In 2017, while visiting the Isle of Man, a jewel of an island in the Irish sea, I had the great privilege of meeting Elizabeth Kissack, World President of the World Federation of Methodist Women from 1976-81. At 100 years of age this remarkable woman was still reminiscing about her Federation experiences and envisioning what the future could hold.
So it was with a mixture of sadness and thankfulness that I received the news that Elizabeth had passed away. Sadness because it marks the end of a life lived well in dedication to the Lord of life, and thankfulness that she has now gone to glory, and will have been greeted by the Christ she knew well, and whom she made known to others.
Elizabeth was installed as World President of the Federation at the 5th World Assembly in Dublin in 1976 having served as Great Britain and Ireland Area President for the previous five years. Welcoming delegates to the 6th World Assembly in Honolulu in 1981, Mrs Kissack said ‘God calls us to be co-workers in redeeming this world – to be agents for change, for peace, for reconciliation.’ In the intervening years, Elizabeth had lived out that calling, speaking out for peace, reconciliation and justice, as she travelled the world, attending ecumenical conferences and Area Seminars in Europe, Latin America, and Africa. In 1974, the first joint European Areas Seminar was held in Vienna and the second in Sweden in 1979. Elizabeth cherished the impact these had as women from the UK, Ireland and Europe met together, learning from each other. Later, it was Elizabeth who encouraged the process leading to our accreditation with the United Nations as a Non -Governmental Organisation, a status we still maintain and cherish.
The President’s official badge of office, a silver chain and pendant with the tree of life symbol, designed by Mrs Priscilla Peters and made in Pakistan, was presented first to Elizabeth in Honolulu. This is still handed down to successive Presidents.
Elizabeth was ‘a larger than life character’ and many were not just in awe of her, but a little scared by her strong reputation. Many years ago she spoke on the BBC RADIO 4 Thought For The Day – possibly near the Women’s World Day of Prayer date- and what a big thing it was that a woman was doing it!
In 2007, Rosemary Wass and Edith Loane travelled to the Island to give Elizabeth a PRESIDENT’S PENDANT – the one that Edith had made and gave to each ex President. Elizabeth was thrilled to be remembered and recognised in this way so long after being World President and they spent several happy hours together. The official presentation was made at a public gathering- which we were told would be low key but MANX radio was there!
In many ways, Elizabeth was ahead of her time but at least lived long enough to see so many things move towards, freedom, equality and justice for our gender.
May she rest in Peace and rise in Glory. I send my sympathy and assurance of my thoughts and prayers for the family as they give her back to her Creator and learn to live with the space that will be left, but with the love and memories that will be theirs as her life will continue to be reflected through them.
Current world officers and members of the World Federation of Methodist and Uniting Church Women join me in sending condolences to the family of this remarkable woman of faith.
World President, 2016-2021 World Federation of Methodist and Uniting Church Women