25 Years

by Michael Ford last modified 05 Mar, 2019 10:43 AM

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, welcomed over 80 female priests including our own Bishop Karen to Lambeth Palace for a special service celebrating 25 years of women’s ordination to the priesthood in the Church of England.

25 Years

Original photo courtesy the Church of England

As well as the Bishop of Sherborne, who was ordained priest in 1996, the guests included many women who were among the first to be ordained in 1994, some laypeople that were active in the campaign for the ordination of women, as well as ordinands and a range of other female clergy.

The very first woman to be ordained, the Revd Prebendary Angela Berners-Wilson, was in attendance.

(The first cohort of women were ordained in alphabetical order.)

Women participating in the service ranged from bishops to ordinands. The Revd Dr Isabelle Hamley, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Chaplain, preached the sermon.

Archbishop Justin Welby welcomed guests to the service and gave the blessing.

The service, which featured music from St Martin’s Voices, was recorded by BBC Radio 4 and will be broadcast at 8.10am on Sunday 3 March.

In her sermon, the Revd Dr Isabelle Hamley reflected on the gift of Jesus that Mary and Joseph were given, and the risks and responsibilities of nurturing it:
"Let us cherish this gift where it is public and obvious, and where it is hidden, private and yet equally powerful. Together, may we witness to the gift that lives in us, and the God who has called us to follow him,” she said.

Speaking at the service, Archbishop Justin said:
"Many of those here today have been pioneers as they work out what it means to be an ordained woman in the Church of England – not just for themselves and their communities, but for the whole of the Body of Christ. Today let us bear witness to those who paved the way in 1994, as well as upholding those whose way into ministry has been opened up since."

The first group of women were ordained to the priesthood in Bristol Cathedral on 12 March 1994. Bishop Barry Rogerson, who presided at the ordination, sent this message today, which was read out at a reception after the service:
“Over the last twenty five years I have observed and received the ministry of women in parishes, but also in chaplaincies, hospitals and hospices, schools, universities and prisons and know what an innovative and positive contribution women priests have made. Perhaps today we might give a thought for all those women, worldwide whose vocations to the priesthood have still been neither recognised nor tested.”

Bishop Karen commented:
"At theological college we all prayed for women priests and some of us attended some of the first ordination services, celebrating with our long serving sisters that their ministry had at last been recognised by the Church of England. I continue to give thanks for those early pioneers of MOW* and others who faithfully served as deaconesses and deacons and kept asking questions about the nature of the church and the recognition of God's priestly gifts given to men and women. We have come a long way in 25 years in the confidence of those who have gone before and the commitment to service and the encouragement of others goes on."

*Movement for the Ordination of Women

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