Meet our new Bishop’s Advisor in Women’s Ministry

Throughout her career, the Revd Felicity Scroggie has found herself encouraging people to develop their confidence and gifts. Felicity has recently been appointed as Bishop Steven’s first Advisor in Women’s Ministry. She tells Jo Duckles her story.

 

The Revd Felicity Scroggie with her dog, Harvey, in the garden of her vicarage in Kidlington.

Growing up in Beverley in East Yorkshire, Felicity describes herself as a country girl with a real passion for horses. We meet in Felicity’s vicarage in Kidlington, where I’m introduced to her friendly black Labrador, Harvey and two of her three cats. Photographs of Felicity on horseback taking part in competitions and an array of rosettes adorn her study walls.

 

Felicity met Justin, her husband, while studying at Oxford University although they didn’t start going out until she moved to study at St Andrew’s in Scotland.  Starting her career as a lecturer in law, Felicity loved the students and the process of seeing people expand their minds and grow in confidence but says she didn’t feel an affinity for the subject. Unsure what to do next, she got a job in the education department of Pentonville Prison.  “I loved it, it was fascinating, frustrating, heartwarming and educational for me,” she says.

From there Felicity was offered a job working for the London Diocese, putting together and delivering a training programme aimed at developing the confidence of churchgoers in urban priority areas.

“I was a middle-class country girl who started an academic career but ended up in the inner city in a multi-cultural environment. It was a non-book learning culture and those were the years that really changed my life. It was fabulous.

“From that, I can easily trace the consistent line between loving the students and the process of teaching to now.  It’s about repairing broken confidence in folks around me and looking for the unlikely person that’s at the heart of parish ministry.”

Studying theology at Sarum College, Felicity was ordained deacon in 1999, and served her curacy in Kilburn. “It was a very rich experience and by the time I’d finished my curacy I had worked in 18 churches in the borough. I’d worked in the area before and had travelled around and knew them pretty well. As a layperson, I had become a friend and a listener to a lot of clergy. I’d been doing the things a lot of incumbents wanted to do but didn’t have time, running the pastoral educational, confidence-building course. I had a detailed knowledge of the deanery from a lot of angles.”

Felicity’s first incumbency was on the west side of Brent. For a while in the capital, Felicity says she felt she couldn’t ride horses in the city. “In Beverley I was always riding. There are five racing stables and I worked for a horse dealer and taught at a riding school. My teenage life was all about horses and music. I had a long, long gap in London and all the time I was aware there was a part of me not being met. I’d hear a clip-clop of horse feet and I’d have to go and stroke it. I proved it was far more than a teenage fad.”

And while she says London was enriching, she knew as she approached 50 she didn’t want to retire there and longed for an area with open skies, fields and countryside.

“While London is a great place and a place where my faith really blossomed and I’d been challenged and stretched, it wasn’t the place I wanted to be for my whole working life,” she says.

Felicity now has three horses. She fits her busy role of Team Rector of Kidlington around riding six times a week and is a passionate advocate of work/life balance.

“I have refused to burn out. There is too much burnout in the church and it doesn’t build the Kingdom of God, nor does it set a shining example of God’s light in the world. I would want to encourage people to be examples of Kingdom flourishing,” says Felicity, who quotes Jesus’ message about having life and having it to the full.

She has previously worked with those who may have had a negative experience during their curacy. “That included two or three people who would have walked away from ordained ministry.  They were people overflowing with gifts and the church needed them,” she says.

She hopes to bring these powerful experiences to her new role, and is keen to hear, confidentially, from any clergy who are experiencing similar issues.

Her work will support the diocese’s Flourishing in Ministry project which aims to encourage clergy to take regular time off and look after their own wellbeing.

“The role is to be an advocate and support women in ordained ministry, although I’m passionate about lay ministry as well. Looking at how big the Oxford Diocese is, and how many women there are, it’s a huge role. It’s just beginning so I want to start a process of getting to know people and listening and working out what is needed.”

Felicity wants to examine the employment process, looking at why fewer women are applying for some posts, particularly senior posts.

According to the Women and the Church (WATCH) report 2016, almost equal numbers of men and women are ordained, but fewer women are in stipendiary roles. “That means half of the women ordained each year won’t receive any financial backing from the Church for their ministry. It’s okay if people can offer their ministry as a gift but in many cases that means they won’t be expected to take on leadership responsibilities,” she says.

She also wants to explore why fewer younger women are coming forward for ministry and look at ways the Church can introduce more flexible employment models. Statistics who that in 2015, nationally, 11 women and 37 men under 30 were selected for ministry training. There were 37 women and 81 men aged 30 to 40, with many women putting off going forward until they were in their 40s. “I’m interested to look at why women are waiting until later to explore a vocation and address the issues. We are putting efforts into encouraging young vocations but we don’t have enough younger women coming forward,” she says.

Felicity’s role will see her meeting with Bishop Steven three times a year, as well as building networks across our four archdeaconries. “It’s very new so I’ll have to wait and see how it evolves,” she added.

Felicity and Justin have one daughter who lives in Nottingham and works as a vet.

If you found this article interesting you may be interested in reading this report, written by the Revd Kate Seagrave, the mission priest at the Community of St Frideswide in Oxford, for the national Church.