Mullavilly Parish Church was packed to capacity on Friday night for the institution of the first woman rector in its history – Rev Elizabeth Cairns who had moved the few miles from Portadown where she was Vicar of St Columba’s.
The Archbishop of Armagh, the Rt Rev Richard Clarke, conducted the service and performed the institution. The introductions were by Rev Neville Hughes, Rural Dean of Armagh and Rector of Mullabrack and Kilcluney.
The sermon was by Rev Bill Adair, Rector of St Columba’s who said that his parish was sorry to lose a vicar of Rev Cairns’ calibre. And he paid tribute to her work in the community around St Columba’s, her outreach, and the fact that she had led a group of parishioners to a project in Kenya.
Rev Adair also stated that Mullavilly was inadvertently involved in a female “double first”. Mrs Cairns, he added, was the first woman rector in the parish’s 203-year history. And on that very day, the Church of Ireland had appointed its first woman Bishop – Rev Pat Storey from St Augustine’s in Londonderry, to Meath and Kildare.
Mrs Cairns said she was delighted and humbled to be taking over Mullavilly with its great traditions within the Church of Ireland and described it as “a wonderful challenge”.
Originally from the Birches area, she was educated at the local primary school and Portadown Tech. After working in industry for three years, she joined the Church Army, training at Blackheath in England.
Before her St Columba’s days, she was stationed at Ballyclare/Ballynure in County Antrim, then at Seapatrick, Waringstown/Donacloney and was then placed in charge at Ardmore.
Rev Cairns was ordained in 2009 as Vicar of St Columba’s and “am so looking forward to serving Mullavilly” where she succeeds Rev Brian Harper, who has moved to Ballinamallard in County Fermanagh.
Representatives from all her former churches were there on Friday night, and the hymns were To God Be the Glory, The Lord’s My Shepherd, And Can It Be, plus In Christ Alone.
Supper was served in the Parish Hall after the service.