A celebration of Liz McElhinney with evening of poetry and music

Cyril McElhinney with his late wife Rev Canon Liz McElhinney
Cyril McElhinney with his late wife Rev Canon Liz McElhinney

An inspirational woman, the life of Reverend Canon Liz McElhinney is to be celebrated in a very special evening of poetry and music in Lurgan on Friday.

Penned by herself, there will be a selection of Canon McElhinney’s inspiring poems, read by internationally acclaimed actor Ian McElhinney.

Rev Stephen McElhinney with  his mum Rev Canon Liz McElhinney

Rev Stephen McElhinney with his mum Rev Canon Liz McElhinney

Having passed away in June, Liz leaves a warm and generous legacy of love and ministry.

Her son Rev Stephen McElhinney speaks of her gift at listening, of being supportive and of having a strong connection and understanding of others.

“Mum was always supportive, always quick to ask how you were doing. We always knew we had a mum who listened,” he said

He describing growing up in a loving home where often his mum would be on the phone and disappear for a little while chatting to someone.

He later recalls learning how that she was often listening to someone in crisis, helping them through difficult times.

Married to Cyril McElhinney, the couple lived in England in their early years working at Manchester City Mission. Liz had qualified as a social worker.

Then they moved to Lurgan where she worked at Portadown Technical College and was regarded as a very gifted teacher.

In 1975 the couple adopted Vance, a Vietnamese child who had been brought to the UK during the war. With their sons Stephen and David, Vance became an integral part of their growing family.

With her father being a clergyman in Roscommon and having attended Alexandra College in Dublin, it was almost inevitable that Liz would become a minister once the Church opened the doors to women and when her children had grown up.

It was a new phase in her life and, after training in Dublin, she became a curate in Magheralin (whilst Cyril worked as church administrator in Shankill parish (having moved on from YMCA and the Youth Service) and spent six years in Sligo, part time in Cavan and finally in Roscommon.

In May 2015 she suffered from the debilitating illness Motor Neurone Disease - leading to yet another chapter of her life.

Stephen says his mum dealt with the illness stoically and felt that the Lord would be with her throughout.

“She had a picture of a shepherd holding a sheep. She felt held by God,” he said.

Stephen says her illness ‘stopped her in her tracks’. “She stopped running around after people and in a way it helped her to think,” he said. “She was inspired to write.”

“She has left us a very beautiful legacy.”

‘Solid Joys, Lasting Treasure’: Celebratory Evening of Poetry and Music in Memory of Canon Liz McElhinney promises to be a very special event.

As well as readings of a selection of Liz’s poems there will be musical contributions from the cross-community Lurgan Musical Society, Shankill Parish Choir, soloist Nicola Brown and traditional Irish musicians led by Sean Hanily from Dublin.

Her poems form a core part of the concert and twenty of them have been gathered together in a printed collection entitled Solid Joys, Lasting Treasure complemented by beautiful illustrations by Liz’s artist son, David. The booklet will be included in an admission charge of £10 for those attending the evening.

All the proceeds from the event will support the work of the MND Association N.I.

Additionally, a CD of the collection of the poems, read by Ian McElhinney, will also be on sale on the evening.

Liz’s poems have been described by author and editor Lynda Neilands as ‘gems’, ‘mined and crafted in the valley of the shadow of death, they glow with the light of Christ, the hope of heaven and appreciation of all that is true and lovely on earth’, while Liz’s creative writing mentor – and editor of the collection – Dr Sharon Heron says that Liz’s vision for the poems grew steadily as she wrote of her experience, hoping that ‘some glory might be brought to the Lord she loved’.

The collection’s title is taken from the well-known 18th-century hymn by John Newton, ‘Glorious Things of Thee are Spoken’.

This special legacy evening, on Friday November 10 from 8pm to 10.30pm will be held in Shankill Parish Church, Lurgan, is in aid of MNDA (NI)

For more info: www.facebook.com/events/178216399403082/