Rachel has been serving as the deaconess in Whiteabbey Presbyterian Church since September 2017. Her primary responsibilities include pastoral visitation and women's ministry to a wide range of ages in the congregation.
Rachel leads Friendship Hour - a group for senior women in the congregation that meet each Thursday afternoon to enjoy fellowship and to listen to talks or biblical reflections from guest speakers, while also having lunch together at the start of each month. Rachel also co-leads Kids & Co, the mothers and toddlers group in Whiteabbey which meets every Friday morning in the church hall. During the rest of the week Rachel spends the majority of her time visiting the elderly, housebound, ill and bereaved members of the congregation, those who are in hospital or nursing homes, and those who need extra pastoral support due to the difficult situations they are going through. Rachel is also involved in serving on the leadership teams of Hope Street and EMERGE - the youth and 20s-30s ministry organisations in Whiteabbey. She often takes part in funerals in the congregation and occasionally in Sunday services.
Rachel comments, "As a deaconess, I feel very passionate about ministering to people of all different ages - getting to know them, being able to share in their times of joy and sadness, seeking to meet their practical needs, and having the ultimate privilege of pointing them to Jesus and his glorious gospel through reading the Bible and praying together. I strongly believe that God shows me that deaconess service is one of the ways I can most effectively follow his greatest commands to ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’, and ‘to love your neighbour as yourself’. It's not always easy, but it is such a wonderful encouragement to know that the Lord has called me into this work, and he will continue to equip and guide me faithfully in all that he has for me to do."
Rachel is originally from Ballymena, and loves to get home to visit her parents in her free time. She is also very thankful to live near her brother, sister in law, sister, brother in law and two nephews! Rachel grew up in her home church, Harryville Presbyterian Church, and was commissioned as a deaconess in Whiteabbey after completing her training in Union Theological College and serving in her probationary placement church, Newmills Presbyterian Church from November 2015 - September 2017.
- Give thanks for the wonderful teams of women who assist in leading Friendship Hour and Kids & Co who are so faithful and willing in using their gifts to serve the Lord in these ways. Pray that God will continue to bless them with strength, enthusiasm and love for those they serve each week.
- Pray for the parents, grandparents and carers who come along to Kids and Co, and the teenagers and young adults who attend Hope Street and EMERGE. Many of them do not yet know the Lord as their Saviour. Pray for opportunities to share the hope and joy of the gospel with them, that they would be led to faith in Christ.
- Pray for wisdom for Rachel as she visits people, that she will rely on God fully as she listens and speaks into difficult situations. Pray also that Rachel would prioritise her relationship with God and spend time with him each day in the midst of a busy routine.
- Pray for Whiteabbey village, the area and the church as it seeks God's guidance in how to most effectively reach out and connect with people in the community, building relationships while pointing them to Jesus.
Latest Report – March 2020
The joy of salvation
I have been so encouraged by getting to know many Christ-like folks in Whiteabbey since I arrived here in September 2017, visiting them at home and in hospital in my pastoral care role. These include our senior members who are faithful ‘prayer warriors’, who attend our fortnightly prayer meetings and commit to praying for our church at home too.
I distinctly remember visiting one of these prayer warriors, a dear friend, who was suffering with health problems. As we talked, the Lord brought Psalm 51 to mind, and in particular verse 12, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” It was a wonderful reminder for both of us that it is God who gives us the willing spirit to cope with the difficulties we have to face, whether that is ill health, damaged relationships, or simply doing the mundane everyday tasks like cooking and washing up. In thinking about this year’s Presbyterian Women theme of ‘Restore’, I feel that this verse is so significant, because as Christians we all need the Lord to continually restore the joy of his salvation to us – to remind us again and again of the deep and overflowing joy we experienced when we first trusted him as our Saviour.
This joy of salvation is so clear, not only in the lives of our Whiteabbey prayer warriors, but also in the lives of our brothers and sisters in our partner church in Mulanje Mission in Malawi. I went out to visit them for the first time last May with one of our elders, Ken Swarbrick, and Helen McGuigan, a member of our other partner church, Dun Laoghaire Presbyterian in Dublin. The people in the church and community in Mulanje are so warm and welcoming, and even though they may not have much materially, they have so much spiritually.
Their love for the Lord is inspiring – their joy as they dance and sing praise to him is real and infectious, even to a wee awkward critter like me! They don’t hold back in telling others how God has changed their life and how he can do the same for them – a real challenge to us in Ireland where we can be so shy and even embarrassed about sharing our faith.
This year in July, Ken and I will be returning to Mulanje, leading a team from Whiteabbey of all different ages and skills, to do activities like a holiday Bible club with the children and training for the elders and Sunday School teachers. We look forward to sharing the joy of the Lord’s salvation with them again. Thank you so much for all your prayers and support.
- Pray for good relationships and for a blessed time of service that will bear fruit in the years to come.
- Give thanks to God for the privilege of prayer and for our faithful prayer warriors in Whiteabbey.
- Pray that the staff and all other leaders in Whiteabbey will be restored in the joy of the Lord’s salvation as they serve him.
- Pray for the Whiteabbey team going to Malawi in July.
To download a printable PDF version of this report visit the Mission Reports listing at the top.