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