mourners at the funeral of popular Church of Ireland cleric, Rev Moreen Hutchinson, heard on Friday that up to four people can receive the gift of sight as a result of her organ donation wish.
Rev Hutchinson, 65, died last Tuesday in hospital after taking suddenly ill just a few days earlier. She had retired earlier this year as Priest in Charge of the parishes of Ardclinis, Tickmacrevan, Layde and Cushendun.
In his funeral address in St Cedma’s Church, Archdeacon Stephen Forde shared her favourite Scripture passage, from Proverbs 3, verses 5-6.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not upon your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge the Lord, and he will make your paths straight,” he said.
“It was that strong, straight-forward Christian conviction which led Moreen Hutchinson to the day of her ordination to the ministry of the Church of Ireland in June, 2001. That was perhaps one of the most special days of Moreen’s entire life, a day which marked the transition from the first part of Moreen’s life as a civil servant, to the next part in a full-time ministry of service to God’s people and God’s Church,” Archdeacon Ford said.
Miss Hutchinson was born on April 17, 1946 the elder daughter of Jack and Molly Hutchinson. She lived at 15 Circular Road.
“Three years later Moreen’s sister, Roberta, was born,” Archdeacon Forde told mourners. “But in 1954, when Moreen was just eight years old, her father Jack suffered a fatal heart attack. For Molly and her two young daughters, life suddenly became much more difficult. And so Mrs Hutchinson chose to take in lodgers, so that she could also care for her two girls. In the winter months those lodgers were employees of the AEI factory (later the GEC), or the Magheramorne Cement Works. And in the summer they were holiday makers. Perhaps it was during these crucial years that Moreen learned to be at ease with people of every sort. It was a skill she would put to use throughout her life,” he said.
Miss Hutchinson’s schooling began at Larne’s “Back Road” School, before transferring to the Parochial School in Victoria Road. She was one of that special generation of pupils who carried their books from the Parochial School to the brand new Moyle Primary School when it first opened its doors. She progressed to Larne Grammar School, and at 17-and-a-half she took the Civil Service entrance exams, and so began her working life with the Northern Ireland Pensions Branch, at Castle Grounds in Stormont.
From confirmation, Rev Thornton as rector of St Cedma’s, had enlisted Miss Hutchinson as a Sunday School teacher, although her class was made up of people only a year or two younger than she was. It was this firm Christian grounding which meant she willingly joined the Civil Service Christian Union, and in time became its secretary.
Promotion moved Miss Hutchinson, first to the Ministry of Agriculture in Queen Street, and then to the Social Security Office in Carrickfergus, before she finally became manager of the DHSS Office at Crown Buildings here in Larne.
In 1981, she began a course with the University of Ulster at Jordanstown to gain her BA in Public Sector Studies. It was a course which involved many late nights of study, and holidays devoted to course work. But her devotion to her studies (with her degree awarded in 1984) did not prevent Moreen from being a devoted aunt to her two nephews, Robert and Jonathan, now living next door.
In 1998, Miss Hutchinson was accepted for training to the Non-Stipendiary Ministry of the Church of Ireland. During her training she was given a student placement here in the parishes of Larne, Glynn and Raloo. It did not take much persuasion for Bishop Harper to let her serve her title as curate in these parishes.
“Here she developed her skills as a pastor to people in every sort of need, and as a preacher of short and down-to-earth sermons. Moreen was never anyone’s fool, but she would do anything for anyone who had a genuine need, whether practical or spiritual,” said Archdeacon Forde.
In 2004 Miss Hutchinson was appointed as Priest in Charge of the coastal parishes from Glenarm to Cushendun, known as the Parish of Ardclinis, Tickmacrevan, Layde and Cushendun.
“She was supposed to be going to a quiet parish without too much to do, she ended up refurbishing all three churches in active use. She established Sunday Schools. She reached out ecumenically, and she cared for the people of the Glens, whether or not they were members of the Church of Ireland. To many people who knew her, and knew her ministry, Moreen Hutchinson was the argument in favour of women clergy in the Church of Ireland. And there could perhaps be no higher accolade!” said Archdeacon Forde.
He recalled how Easter Sunday of this year was Miss Hutchinson’s final Sunday as rector of the coastal parishes. At the age of 65 she had decided to retire again, although in retirement she was going to assist back in the parishes of Larne, Glynn and Raloo. She was due to preach last Sunday, and indeed she had her sermon written.
Archdeacon Forde told mourners that there was to be a different plan.
“All of life is conditional, not dependent upon our own plans but upon God’s call,” he said, outlining how Miss Hutchinson had taken suddenly ill the previous Friday evening.
“Through the five nights and days which followed, Moreen received the most skilled of care and the fullest of attention from the staff of the Intensive Care Unit at Antrim Hospital. Throughout, her family were present to maintain vigil. On Tuesday morning Moreen slipped peacefully into God’s eternity. Her wish, and the family’s desire for organ donation, means that up to four people shall receive the gift of sight instead of a future of blindness.
“In 65 years of life and ministry, Moreen fulfilled her ambitions for Christ. And she taught us all what humble, generous, Christ-like ministry and service looks like.
“Today we must not mourn that her life was too short, nor that she was taken from us too suddenly, but that each of us has been touched and shaped by a truly faithful servant of Jesus, and priest of God’s Church, one who has been ‘united with Christ in the fellowship of the Spirit’ by following Jesus’ example of service and servant-hood,” said Archdeacon Forde.