbyterian Women. A part of PCI’s women’s ministry, and known within the denomination as ‘PW’, due to the pandemic it has been unable to hold an in person conference for two years. On Saturday, 7 May, however, upwards of 1000 women will gather in Assembly Buildings in Belfast once again to elect a new president, worship and hear from God’s Word, and to find out how its work has continued to make a difference at home and overseas during the pandemic.

Looking forward to the Annual Conference, Pauline Kennedy, PCI’s Women’s Ministry and PW Development Officer, said that it would be a very welcome return to Assembly Buildings. “For most organisations whose members would have met locally, and for society itself, the last two years have been difficult and very different times. The fact that we can come together after what seems to be such a long time, and not over a screen like last year, makes this Annual Conference all the more special, and everyone is very welcome.”

Most congregations in PCI have a Presbyterian Women’s group. Each of the 465 PW Groups around Ireland are envisaged as fellowships in which women of all ages, and stages of life, are able to come together to grow in their faith through Bible study, prayer, teaching and through growing in community together.

“It has been very encouraging to see how Presbyterian Women throughout our congregations responded to the pandemic. Groups have been active in their local communities and have found ways to come along side each other using technology to support their members. Meetings were held on Zoom and social media, like WhatsApp, enabling women of all ages to stay in touch, join together and support each other in different ways, but especially through prayer,” Pauline Kennedy said.

“Because of this, deeper relationships were formed and, when we were able to meet face-to-face again, we understood what each other was going through and could support and pray for each other in a deeper, more meaningful way. Women growing in faith together and reaching out to others is at the heart of Presbyterian Women, and will continue to be our focus going forward.”

Having held last year’s Annual Conference online for the first time in its history, this year is another first for Presbyterian Women when the annual meeting will take place on a Saturday. The morning session will take place from 10.30am to 12.15pm, with the Afternoon Celebration starting at 2.00pm and finishing at 3.30pm.

This year’s guest speaker will be Amy Summerfield, CEO of Kyria, a leadership network that seeks to champion, empower and release women into their spheres of influence. A regular conference speaker for women’s and leadership conferences, Amy is also Head of Development at Skylark International, a network of churches, charities and organisations. Living in Hertfordshire, one of England’s Home Counties, Derbyshire born Amy has served God in full-time ministry positions since she was 18.

Talking about the Presbyterian Women’s theme for the year, Pauline Kennedy said, “Our theme for the forthcoming year will be ‘Deeper Together’ and it is inspired by Romans 12:10, when the Apostle Paul encourages us to ‘Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves.’ Deeper Together will enable us to take all that we have learned about what is important over the two years, assess where we have come from, where we are, and decide how we can best move forward together.

“This is important as it has become, notwithstanding the societal effects of the pandemic, increasingly apparent that there has been growing generational gap within women’s ministry over the years that makes build an effective ministry to women of all ages it less straightforward. We need to ask ourselves ‘How can we think differently about women’s ministry and what approaches can we adopt to help us grow deeper together?’ During our morning meeting, Amy will give her first talk on ‘Deeper Together’ and help us to think about that. During the afternoon celebration she will give her second talk and further unpacks God’s Word,” Pauline said.

The conference will also hear from outgoing President Heather Clements and how PW and women’s ministry have contributed to the life, mission and ministry of the Church at home and overseas. While the past two years have been financially difficult for Groups, the conference will hear how Presbyterian Women has funded two the Special Projects for 2020 to 2022.

The Home Project supported Care NI to set up retreats for couples who have suffered the pain of pregnancy loss. The Overseas Project helped to refurbish the mothers waiting home in Okhaldhunga Community Hospital in Nepal. The Conference will also hear how in 2020 and 2021, a total of £206,000 was given to support the work of PCI Deaconesses and Global Mission Workers, with two new trainee deaconesses starting their training at Union Theological College in September 2021.

This year’s home and overseas special projects will be unveiled at the conference as Presbyterian Women looks forward to welcoming Esther Parker, a member of Sinclair Seamen’s Presbyterian Church in Belfast, as incoming PW president for 2022/23.

While the Annual Conference is free to attend, Pauline Kennedy asks that those attending register for both the morning and the afternoon sessions as spaces may be limited. In the Assembly Hall there are options for both socially distanced seats (upstairs) and non-socially distanced seats (downstairs) for each session.

To book a place via Eventbrite at the morning session 10.30am-12.15pm please click here. To book a place at the afternoon session 2pm-3.30pm please click here. To book by telephone, please phone the office on +44 (0)28 9041 7257.

Photos: (1) Pauline Kennedy, PCI’s Women’s Ministry and PW Development Officer (2) guest speaker at this year’s PW Annual Conference, Amy Summerfield (3) PW meet for a previous year’s conference. This year the gallery will provide socially distanced seating (4) The Presbyterian Women President’s Brooch.