The work of Newtownabbey community groups has been praised during a visit from the President of the Methodist Church in Ireland.
Rev Dr Heather Morris met with residents of the borough last week as part of her tour of the north-east district.
It was a welcome return to the area for Dr Morris, who was installed as the first female President of the church during the annual conference in Carrick last June.
The minister’s itinerary saw her meet with a wide section of the local community, with visits to Doagh Primary and a Ballynure playgroup, followed by a meeting with the Friendship Club in Ballyclare and a Bible study evening in Doagh.
Dr Morris also heard about the work of Storehouse, run by the Methodist and Presbyterian churches in Whiteabbey and St Patrick’s in Jordanstown, as well as the Newtownabbey Methodist Mission.
Speaking to the Times on Friday, Dr Morris said: “This week is mainly about meeting people in the different areas and finding out about the good work that they do. It’s been tremendous to see how active the church is in the communities I’ve visited.”
The married mother of two also outlined some of the challenges of occupying her role. “Sometimes we may have a bit of a tendency to think of our churches as little clubs, but one of our biggest challenges is to reach out and be active in our communities,” she said.
Dr Morris trained as a speech therapist before offering for the Methodist ministry in 1987. In 2004, she was appointed to develop the new role of Director of Ministry at Edgehill Theological College, Belfast. A specialist in Pastoral Theology, she has stressed the importance of continuing professional development for ministers.