Honouring the silent witnesses

19.12.2018 | Mission News, Social Witness, Moderator, Presbyterian Women, Church Life, Mission


At a special ceremony held in Belfast, the Presbyterian Church in Ireland has honoured the exceptional contributions made by staff and volunteers in its congregations, homes and support units in its Social Witness Recognition Awards.

Members of staff in the denomination’s 16 homes and support units along with volunteers from its 500-plus congregations were asked to nominate individuals, or a team of people, who are making an outstanding contribution in the area of social witness. Across 12 different categories, the Awards included special recognition for volunteering, safeguarding, promoting good practice, leadership and team of the year.

The bienial awards, now in their sixth year, were organised by PCI’s Council for Social Witness which has overall management responsibility for the denomination’s homes and support units. Presbyterian Moderator, Rt Rev Dr Charles McMullen, presented the Awards and praised the silent witness of the Church and the staff and volunteers who received their awards.

“As followers of Jesus Christ He asks us to demonstrate the love that he poured out on us by showing that same unconditional love for people. While we can do this in so many ways, at its heart it means the putting of our faith into practical action and simple Christian caring, which is a powerful social witness of the gospel,” Dr McMullen said.

“Everyone who has been nominated and everyone who has received one of these awards has an incredible servant heart and has made an outstanding contribution to the life of the Church in quiet and unobtrusive ways. The Lord sees all things, so He is very much aware of all they are doing for His sake and the advancement of His Kingdom.”

The winners came from congregations, support units and homes in Coleraine, Bangor, Belfast, Omagh, Banbridge, Magherafelt, Ballygawley and Newcastle, with a special award to going to Presbyterian Women.

The winners included:

  • Congregational Team of the Year - Yarn & Yarn, Ballygawley and Ballyreagh Presbyterian Church
  • Council for Social Witness Team of the Year - Thompson House, the denomination’s approved hostel for offenders in Belfast
  • Unsung hero (congregation) - Little Acorns Team, West Church, Bangor
  • Unsung hero (Council for Social Witness) - Brian Wilson, Harold McCauley House, residential nursing home, Omagh
  • Volunteer Award - Beth McLeod, Bannside Presbyterian Church, Banbridge
  • Leadership Award - Norma Pickering, Home Manger, Adelaide House residential care home, Belfast

Congratulating the winners and those who were nominated, Lindsay Conway, Director and Secretary to the Council for Social Witness, said, “In a climate of increased hardship, the Churches are having to fill the gaps left by the statutory services, foodbanks for with increased demands, for example and more pastoral support being demanded as Welfare Reform starts to bite.

“These awards are a celebration of the caring and compassionate work that is undertaken by so many unsung heroes in our denomination who are responding to society’s needs and filling the gap,” he said.

“Social witness is a very special kind of witness. As people reach out to others in different hands-on everyday ways, we wanted to honour the contribution that they make. Every winner and every nominee is changing lives and bringing light in a sometimes dark world."

Awards were also presented for Long Service and training.

Photos: (1) Lindsay Conway, Director and Secretary to the Council for Social Witness welcoming guests and nominees to the awards which took place in Assembly Buildings' new conference centre (2) the winners of the 2018 Social Witness Recognition Awards with the Moderator, Dr McMullen and Lindsay Conway.

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