A blessing to others

13.5.2024 | Ministry, Presbyterian Women, Church Life, Women's ministry

The new President of Presbyterian Women, the organisation that supports the development of ministry among women across the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI), has said that the organisation’s annual conference at the weekend, ‘was a wonderful opportunity to come together to be blessed and to be a blessing to others.' Mrs Ellen Hillen, who will lead one of Ireland’s largest Christian women’s groups, was one of nearly 1,000 women who gathered in the Church’s Assembly Buildings in central Belfast for the annual meeting.

Saturday's event heard from guest speaker Dr Amy Orr-Ewing, the leading best-selling Christian author and theologian. Dr Orr-Ewing gave two addresses around the organisation’s theme for the year - ‘Entrusted’, which is inspired by a passage from Luke’s gospel ‘… from one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked’ (Luke 12:48). Ann Wilson of First Ballynahinch Presbyterian Church, the outgoing President of Presbyterian Women, welcomed Dr Orr-Ewing and PCI’s Moderator, Rt Rev Dr Sam Mawhinney, who spoke briefly and prayed for the work that the organisation, its projects and leadership team.

Founded over 130 years ago, and with around 450 groups across the all-Ireland denomination, it aims to encourage and equip women in the spirit of its motto, which is ‘to live for Jesus’. With an important missional focus, Presbyterian Women raise around £380,000 last year to support the work of PCI’s deaconesses at home, the training of new student deaconesses, the work of South Belfast Friendship House, and PCI’s 29 Global Mission Workers in 11 countries. Two special projects were also unveiled at the Conference, as Pauline Kennedy, PCI’s Women’s Ministry and Presbyterian Women Development Officer, explained.

“One of our strengths as an organisation is that we are women supporting women at home, and women supporting women overseas. To this end, on Saturday we launched two great projects that have the potential to be life changing,” she said.

“For our Special Home project, we will come alongside the amazing work of Prison Fellowship Northern Ireland, a Christian ministry which has for over 40 years responded to the practical, emotional and spiritual needs of prisoners. The number of women in custody is at an all-time high and, I am told, is set to increase. It is our prayer that the £10,000 we hope to raise will support the development of the Prison Fellowship’s Female Aftercare Programme, which seeks to ensure that no woman leaves prison alone, as well as offering care and support in a number of ways.”

Mrs Kennedy also said that the Special Overseas Project will support the Women’s Guild in Zambia. “Last year I visited one of PCI’s partner churches in Africa, the Central Church of Africa Presbyterian, and met with the leaders of its Women’s Guild to learn about the needs of women across the Church. Out of that came this year’s Special Project, where we hope to raise between £15,000-£20,000 to support the development of a leadership programme and resource, especially for women in rural areas, who have little formal education. Like our Special Home Project, it also has the potential to change lives, and I pray that it does.”

The Annual Conference is always one of the highlights of the Church year and is the biggest single gathering in PCI after the General Assembly, which will open next month. Looking to the year ahead as president, Ellen Hillen said she felt “very humbled and privileged to have been entrusted with the position,” adding, “and a bit nervous!”

“Our structure provides Presbyterian Women with a basis to deliver women's ministry that is most suited to their church environment and offers resources and support to those in leadership roles. Saturday was a wonderful opportunity to hear God's word and learn how we can live His word in our everyday lives. I hope that many would have been greatly encouraged by the message that Amy brought to us and I want to thank her for it. Saturday was also a wonderful opportunity to come together to be blessed and to be a blessing to others,” she said.

Mrs Hillen, who has been an active member of St Columba’s Presbyterian Women’s group in Lisburn for 24 years, and group leader for the past 12 years continued, “For me the real value of our groups is the deep and lasting friendships that can be made and links that help us grow in our knowledge and understanding of God. Having people to walk alongside you on a journey of faith, and together ensure that there is an effective women's ministry programme that brings God's word to others within our churches and community and across the generations, is an important part of what we do. I am really looking forward to encouraging that, as I visit groups around the country,” she said.

“I also would like to encourage women to be fearless for God - to have the courage to answer God's call on their lives. None of us feels worthy, but God has given us all different spiritual gifts and abilities, and when He calls us to do something He will prepare the way, enabling us for the task. God has entrusted us with the next generation, so let's get to action!”

Reflecting on her year in office, outgoing president, Mrs Ann Wilson, said that it had been a wonderful opportunity to serve in a year that had just flown by. “It has been a real privilege to be invited to speak at group meetings and many church services, all of which has led me to meet women of all ages who are seeking to encourage each other to live for Jesus and to reach out to others.”

Mrs Wilson continued, “It has been an amazing year in which our Special Home Project focussed on mental health supporting the work of REACH and Biblical Counselling Ireland, while we were also able to support the work of Christian broadcaster, and PCI global partner, Sat-7 in the Middle East and North Africa.

“It has only been God’s strength and presence with me, along with the prayerful support and encouragement from my husband Alan, and so many others, who helped me through it. I would like to thank everyone for their support and pray every blessing upon Ellen, as she takes things forward this year,” she said.

Photos (1) Worship during the annual conference of Presbyterian Women on Saturday, which was held in the Assembly Hall of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland in central Belfast (2) Ellen Hillen President of Presbyterian Women (left) with conference guest speaker, Dr Amy Orr-Ewing (centre) and PCI’s Women’s Ministry and Presbyterian Women Development Officer, Pauline Kennedy (3) Dr Orr-Ewing during one of her two addresses to the conference (4) Ann Wilson (left), outgoing President of Presbyterian Women hands over the specially commissioned presidential brooch, which can also be worn as a necklace, to her successor as president, Ellen Hillen (5) Left to right: Presbyterian Moderator, Dr Sam Mawhinney with his wife Karen, with Ellen Hillen, Dr Orr-Ewing, and Pauline Kennedy.

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