Meet Rev Dr Sam Mawhinney – Moderator-Designate of the PCI General Assembly

Rev Dr Sam Mawhinney’s journey to Moderator-Designate of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland has certainly been an interesting one.

The 60-year-old is a fully qualified doctor who has worked in numerous hospitals including the Waveney in Ballymena and Holywell, Antrim before becoming a General Practitioner in Templepatrick.

As he looks back, Sam recalls with honesty how members of the Presbytery commission who interviewed him during his application process for the ministry needed some convincing that the pulpit was God’s destination for him.

Remembering the interview, Dr Mawhinney said: “They kept asking the question: ‘You are a fully trained Doctor, you are a Christian, why do you not see that as your calling and your ministry?’  I really had to go back to my younger days and say: ‘Well, look folks, I believe what happened to me when I was 16 or 17 and this direction that I have taken was really my own choice. I think that God has graciously brought me back to this point where I wholeheartedly believe that this is what He wants me to do.”

“Still to be 100% convinced after speaking to me, my interviewers rang Rev. Godfrey Brown who knew me well and was adamant that I always had the gifting for ministry.  He assured them that he would be delighted to support my application, so in the providence of God I was accepted by the Presbytery of Templepatrick, and the rest is history.”

Meet Rev Dr Sam Mawhinney – Moderator Designate of the PCI General Assembly

Life for Sam Mawhinney began in the seaside town of Ballycastle in County Antrim.

Blessed with a Christian family, he was greatly influenced not only by the ministry of Godfrey and Margaret Brown but also the impact of Ballycastle CSSM.  Indeed, it was through that organisation that Sam made an early commitment to Christ that would shape the rest of his life.

Eventually, the medical faculty at Queens beckoned.  Again, this proved to be a formative experience for the future Moderator.  He became heavily involved in the strong Christian Union there, eventually being elected President in his third year.

God’s call remained powerful in Sam’s life both there and in the years that followed.  His work in the surgical wards of the Waveney was, he hoped, preparation for life as an overseas Missionary Doctor.

Subsequent stints in Holywell deepened his understanding of mental illness while also giving him the time to reintegrate into Church life as a member of First Antrim Presbyterian Church where he became a Sunday School teacher and was also involved in the Youth Group.

By the early 90s, Sam was privileged to be working at a Christian GP practice in Templepatrick.  However, the call to ministry remained strong.  This was brought to a head when the death of his father, as result of a drowning accident, caused to be the focus on what God was pressing him to do.

Following the completion of his Bachelor of Divinity at Union, Sam had a ‘fantastic time’ working under his friend and mentor, the late Rev. Noel Agnew as the Assistant Minister at Old Park Presbyterian Church in Belfast. A call to the joint charge of Cahir and Fermoy Presbyterian Churches, in Counties Tipperary and Cork, where he served for 11 years before being called to Adelaide Road in Dublin.

According to Sam, the Republic of Ireland’s capital is now a truly international city with multiple languages being spoken in every Church fellowship. While this has brought a new vitality to congregational life, those involved in evangelical witness in the south have also had to contend with a growing secularism across the nation. That said, what Sam terms the ‘green shoots’ of revival’ as evidenced by new Church plants in Donabate, Balbriggen and Maynooth with plans for a new initiative in Wexford. Sam is optimistic that whoever comes into Adelaide Road while he is away serving as Moderator will offer a ‘new voice’ to take the fellowship forward.

Rev Dr Sam Mawhinney is looking forward to his year in office.

For his own part, Sam is looking forward to getting around the various parts of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland during his year in office and to becoming a more mature Christian as he learns from what they are doing. With their sons, Peter, Andrew, and David now independent, Sam is looking forward to sharing the experience of being Moderator with his wife, Karen, a former nurse. In particular, the couple are looking forward to their overseas visits – perhaps they will end up in Kenya where Sam once served as a Missionary Doctor?

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