Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
It is with deep sadness that I write to share the news that Mrs Elizabeth Finnegan passed away on Sunday 24 September, 2017. She was 95 years of age.
Elizabeth served as the sixth Moderator of the SA Synod from 1887-89. She was the first lay person and the first woman to hold the office of Moderator.
In an era when the role of Moderator was part-time, Elizabeth modelled a new approach to the position. She wrote in her report to the 1989 Synod that because she did not have another job, she had time to attend to many meetings and visit places in a way that had not been possible for her ordained predecessors, due to their heavy workloads.
Elizabeth built strong relationships with Uniting Church schools and Lincoln College, and the two Uniting Church hospitals at the time.
She visited Parishes and Presbyteries widely, and was very supportive of the work of the staff in the Synod office. Her health background saw her encourage the Lay Education Centre to pursue "Ministry in the Workplace" seminars for health workers and educators.
During Elizabeth's term as Moderator, the Synod saw the development of "Land for the Establishment of Church Centres in New Areas", a policy she believed "holds promise and needs to be pursued.” It was also the era in which the Covenant with Congress was first enacted and the concept of Uniting Vision for mission began.
Elizabeth was no stranger to leadership, having previously been State President of the Congregational Union of South Australia. She was President of the SA Women’s Fellowships, and was Secretary of the Clayton congregation. Her time as Secretary occurred well before church union, when the Clayton Congregational and Wesley Methodist churches were having conversations about becoming one church.
Supporting her through her time as Moderator was her late husband Dr Paddy Finnegan. Paddy was also a dedicated church member, and was invited to turn the first sod at the Clayton Church Cottages, a project of the Clayton Wesley congregation that Elizabeth and Paddy were passionate about.
Elizabeth Finnegan has been an outstanding and inspiring leader in the Uniting Church in South Australia. In recent years, she remained active in the life of Clayton Wesley Uniting Church, regularly reading from the Bible at services. She also attended the Uniting Women Conference in 2016.
Elizabeth is survived by her children, David, Terence and Jean. Please pray for them, and for the congregation of Clayton Wesley Uniting Church, as they grieve this loss.
A memorial service will be held for Elizabeth Finnegan at Clayton Wesley Uniting Church later in November. When details are known, members of the Presbytery and Synod will be advised.
In Christian love,
Rev Sue Ellis
Uniting Church SA