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.

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