Children’s Project Development Officer takes up post

Thursday November 14th 2013

Jill Hamilton, Diocesan Children's Project Development Officer.Jill Hamilton has taken up the post of Children’s Project Development Officer with Connor Diocese.

Jill grew up in Portadown, where she was a parishioner at St Mark’s, and attended Clounagh Junior High School and Portadown College before studying for a degree in Applied Economics at the University of Ulster, Jordanstown. She went on to do a PGCE in Secondary Education.

She met her husband Geoff, Development Officer with SAMS (the South American Mission Society) when she was a volunteer with SAMS in Paraguay. “After studying for an economics degree I realised I did not want to do economics for the rest of my life,” she said. “I had done some short term mission work with Operation Mobilisation in Europe and with Scripture Union in Zimbabwe. I really had a heart for going out and doing something overseas.”

During her three and a half year stay in Paraguay, Jill travelled to Uruguay for a holiday and met Geoff, a native of Lurgan, who was working for SAMS as a mission partner.

When Jill returned home she focused on primary school teaching, working as a supply teacher in different primary schools for three years before taking up a permanent post in Lisnadill Primary School in Armagh.

She and Geoff later moved to Co Londonderry, living in the countryside between Derry City and Strabane. During this time Jill worked at Belmont House Special School in Londonderry, where she taught infants and later specialised in working with children with autism.

When the couple moved back to Lurgan two years ago, Jill worked for a short time with the autism unit at the Southern Education and Library Board, and most recently has been working in administration with SAMS.

Looking forward to her new role with Connor Diocese, Jill said: “One of my goals is to set up localised training for volunteers in children’s ministry in our parishes. I also want to develop resources and ensure people can easily access these through a website.

“Initially I am hoping to make contact with clergy and with volunteers and youth leaders across the diocese. I want to establish what people’s needs are and to tailor training and advise on resources to suit these needs.

“I also want to explore with parishes the development of different kinds of children’s ministry such as homework clubs and breakfast clubs and other ways of doing children’s ministry in a creative and fun way.”

Jill said she considers children’s ministry to be vital in the church. “It is a great way of linking to people in the community who may not engage in church, and is an outreach opportunity to get parents and families into church in a non–threatening way. It creates opportunities for further outreach with these adults drawing them into involvement with groups within the church.

“I hope to help parishes to provide a child centred approach, where children find learning interesting and fun, and where they feel involved, important and valued.”

Jill, who now lives in Lurgan, is a keen gardener, and also enjoys cycling and walking her dog. She will be working 30 hours a week, and is based at Church of Ireland House.

The Bishop of Connor, the Rt Rev Alan Abernethy, said: “We are delighted to welcome Jill to facilitate children’s ministry, something we have said for some time is a very high priority for the diocese. I am sure she will be a gift to us all.”

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