Presbyterian Women meet for annual conference

4.5.2023 | Mission News, Presbyterian Women, Church Life, Women's ministry

Mental health and counselling at home and supporting Christian broadcasting across the Middle East and North Africa will be the special projects Presbyterian Women (PW) will be focussing on this year – the organisation announced at its annual conference, which took place in Belfast today.

Supporting the development of ministry among women in Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI) congregations, upwards of 1000 women of all ages gathered to worship, hear from God’s Word, and find out how the organisation’s work has continued to make a difference to the lives of so many across Ireland and overseas this past year.

Founded over 130 years ago the annual conference, which is the largest event organised by PCI after its General Assembly, also heard from guest speaker, Rev Ali Calvin, the current rector Christ Church in Kilkeel, who spoke on this year’s theme ‘Being Transformed’, which is taken from Romans 12:2.

Pauline Kennedy, PCI’s Women’s Ministry and PW Development Officer, explained that Presbyterian Women is an organisation within PCI, “that enables, encourages and equips women to become disciples of Christ. We are very blessed as an organisation of some 450 groups across the island, as we are able to do more together than we could do alone. Together, PW is a real partnership that is able to support the development of ministry to women in the Church each year, and support our Mission Fund annually to the tune of around £300,000. We are so grateful for the generosity of our groups up and down the land who also enable us to support our various special projects,” she said.

This year’s Special Home Project is two-stranded and focuses on mental health through the work of REACH and Biblical Counselling Ireland. REACH Mentoring for Young People is a Christian charity that offers a mentoring programme for children and teenagers in schools in the Armagh, Down and Craigavon areas between the ages of 9-18 years. The second strand will support a new project of Biblical Counselling Ireland, a counselling organisation based in churches in the Dublin area.

This Special Overseas Project will support Christian broadcaster, and one of PCI’s global mission partners, SAT-7, as it continues to reach across the Middle East and North Africa. Presbyterian Women will specifically support ‘Women Across the Middle East & North Africa’ which is known as ‘MENA’ helping SAT-7 transform women’s experience through broadcast media so that they may know the fullness of life in Christ. “SAT-7 broadcasts boldly across the region trying to present a new way of living based upon biblical values to raise up the value of women and girls to their communities while seeking to give them a voice to speak for themselves, something that we want to be very supportive of,” Pauline Kennedy explained.

Alongside the Special Projects, each year Presbyterian Women supports the work of PCI’s deaconesses at home, the training of new student deaconesses, and the work of South Belfast Friendship House, alongside PCI’s Global Mission Workers.

In her address, Presbyterian Women’s President for the forthcoming year, Ann Wilson, said that it was good to be able to come together without the restrictions of the recent past. “We are thankful to God that this past year so many PW Groups have got up and running once more, despite the challenges they may have faced. Moving forward hasn’t always been easy, and for some of our groups difficult decisions have had to be made...

Mrs Wilson who worships at First Ballynahinch Presbyterian Church, continued, “Through our recent themes, Presbyterian Women have been encouraged to focus on the importance of deepening relationships with each other and above all, with God. We have been reminded that relationships are an important part of Christian ministry and service.

“This is something that we need to continue building on and working at as we embrace the new theme of ‘Being Transformed’. another part of our journey with Christ…As I look forward to meeting our groups, I pray that I would be reminded of these words found in 1 Peter 4:11, ‘If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.’”

Outgoing president, Esther Parker, who worships in Belfast’s historic Sinclair Seamen’s Presbyterian Church, said that serving as president had been “a privilege and a pleasure!” and thanked everyone for their support. “Over the course of the year, I have met so many women in group meetings, church services, and events, as well as having many personal conversations. I have learned and benefitted from those conversations, and trust that the Lord has used me to encourage, challenge and help other women whether we spoke personally, or they were listening as I spoke at the front of a meeting…”

Mrs Parker continued, “Women in PCI have thought much this year about our theme, going ‘Deeper Together’ with God, and with each other. As we deepen in our knowledge of our great God, I trust that we are seeing him at work in our minds, our hearts and our behaviour, and that the work will continue as we begin to think about this year’s theme, ‘Being Transformed’, by the renewing of our minds.”

Photos: (1) Outgoing Presbyterian Women's President, Esther Parker hands over the PW broach (which can also be worn as a neckless) to Ann Wilson, her successor as president (2) the scene inside the Assembly Hall where the Annual Conference is taking place (3) those taking part in the Annual Conference are (left to right) Esther Parker and Ann Wilson with guest speaker Rev Ali Calvin, rector Christ Church in Kilkeel, and Pauline Kennedy, PCI’s Women’s Ministry and PW Development Officer (4) this year's office bearers (left to right) Ellen Hillen, Home Vice President,  Ann Wilson and Linda Beattie, PW Overseas Vice President.

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