Meet Marisine Stanfield

This article is not a transcript of a conversation, more of a narrative of a conversation with some sound bite quotes. I met Mairisine on a Wednesday morning whilst first Bangor were having their weekly community coffee morning. There was a great buzz about the place.

We met in her office which had 3 comfy settees at one end & a library of books that didn’t make me feel so bad about mine, especially as I later heard that this is just a fraction of her collection

Dressed in casual clothes rather than a ministerial habit/suit of any sort, I felt welcome & “at home” with someone I would call Mairisine rather than the Rev Stanfield

Born & brought up in Braveheart country in the industrial town of Denny near the site of the famous Battle of Bannockburn in a working class family with strong Church of Scotland roots, Mairisine was the 3rd of 4 children, whose father died when she was 18 within 3 days of a cancer diagnosis but not before he gave his unequivocal blessing upon her decision to follow her calling into ordained ministry.

Like her famous footballer uncle Billy Steel, Mairisine combines a brilliant brain with a busy work ethic and explosive shot. Billy was the subject of two record transfer fees during his career, though Mairisine was unable to confirm what First Bangor had paid for her transfer from First Ballynahinch.

I asked her what in the world possessed her to become a minister as there weren’t exactly many predecessors to emulate at that time. The notion started when she was about 16 after several respected people suggested that she should consider ministry. Mairisine describes it as being pursued by God, not being able to put the idea down & being constantly reminded to consider it.

Up to then she was still intent on becoming a doctor, having sat all her higher exams in science subjects, until one day whilst she was ironing some clothes having an internal conversation with God about it all, when she “thumped down the iron & said out loud, “OK God, you’ve got me”

That was just the first step on a journey of many questions that had to be resolved along the way, each one of which received a green light to keep going.

Mairisine’s journey into ministry was not made on her own. She had met her future husband David at university in Aberdeen where they were both reading theology with a view to becoming ordained. Together they had to consider the practicalities of them both following this calling.

Graduation was followed by an assistant post in Regent Street Newtownards which led to 20 years in First Ballynahinch where Mairisine served until receiving the call to First Bangor.

In 1995 Mairisine & David underwent a significant spiritual awakening, experiencing the person & work of the Holy Spirit for the first time which transformed the way that she went about leading her congregation into lay prayer ministry, home groups & believing in healing for today.

I asked Mairisine if First Bangor knew what they were letting themselves in for when they appointed her, the fact that she was the unanimous choice of the eldership endorsed this. There has been an enthusiastic welcome to the changes that Mairisine has introduced to First Bangor. Right from the interview process Mairisine felt that she was at home amongst her new flock & has spent the first year establishing fellowship groups & the first Alpha course in this location.

Based upon her success in Ballynahinch Mairisine believes that all people have gifts & a part to play in their local congregation & will be blessed in serving & serving others. She is also a believer in like minded churches working together.

“I believe that where possible churches should work together & cooperate in opportunities for impacting communities”

In Ballynahinch seven out of the twelve or so mainline churches joined together to do outreach & youth work. Against a backdrop of a significant number of suicides in the community these churches banded together to address the causes & the fallout from these tragic acts. They started the Hub as a centre for suicide prevention & bereavement counselling. It is now recognised & funded by statutory agencies as an example of how churches can effectively tackle a growing problem in our society.

The Edge youth ministry was started in an old factory as a safe place outside of church buildings where young people can go. Churches invested financially & with people in a spirit of cooperation, taking the initiative to work together on things that can be done rather than just wishing someone would do something.

Mairisine aspires to follow the principles of Alistair Petrie who advocates cooperation together in prayer & urban regeneration leading to transformation.

She has also recently been to India with Tearfund seeing human trafficking & prostitution at first hand. Naturally shocked at seeing all of this first hand she said “Being in Mumbai really stirred me about the unacceptable treatment of women & children. It is the fastest growing crisis in the world today. In fact Jimmy Carter says that the number one global issue is the treatment of women”

She believes that the church needs to engage with this terrible problem both internationally & locally and ask what can the church do about it. As a start she recommends that we all could benefit from the material on the “No Child Taken” website by Tearfund. You can see it for yourself at www.tearfund.org/en/nochildtaken/

Article by Trevor Magee