Baptist Women - Past, Present & Future
In 1928, Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin; Amelia Earhart flew solo across Atlantic and Mickey Mouse made his first appearance. Suffragettes, won the right for women over 21 to vote and this dramatically improved the status of women in society.
Did this cause the women in our Baptist Churches to rise up and campaign for a women’s department within our churches? Well, the answer is ‘No’. The men of the Irish Baptist Foreign Mission Committee (IBFM) felt there was a need for a Women’s Auxiliary to be formed. (Auxiliary means to support, to assist.)
So, they nominated 19 women drawn from 16 churches all over Ireland to begin the process of setting up a Women’s Auxiliary. Out of these 19 women four were asked to form an Executive Committee to establish ideas for the organisation - Mrs Frizzle from Cliftonpark, Mrs Gribbon from Antrim Road, Mrs McKelvey from Gt Vic St and Mrs Porter from Grove.
In March 1929, the first office-bearers were elected - President, Vice-President and Secretary. Each branch was to be self-governing ie., establish their own rules and decide how their branch could most help the Mission.
At this stage, most branches concentrated on working to support IBHM and IBFM. The problem was how to develop the work.
In 1977, IBFM and IBHM were amalgamated as Baptist Missions and The Women’s Auxiliary of IBFM (to give it its full title) was no longer an appropriate name. The WA were encouraged to become involved in the whole work of the Baptist Union and in 1979 became a department of the Baptist Union of Ireland with a new name - Baptist Women’s Fellowship. Interest in mission extended beyond Peru to include Ireland and Europe and the students of the Irish Baptist College.
In 1995, Baptist Women’s Fellowship became Baptist Women.
Baptist Women was set up with the following objectives:
- Encourage women to play their full part in Irish Baptist life and witness.
- Promote a fellowship of prayer and support for the work of Baptist Missions.
- Develop and strengthen work being done by women in Irish Baptist Churches
- Initiate other activities of interest and concern to women consistent with the objects of the Union/Association.
As things developed within the Women’s department it was clear that a part-time worker was needed. Isabel Moore a member of the Holywood Church who was just finishing IBC took up the role). Isabel retired from the role in 2009 and Gail Curry was appointed to replace her.
Our vision for the future is to see church-centred women’s ministries that:
- Equip women to know what they believe and why they believe it
- Develop an interest in and promoting prayer for the work of Baptist Missions.
- Help women discover and use their spiritual gifts for the edifying and strengthening of the church.
- Bring all kinds of women together to encourage each other and deepen fellowship among them.
- Equip women to reach out to their communities with the gospel
Let us look forward to a Baptist Women’s department that will continue to ‘encourage, equip and evangelise’ over the next 90 years.