Congratulations to Joyce Bond, who, along with her husband John, former Dean of Connor, is at York Minster Cathedral today, Maundy Thursday, to receive the Royal Maundy from His Majesty King Charles III.
Joyce, a long-serving member of Mothers’ Union, was nominated for the honour by the Bishop of Connor, the Rt Rev George Davison. She is one of 74 women and 74 men to receive the Maundy Purse this year.
Joyce recalled how she learned about her nomination. “The post normally brings bills to our home, but one envelope addressed to me had a special seal – the Royal Almonry, Buckingham Palace. I was so shocked when I read the letter, I nearly fell off the chair. I said to myself, ‘why me?’ There are so many other deserving people.”
The visit to York Minister will not be the couple’s first Royal engagement. John was rector in the Parish of Skerry and Rathcavan, Broughshane, for 17 years, and Dean of Connor for 15 years before retiring in 2016.
Shortly before John retired, he was asked by Standing Committee to represent the Church of Ireland at the Inauguration of the 10th General Synod of the Church of England, to robe for the Inauguration Holy Communion Service in Westminster Abbey, and to attend the Synod proceedings in Church House Westminster.
Joyce said: “We both attended the service. John was seated almost directly opposite Her Majesty. After the service, Queen Elizabeth and The Duke of Edinburgh attended the Synod in the Circular Hall in Church House where I was in the Visitors’ Gallery. We heard HM Queen Elizabeth II give her Inauguration speech to General Synod (2015) following a welcome from the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev and Right Hon Justin Welby. It was a memorable and special occasion.”
John also met the late Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh, on several occasions, and the couple attended a Garden Party in Hillsborough Castle in 2014.
John was asked to attend a Clergy-in-Service Course for a month at St George’s in the salubrious surroundings of Windsor Castle in July 1987. Joyce went too, but she only spent a weekend in St George’s House! “I remember the congregation in St George’s praying for our parish at that time, Ballynure and Ballyeaston in Ballyclare,” she said.
Joyce grew up near Limerick and was a parishioner of St Michael’s. She remembers meeting Lady Olave Baden-Powell, who helped to develop the Guide movement, when she visited Florence Barrington, Guide Commissioner, in nearby Abington. As a Guide, Joyce participated in many interesting community events and went on to become a Guider with the 1st Limerick Girl Guide Co. She was also a young leader in Girls’ Christian Youth camps each Easter.
During school holidays in the summer, weekdays were opportunities to earn pocket money using secretarial skills, acquired as a young child, in city offices which needed cover while staff members were on holiday. Joyce’s weekends in the summer were spent in Ballybunion, Co Kerry, where she played the pedal organ at morning service in Ballybunion Parish Church.
“My first visit to Northern Ireland was on the ‘Kerry Bus’ to Downpatrick and Saul for St Patrick’s Day in 1964, organised by Canon Fox in Killarney,” Joyce recalled. “The Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey, was the special guest.”
John was brought up in Co Wexford, and the two met in Villiers’ School in Limerick. Were they childhood sweethearts? “We were very good friends… and then we got married!!” John replied.
John was sponsored by Connor Diocese during training for Ordination. He had to obtain a ‘Faculty’ from the Archbishop because he was under age to be ordained Deacon for his first curacy in St Paul’s, Lisburn, with the Rev Ken Cochrane. The couple married a year later. Joyce obtained a transfer in her job to Royal Insurance Group in Belfast.
“We came to Lisburn in pre-Troubles days and had a wonderful three years,” said John. It was at this time that Joyce first taught in Sunday School and enrolled in the Mothers’ Union, although her involvement with the organisation began well before this. “My Mum, Granny and Aunt were all members of the Mothers’ Union. I had to sit at the back of the MU meetings until their conclusion to get a lift home with my Mum,” she recalled.
John was serving his second curacy in St Polycarp’s, Finaghy Parish, in 1970, when their first two children, Susan and Allan, came along and Joyce left her job. The Troubles had erupted by this time. “You could hear the bin lids rattling on the pavements and gunfire at night, terrorists were always trying to blow things up, and dreadful things happened when the rector the Rev Jim Hall was on holiday,” Joyce recalled.
“It was a trying, trying time, but the people were wonderfully resilient,” John added.
In St Polycarp’s, Joyce taught Sunday School, and assisted with what was then called the Bunnies and later became the Rainbows. “Thanks to pressure from Joyce and others, Bunnies were eventually recognised as Rainbows and part of the Guide Movement,” John said.
Joyce recalls Mothers’ Union as being strong and lively. “I did lots of things for Mothers’ Union in those days. I was even on the back of a lorry in Belfast for the Lord Mayor’s Show. Mothers’ Union lifted a Cup and unfortunately it was engraved “Mothers’ Union Ltd”, but limited it never was!” Joyce laughed.
She also volunteered with a cross community nursery group in Belfast for several years.
The family moved to Ballyclare in March 1977 when John was appointed rector of Ballynure and Ballyeaston. Daughter Nicola arrived soon after. “I didn’t go back to work after the children were born,” Joyce said. “The family needed me and we couldn’t afford a second car.”
