Rev Dr Stephen Williamson
2004 - present day
Fifteenth Minister of Ballywillan Presbyterian Church
In August 2003 the Rev John Woodside resigned, having received a call to the congregation of Drogheda Presbyterian Church. In June 2004 a call was made out to the Rev Dr Stephen Williamson who was then Minister of Strabane Presbyterian Church. This call was accepted and Stephen Williamson was installed as the 15th Minister of Ballywillan Church on 24th June 2004.
Born in 1958, Stephen’s early years were spent in Muckamore congregation in east Antrim and he attended Belfast Royal Academy from 1969 – 1976. His tertiary education was spent in the Ulster Polytechnic at Jordanstown where he obtained an HND in Applied Biology; a B.Sc in Biology and Ecology and a PhD in Plant Ecology.
When he was 11, Stephen’s family moved to Antrim and joined High Street Presbyterian Church in the town. During his last year in school, as a result of a conversation with a friend, he was led to commit his life to Christ. The various church activities (youth club, youth fellowship and choir) in which he was involved then took on a different dimension and at that stage Stephen started to teach in Sunday School.
Stephen married Heather in 1981 and they joined Fitzroy Presbyterian Church in Belfast, quickly becoming involved in the life of that congregation where Stephen taught a Bible class and they were both involved in the praise group and in a Home Fellowship group.
In 1984, having completed his PhD, Heather and Stephen went to work in western Kenya under the auspices of Voluntary Services Overseas. Stephen taught in a village community school and Heather was the doctor in a small hospital. During this time he was encouraged, by many missionary friends, to consider the possibility of training for the ministry.
On returning home in 1986 to the fellowship of Fitzroy Church, Stephen started lecturing in Biology in Ballymena Technical College. He was ordained an elder in the church in 1989 and, having felt an increasing sense of God’s call to the ministry, in the autumn of 1989 he started his studies in Union Theological College having been accepted to train for the ministry of Word and Sacrament.
During the summer of 1990, he was an assistant to the Rev. Jackson Buick as chaplain in the Maze and Magherabery prisons where, as well as visiting prisoners and their families, he was involved in the leading of Bible classes and conducting Sunday services in the prisons.
In 1991 Stephen was appointed as student assistant to Ballygilbert congregation, finished his training at Union College in 1992 (BD, Honours 2:1) and was ordained in Ballygilbert in 1993.
In April 1994, Stephen was called to the congregation of Strabane and over the next 10 years, supported by Heather, he developed a ministry of building up and encouraging a congregation that had experienced hard times over the years of the “troubles” in a border town. Having 3 daughters; Linda, Gillian and Jenny, it was natural that work in the congregation would also focus on building up the children and young people to grow in their faith in Jesus Christ and in seeking to serve Him in the congregation, in outreach teams in the town and further afield.
It was with this background and experience that Stephen Williamson received a unanimous call to be the 15th Minister of Ballywillan Presbyterian Church in 2004.