For over 100 years, feminists around the world have marked International Women’s Day on 8 March, celebrating women leading in business, innovating in science, creating things of beauty in the arts, speaking bravely into issues of justice and acting courageously in the face of opposition.

Many evangelical Christian women, whether or not they would describe themselves as feminists, want to celebrate their achievements and mark the significant roles that Christian women are playing across all fields of work in Northern Ireland.

In our work here at the Evangelical Alliance, I and my colleagues Donna and Dawn meet many Christian women who are doing these kinds of incredible things every day in Northern Ireland. Women who love and follow Jesus are finding themselves in surprising places of influence.

They are women with experience and expertise to bring to the table in discussions about the big issues that are shaping our society. They have insights to offer in navigating relationships in our communities and they have wisdom to share for the decision making that happens in our local government.


Breakfast event celebrating women of faith and influence

We gathered a roomful of these amazing Christian women for an early morning event on Tuesday, 7 March at Malone Presbyterian Church in Belfast to celebrate one another as women of faith and influence. More than 40 women enjoyed breakfast together as we listened to a panel of speakers including Emma McIlveen, a specialist employment disputes barrister, Debbie Duncan, a lecturer in nursing at Queen’s University and Rev Kathryn Viner, minister at Malone Presbyterian Church.

Emma shared with vulnerability what it was like to face rejection and failure in the high pressure world of law.

Emma Mc Ilveen speaking at our event

Debbie encouraged us with her stories of courageously standing up for her biblical values in a workplace that is becoming less receptive of a Christian worldview. She gently urged us to be distinctive and inclusive in our approach.

In an interesting turn of events, one panellist, a senior civil servant, did not feel comfortable to speak to us in person, instead she wrote a statement to be read out, saying, the fact that I did not feel in a position to speak to you in person, will in itself give you an insight as to some of the difficulties of being both Christ’s servant and a public servant.”

Many of us could empathise with the stories she shared that highlighted some of the challenges of being a Christian in today’s workplace culture. She summed them up in these words, it is no longer enough to tolerate a viewpoint which is alternative to your own, it feels almost mandatory to affirm it.”

Rev Kathryn Viner ended our panel time with focusing our attention on Luke 8 and reminding us of the many women who followed Jesus and helped to support the band of disciples, out of their own means”. Kathryn’s words inspire us as women who follow Jesus and have an influential role. It emphasised the message from our verse of the day, Psalm 68:11 (BBE), The Lord gives the word; great is the number of the women who make it public”, encouraging Christian women to carry on that biblical tradition of showing up, speaking up and continuing our influence in the public square.

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Women of faith in the public square

We are women who do not always feel represented by the women’s voices that we hear loudest in the public square, in leadership, in the media or in politics. So it’s been so interesting watching the developments of the story of Kate Forbes (read more here) and the challenges she has faced holding her faith in politics. It highlights the challenges of being a Christian woman in the highest level of leadership and influence.

During the morning together, we used game called Table Talk to give the women the opportunity to share their own experiences around the table and with the room, giving us prayer points to end our morning. The feedback from our attendees was clear: we need a workshop to equip us how to live out our faith in the public square. So, we will go away and consider what we can do next to equip you in how to live in the tension that we all experience.

"In our work here at the Evangelical Alliance, I and my colleagues Donna and Dawn meet many Christian women who are doing these kinds of incredible things every day in Northern Ireland."

We want to celebrate you too

We recognise that not every woman can make it to Belfast for an early morning event. We would love to do another event like this for women of faith and influence in another part of Northern Ireland. If you would be interested in hosting us in your church and celebrating women in your area, please get in touch with Danielle at d.​mcelhinney@​eauk.​org.