Celebration service for 30 years of women priests


THE WOMEN pioneers who were the first to be ordained as priests were remembered and celebrated in a joyful celebration of the 30th anniversary of the ordination of the first women as priests in this diocese.

Hundreds of women clergy and their supporters celebrated the first women, and their own continuing ministries, in a service at Salisbury Cathedral. Of the first women ordained in 1994, four women returned to mark the day - Rev Jacqueline Curtis, Rev Jane Hedges, Rev Mary Ridgewell, and Rev Pam Thomas. Four women clergy who were ordained in Salisbury Cathedral in 1994

Bishop June Osborne, the first woman Dean of Salisbury who was also ordained in 1994 among the first women, returned to speak at the service on Saturday. She paid tribute to the first women, and to those still facing discrimination today.

"Like all anniversaries, when it comes to commemorating and celebrating, we discover many layers of reality to be navigated. There are memories to be cherished, experiences which might contradict each other, regrets to be endured, mistakes which are still burdensome such as the Act of Synod, history to be interpreted, issues that are unresolved and tasks unfinished. But today is largely a day for paying tribute.

"Tribute to the women ordained in 1994 who had already, as deaconesses and deacons, had to put up with a lot of unworthy and neurotic behaviour on behalf of the Church – those pioneers all have their stories and it’s worth listening to them if only to record and honour the tenacity it took to weather the Church’s failings."

She also praised Salisbury diocese for not only "accepting the ministry of women but leading the way in normalising the presence and contributions of able women." She said Salisbury had been a "safe place" for women clergy.

But she said there was more for the whole Church to do. 

"So our celebration today isn’t an end in itself. There’s much to do.  Women need to feel safe. The Church needs to acknowledge and address misogyny, not least its own blind spots and prejudices. The priesthood needs to work at better fulfilling its mission, of living true to its calling. But 30 years is a good start.

"May Salisbury, with the fantastic help of its women clergy, go on being a beacon of that calling – of making Jesus known." Read Bishop June's full sermon. 

Bishop Karen, who led the service, also paid tribute to June as one of her mentors. Bishop Karen was ordained deacon in 1995 and priest in 1996.

More photos from the service are available on our Flickr account. Photos Spencer Mulholland/Diocese of Salisbury.

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