More than 1,000 people attended a concert in Shankill Church, Lurgan, on Friday night to celebrate the life of Revd Liz McElhinney, who died from motor neurone disease (MND) in June.
Some had come from as far away as Sligo and Roscommon to honour a remarkable woman and pay tribute to her legacy as a wife, mother, grandmother, friend, colleague, minister and counsellor.
The event raised £10,700 which was donated to MND Association (NI), represented by chairman Stephen Thompson.
Compere, Bishop Ken Clarke, mission director of SAMS UK & Ireland and a close friend of the McElhinneys, spoke for many when he described Liz as “caring, compassionate and consistent – a joy to be with; a privilege to know. She was a joy carrier.”
The special event shone a spotlight on Liz’s Christian faith, and especially her faith in the face of suffering.
A selection of her poems, read by actor Ian McElhinney and his actor son Matthew (Liz’s godson), was at the heart of the evening.
They were all written following Liz’s diagnosis two years ago, and resonated with her love for God, for people and for nature. She enjoyed life in all its fullness.
In a short film, Dr Sharon Heron, Liz’s creative writing mentor, said 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”.
As well as the poetry, and an inspiring video testimony that Liz gave six months after her diagnosis, the concert featured musical performances from the cross–community Lurgan Musical Society, Shankill Parish Choir accompanied by Carl McCambley, soloist Nicola Brown and traditional Irish musicians led by Sean Hanily from Dublin.
The music was uplifting but poignant as many remembered the vibrant presence they had lost in Liz.
Twenty of the poems have been gathered into a printed collection entitled Solid Joys, Lasting Treasure illustrated by Liz’s son David, and each ticket holder received a copy.
“The poems in this booklet are witness to Liz’s spirit swelling and her faith deepening, even in the darkest and most difficult and painful of times,” said Bishop Ken Clarke.
“She pressed on in the midst of pain and discomfort, the loss of independence and a raft of other challenges. But with her co–climber Christ beside her and within, she struggled to the summit.
“Liz had discovered in Christ not only a ‘bridge over troubled waters’, but the best thing we should all seek and find.”
The fundraising continues with further copies and a CD of the collection read by Ian McElhinney available to purchase at www.simplyorderit.com/mnd/ or on Kindle from Amazon.com.