Celebrating what God is doing through women in Ireland
By Ruth Garvey-Williams
(From the April - June 2018 issue of VOX)
Christianity is good news for women,” Miriam O’Regan shares with a delighted smile. We are enjoying a coffee together as Miriam tells me her vision for the up-coming Fearless Women conference in the Helix in Dublin on Saturday 16 June.
Currently working towards her PhD researching early childhood on behalf of Irish Child Minding, Miriam has always been involved in working with women, but she admits, “I’ve never been one for women’s ministry.” So how did a researcher make the leap to organise a conference for women?
“About a year and a half ago, I posted an article on Facebook about women in the church and I was shocked by the way some male leaders slammed into it,” Miriam explains. “I wasn’t saying the article was perfect but it was highlighting something important for us. Eventually, after two or three weeks, I took it down because it was generating too much negativity, but in my heart I was disturbed. I don’t want to stir people up into a frenzy but I do believe this is important.”
Last year, Miriam attended the Hillsong Colour conference for women in London. Seeing thousands of women worshipping together was inspiring and she was also struck by the challenge not to ignore “half of God’s army.”
“In many ways, this is the best of times and the worst of times to be a woman in Ireland, but in Christ we have such a hope and a future. Women love and follow Jesus because He has seen us for who we are,” Miriam says.
Miriam is on the board of Compassion Ireland and it was in a board meeting that the idea for the conference was birthed. “I happened to share that I did not know of any national Christian event for Irish women. Someone asked, ‘And why not?’ At that point, I realised that God was challenging me to do something about it, and the folks at Compassion were willing to back me to do it.
“I have never done anything like this or even tried to do something like this before. I’m a thinker, so event planning is not my gifting. Although the conference is called Fearless Women, that was a challenge for me. It meant fearing less because He is faithful (rather than being completely fearless). I’m clinging to that. Eventually, I got over the line and said, ‘I’m doing it...’ and here we are.”
Gathering a group of women together with representation from different churches, Miriam has developed a three-year plan for a national event that aims to bring together women from across the denominations and church backgrounds. “I also want it to be attractive to the ‘nones’ (women who do not have a church connection). That’s why I booked the Helix so that it would not be identified with any one particular church,” Miriam adds.
“Our focus will be on Jesus. I’m trusting that people will encounter God throughout the day, that they will be released and inspired to go and do things and that children will be sponsored (though Compassion) and be set free from poverty in Jesus’ name.”
THE LINE UP
For the first conference on Saturday 16 June, Sophia Barrett, co-pastor, Audacious Church, Manchester, UK will be sharing some of her own story. Author of “Stay”, a powerful account of overcoming her fears, Sophia’s message is so relevant for today’s Ireland, speaking directly into mental health, anxiety and popular culture, but also challenging and inspiring people to be all that God created them to be.
Leading worship will be Belfast-born Brian Houston together with his daughter Stephanie. Hailed as one of the UK’s great songwriters, Brian recently relocated back to Ireland from North Carolina.
NOMINATE AN EXTRAORDINARY WOMAN!
One of the distinctives of Fearless Women will be a campaign, in partnership with Spirit Radio, to identify extraordinary women all across the island. “We want to find women who are making a difference in their family, in their church, in their community or in the workplace. And they probably think they are ordinary.”
You can visit the website www.fearlesswomen.ie and fill in a form (Be the Difference) to nominate someone you respect and admire. During the conference, Spirit Radio’s Wendy Grace will run a “sofa session” to share some of these stories from around the country.
Miriam imagines a map of Ireland dotted with hundreds of lights, with each light representing a woman who is making a difference! “We want to celebrate and give glory to God for the things He is doing through the women of Ireland,” she smiles.
“I never dreamed I would do anything like this... I’m the most unlikely person but God opened the door! It is like watching a photograph develop and you just step into it.”
To book your place or to find out more about Fearless Women visit the website www.fearlesswomen.ie.