Thanks to the Methodist Newsletter for the following article on Rev. Bill Mullally, President of the Methodist Church in Ireland 2016/17.
The thin, sharp scar along the side of one of Bill's fingers is a badge of his African childhood. It is the mark of the razor-sharp teeth of a tiger fish, one of the fiercest predators in the Zambezi River (think giant piranha fish!). Acquired as a young boy on one of many fishing trips, the scar is a lifelong reminder that even against challenging odds, with determination and perseverance, the seemingly impossible can be achieved.
Raised by a single mother in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe (then called Southern Rhodesia), Bill's life was often challenging. An escalating civil war tore his homeland apart and, as a 17 year old, Bill was conscripted into the army. In the midst of landmines and ambushes, he was noted for his ability to stay calm and to give help to the wounded, which, even though he was still a teenager, led to him joining the medical corps.
As a child, Bill had not been encouraged to go to church and grew up hardly knowing the difference between Christmas and Easter (although there was a brief period when he attended Sunday School because he loved to collect the bookmarks the children were given for remembering the Bible verse each week).
During his teens, he was attracted to a young lady who was attending the local teacher training college and who would later become his wife. Bill was well aware that Val was a committed Christian, but it took him another 13 years before he made a personal decision to commit his to Christ.
In 1979, Bill, Val and their two young sons emigrated to South Africa and, in 1984, Bill became production manager in a factory in King William's Town, Eastern Cape. Not wanting to move the children mid-term, Bill spent the first three months in King William's Town alone. It was during this time that Bill started to question what was truly important in life.
On his first Sunday in King William's Town he made the impulsive decision to go to church. He slipped into the back pew of the local Methodist church and
slipped out just as inconspicuously (or so he thought...) as soon as the service ended. But he had been spotted and, as he walked away, a man came running down the street after him. It was the local doctor who had noticed that Bill was new in town and invited him for a cup of tea. Not only did the doctor become a dear friend, but this was the start of Bill's spiritual journey as a disciple of Christ.
Just over a year later, Bill was baptised by the Methodist minister in the swimming pool in the doctor's garden.
Before long, Bill became involved in children's and youth ministry. The job he'd always loved no longer gave him satisfaction and he began to experience a g
nawing in his heart. After a while, he asked a local pastor how you would know when God was calling you into ministry. 'When the only time you're happy is when you're doing God's work/ was the answer.
Bill knew that this described him exactly, but he still argued with God for another year as he tried to work out how he would be able to afford to take care of his family while earning just a sixth of his current salary. Having taken that leap of faith, Bill now looks back and says: 'God might not have given us all our wants, but he provided all our needs'.
Bill served for five years as a Regional Director in Scripture Union and this gave Bill and Val the opportunity quietly to bring young South Africans from all backgrounds together to learn more about each other and to discover Christ - something that was not without risk.
In 1994, Bill was appointed a probationer minister to Valley Methodist church, Pretoria. In 1998, he and Val were attending the Triennial Conference of the Methodist Church of South Africa when they met the Rev David Kerr, then President of the Methodist Church of Ireland. Their conversation was so intriguing that they all missed the following session! As Bill's ancestors came from near Roscrea, County Tipperary, he was curious about the possibility of ministry in Ireland.
'When could we come?' asked Val.
'If I had my way, I'd put you in my case and take you both home with me now,' laughed David.
It was another two years before Bill and Val eventually set foot on Irish soil, by which point one son was working in Dublin and another in London. Val's parents had also moved to Ireland. In July 2000, Bill was appointed to the West Cork Circuit.
After five years they were stationed to Dublin West, where Bill served in Lucan and Tallaght (churches with a large contingent of 'new Irish'). Bill and Val often joked that the move from rural Ireland to Dublin was as much of a culture shock as moving from Africa to Ireland.
In 2013, Bill was stationed to Cork where he became District Superintendent the following year. He was also involved in the Methodist Missionary Society from 2007-15, and is the current chairman of the European Commission on Mission.
Also part of Bill and Val's family are a border collie and an African grey parrot that mimics Val's voice so perfectly that Bill can't tell whether it's his parrot or his wife calling him (so he says!). Bill enjoys walking and rugby (in his younger days he was a rugby player, but he now prefers to cheer from the stands). When they have the chance of a break, Bill and Val head to London or Copenhagen to spend time with their sons, daughters-in-law and grandchildren.
As Bill takes on the mantle of presidency, he asks for your prayers and support. His theme will challenge the
Church to fulfil the words of Romans 12: 2, 'Be transformed by the renewing of your mind'.
From the moment that he was elected as president designate, Bill has had a strong sense of the message that he believes God wants him to share. He strongly believes the Church needs to take a long, hard look at itself. 'We need to ask ourselves what God desires of us if we are to be a meaningful and relevant catalyst for change in the Ireland of this new millennium.' Bill asks that we all prayerfully consider what it is that God is saying to us and calling us to 'be' and 'do' in this day and age.