Reverend Pat Mollan is chief executive officer and director of the Church of Ireland’s Ministry of Healing
Tell me about your background
I was born In 1944, the second child of Alec and Mabel Scott and a sister for John. I sat A-levels first in 1961, transferring to Belfast Royal Academy for a repeat year. There I met and fell head-long in love with a classmate, Raymond A. B. Mollan, called “Rab” by everyone. Perhaps I wanted to impress him, or maybe I recognised a winner, but I pulled up my socks and studied like never before, and graduated from Queen’s in 1967 with a 2:1 Honours BSc in Chemistry, and in 1970 with a Doctor of Philosophy degree. Rab graduated in 1969 with an honours degree in medicine, and we got married that year. We have three boys and a girl, born in 1972 (Ian), 1973 (Andrew), 1975 (David) and 1977 (Susan). We have eight grandchildren, five girls and three boys, aged from five to 24 years.
When did you come to faith?
I was steeped in faith from early years. My mother and aunt sang hymns to me, and my father read me Bible stories. Uncle Charlie, the first Rector of St Finnian’s Parish Church at Cregagh, was also influential. I made a commitment prior to confirmation. However, in those days the women in the church made tea and buns and brushed up, or went to darkest Peru or Africa as missionaries. Neither of the latter were within my thinking.
What happened next?
In 1984 a new vicar arrived in our Holywood parish church and I felt that his preaching was directed at me. That year Rab (by now a Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery) won the Technology Award for Northern Ireland for the second time with one of his inventions (a baby hip screener). His aim was to have it produced in Northern Ireland, so the sponsors, the TSB, took us to meet T.B.F Thompson at Garvagh, in the hope that he might invest in the project. Leaving Garvagh that night ‘TBF’ gave me a Bible tract. It led me to change my simple faith to a deep and active commitment to Jesus Christ.
How did that develop?
I enrolled at Belfast Bible College on the Women’s Teaching Study Fellowship, for three years. Later I took a counselling course, squeezing the two-year study into one year. God had called me into the ordained ministry, and I had already enrolled at Queen’s to study for a Divinity degree, so I ran the ministry training in tandem with that. Learning Greek and Hebrew was an entirely new challenge, but it was deeply enriching, I was blessed to achieve a first class honours BD in 1997 and to be ordained for the non-stipendiary ministry, alongside Rab, in June of that year.
Does this faith play a real part in your life?
When the Church’s Ministry of Healing advertised for a director in Belfast I finally applied, and to my surprise was appointed, starting on April 1, 1994. I was very scared at first and felt so dreadfully inadequate. However, within six months, two people were miraculously healed. After a prayer Service at Saul, in the midst of noise and bustle afterwards, a lady with an appalling burn on her arm asked me to pray. So I prayed a short quiet prayer. I felt bad, as I didn’t think it had been done ‘properly’. Three months later I was astounded to find that her arm was perfectly healed.
In another situation a counselling client asked me to pray for a healing of her arthritis. She didn’t want to come back as she ‘hadn’t enough time for that’, but could I not just do it in the corridor? I did, but felt that I hadn’t done it properly. To my astonishment she was later declared free from her arthritis. I realised that it didn’t depend on me, but on God. He is very much alive and active. All we have to do is put our trust in Him and ask.
Have you ever had a crisis or a gnawing doubt about your faith?
No, but I have felt on a solitary journey. I do not get criticised openly, but I have had more than a few back-stabbings, which It can be very painful. I have been taught to bless anyone who comes against me in ministry and it is a good habit, because it releases me from bitterness, and prevents me from holding a grudge.
Are you ever ashamed of your own church or denomination?
I would like to see a little more fire or enthusiasm for outreach.
Can you look beyond death?
Most people are apprehensive about the process, but I am not afraid of the final outcome. Everyone should be aware of hell-fire, but having given my life to Jesus I have no personal worry about it. I believe in the resurrection. We are promised a new heaven and a new earth. What that will be like, I do not know, but it will be better than where we are now.
Are the churches fulfilling their mission?
Not all are fulfilling their mission to make disciples, to care and pray for the sick and vulnerable and the prisoners. So often we are too inward-looking. People turn their back on the Church because they see it as too narrow, bigoted and restrictive.
Has religion helped or hindered?
Both... As Christians we must forgive. Blessing those who offend us also sets us free from bitterness. We are trapped in our past for doing too much remembering, and so we cannot get over the past.
Some personal preferences: favourite book and music?
Any (faith) book by R T Kendal or Max Lucado; Handel’s Messiah and the hymn ‘In Christ Alone’ by Stuart Townsend and Keith Getty.
Where do you feel closest to God?
On Co Down’s green drumlins, and beside, or on, Strangford Lough.
Your gravestone inscription?
No inscriptions please. I would prefer to be just dropped overboard from a boat at sea, where no one could visit, or put ever-lasting flowers on my grave. Life should be such that gives Glory to God.
Any major regrets?
‘No’, but I am not smug or self-satisfied. I well remember my school report: ’Could do better!’ I’d rather get the report which said; ‘She tried.’