Celebrating our women priests

by Jo Duckles

A PENTECOST celebration to mark the 20-year anniversary of the ordination of women priests will be held in the Oxford Diocese in 2014.

Dawn French with women priests at the Make Poverty History march in 2005.

Dawn French with women priests at the Make Poverty History march in 2005.

Some of the first women to be ordained in the UK along with those who campaigned for women priests will be at the Eucharist at Christ Church Cathedral and the exhibition and panel discussion at St Mary the Virgin on Oxford’s High Street. The Revd Rose Hudson Wilkin, Chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons, and Professor Helen King, a General Synod member and licensed lay preacher will be among those on the panel, along with the Rt Revd Alan Wilson, Bishop of Buckingham and a young curate.

The idea for the service came from lay people in the Diocese of Oxford who felt the campaign that led up to the ordination of women priests should be celebrated and was welcomed by our four bishops.

The Rt Revd Alan Wilson, Bishop of Buckingham, is one of the speakers. He said: “I am very much looking forward to this celebration of all that women bring to ordained ministry in our diocese. Sadly, we have a mountain to climb to tackle institutional sexism in the Church, but this has to mark an important staging post on our way, as a church, from treating this as a problem or issue, and towards fully accepting the gifts and calling of what they are, as they are expressed in both men and women’s lives.”

The Revd Dr Amanda Bloor, one of the organisers, said: “We are celebrating people who have worked so hard in the past to allow the full inclusion of women in the Church of England and to track all the incredible achievements that have happened over 20 years and to look to the future. This isn’t the end of something, it is a stage on the journey.”

The Revd Judith Maltby, chaplain of Corpus Christi College will be chairing the panel. Judith was one of the first 70 women priests to be ordained in the Oxford Diocese 20 years ago. “The idea of the round table is to respond to the past but also to talk about the way things are in the church and to look forward to the future, to coming of women in the episcopate. I hope challenging and encouraging things will come out of that round table. We shouldn’t be complacent and we must think about the future challenges that are ahead of us.”

She said that 10 years ago, a similar anniversary service was held, with the Rt Revd Jane Dixon from America preaching. “It was interesting hearing her reflections. We haven’t looked abroad this time. We have felt we can do it ourselves which may be a sign of maturity and confidence.” Reflecting on 20 years as an ordained minister, Judith said: “I think one of the nicest things is that I now don’t know all of the women priests. At first I knew all of them but now it’s a good feeling that there are so many women in ordained ministry. It’s nice that an 18-year-old now can’t remember a church that didn’t have women as ministers.”


A national celebration will
take place on 3 May at St Paul’s
Cathedral in London. All are
welcome at the Oxford Diocesan
service at Christ Church
Cathedral on 7 June at 11am.
As the Door went to press
General Synod was preparing
to meet to discuss legislation to
allow women to become bishops
in the Church of England.

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