“Ballyclare was a small parish, but because of The Troubles, lots of people moved there to live,” John said, adding when they arrived, the population of Ballyclare was around 7,000 and by the time they left 22 years later, it had doubled to over 14,000.
Joyce started the Ballynure/Ballyclare branch of Mothers’ Union in 1979/80, bringing different ladies’ groups together. “It helped bring cohesion to the parish, and it worked well,” she said.
In Ballynure, she was involved in Sunday School, drama, missionary projects and Guiding. A lot of work had to be done to bring in funds for an extension to the church, including the publication of a recipe book which sold exceptionally well – particularly after Joyce managed to get RTE presenter, the late Gay Byrne, to publicise it for her!
“We started Lenten Lunches, which brought people of all denominations together. The local clergy were so supportive and there was a strong bond pastorally,” Joyce added.
Joyce also served on the local committee of Abbeyfield Housing for many years.
As the family grew older, Joyce and John travelled to France each summer to serve chaplaincies with the Intercontinental Church Society (ICS). “We served in holiday areas, taking services in English,” Joyce said. “We had to go out and find our congregation and we did – the whole family had a job to do!” ICS celebrates its 200th anniversary this year, and John was made a Life-Member of ICS in 2009.
John also served in a holiday chaplaincy in Manteca, Diocese of San Joaquin, in the USA in 1988, in a parish 50 miles south of San Francisco. During this time, Joyce took part in a Diocesan Youth Camp high in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
“The bears used to raid the bins at night and men were a bit suspicious of women leading parts of worship!! Some changes were necessary and for the better!” Joyce said. “The nice thing about these holiday chaplaincies was your family could experience them too, and it was good training for them.”
Her Mothers’ Union roles have been many. In Connor she has been a Diocesan Trustee; Vice-President – Faith and Policy Unit; Faith and Policy Unit Co-ordinator; Editor of the diocesan magazine ‘In Touch’ for several years; Diocesan Worldwide Representative and Women’s Forum representative for Mothers’ Union.
She was the first enrolling member in Ballynure and Ballyeaston, she served six years as branch chair in St Patrick’s, Broughshane, and was Area Rep in South Belfast and South and Mid Antrim.
She was the Mothers’ Union representative on Connor Diocesan Council for Mission at the time of the signing of a partnership agreement with Edinburgh Diocese and visited Edinburgh with other Connor delegates.
At All Ireland level, she has been Editor of ‘Focus,’ Mothers’ Union’s all Ireland magazine; PRO Officer for all Ireland and later for Northern Ireland; Worldwide Treasurer; and a member of the Mothers’ Union Millennium Journey team. The Journey team started in Cork and travelled to all the Dioceses in Ireland, sharing in services and events, concluding in Armagh Cathedral.
Joyce was in New Zealand on two occasions – her brother Frank, a clergyman, served in several parishes there – she linked in with MU Branches and brought greetings from the Bishop of Connor. She enjoyed the Parish Link and exchange visits with Sweden.
“St Patrick’s, Broughshane, entertained a group from our Link Parish in Sweden and the following year we enjoyed a reciprocal visit to Sweden,” Joyce said. “John preached at the morning service.”
Joyce was an Ireland Women’s Link ICC representative at the 4 Nations Meetings (Churches Together Britain and Ireland) for several years. Joyce’s present posts are President/Chair of Women’s Link (Irish Council of Churches) and a General Synod Member. She remains a member of the St Patrick’s, Broughshane, branch of Mothers’ Union, and is Connor Faith and Policy Unit Co-ordinator and Mid-Connor Area Chair.
“Every parish needs a Mothers’ Union Branch moving forward in Faith and Action, making a difference, engaging with families, the Church and Community,” Joyce said.
Outside of Mothers’ Union, she volunteers with the Moldova, Vision of Good Hope Charity (currently operating in Eastern Europe) and is a member of General Synod. She was a Young People’s Bible Study Group Leader, a Brownie Guider and a Toddler Group facilitator until seven years ago.
“We are grandparents to five wonderful, talented children,” Joyce said proudly. “Our eldest daughter Susan is married to Andrew Brown, our son Allan to Sinead, and our daughter Nicola to Mark Chalkley.”
As Diocesan Curate, John provides cover where there is a vacancy or illness and takes services in different parishes on Sundays, and where he goes, Joyce worships there.
John paid tribute to his wife. “For the amazing and caring person she is, her exceptional support to me and the giving of herself to our family and the parishes where we were privileged to serve in our Church of Ireland for 49 years,” he said. “She has and continues to touch the hearts and bless the lives of many in her own gentle and gracious way.”
In commending Joyce for the Maundy Purse, Bishop George wrote: “Joyce Bond has lived most of her adult life serving the community in Co Antrim in a number of different locations. An active member of the Mothers’ Union, she has been a tireless supporter of women and families in her community.”
As has become customary, Bishop George also commended a member of a different church denomination for the Maundy Thursday honour, and this year that was William Greer from the Methodist Church.
Bishop George wrote: “William Greer has worshipped in Jennymount Methodist Church all his adult life and was a member of the Royal Marines during the turbulent period of The Troubles in Northern Ireland. Despite this, he continued to serve both his church and community faithfully and selflessly during this time.”