The Team vicar writes...
This year sees the twenty-fifth anniversary of the ordination of women as priests in the Church of England.
To mark this Silver Jubilee, Celebration Eucharists and parties are being held around the country.
As one of those women who were priested in 1994, I took part in the anniversary service in Leicester Cathedral in June. I was also invited to the Celebration Eucharist in Exeter Cathedral (where my ordination took place) and to the Archbishop’s Garden Party at Lambeth Palace. But I declined both these invitations in order to attend a more personally significant event the same weekend, when my younger daughter Joanna was ordained deacon in Wells Cathedral.
The picture at the top of the page shows me (25 years younger!) with my husband John and my father (the Revd Ronald Hayter). The picture below it was taken at the celebratory lunch after Jo’s ordination at the end of June.
For those of us in the first cohort of women ordained to the priesthood in 1994, this came after a long wait. When I completed training at Ridley Hall Theological College in 1986, I was first made a deaconess and then in 1987 ordained deacon in Ely Cathedral. But unlike men at the time, and women since 1994, women had to remain as deacons - unable to become ‘vicars’ or to preside at the Eucharist.
When I was a curate in a Cambridge parish, I found it particularly difficult that if the vicar was away I could not take Holy Communion services among the people I knew and loved but had to find a male priest who was available to do this, even if he hardly knew our congregation, or they him!
The Church of England’s ordination service summarises priestly ministry like this:
“Priests are ordained to lead God’s people in the offering of praise and the proclamation of the gospel. They share with the Bishop in the oversight of the Church, delighting in its beauty and rejoicing in its well-being. They are to set the example of the Good Shepherd always before them as the pattern of their calling. With the Bishop and their fellow presbyters, they are to sustain the community of the faithful by the ministry of word and sacrament, that we all may grow into the fullness of Christ and be a living sacrifice acceptable to God.”
It is a demanding calling - and no priest can bear its weight without the grace of God and the prayerful support of their people.
Yet it is not an end in itself. Ordination to the priesthood is one particular calling or vocation among the many ways in which God calls all His people to witness to His love and to work for the coming of His Kingdom. The New Testament teaches that all Christians are called to be “a royal priesthood…in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light” (1 Peter 2:9).
EVERY baptised member of the Body of Christ is called to love and worship the Lord and sent by Him to work for the growth of His Kingdom by sharing the Good News of Jesus in words and actions. If you are unsure of the particular way in which YOU are ‘called and sent’, do pray about it, and remember that Kevin or I would be delighted to have a conversation to help you explore your specific Christian vocation.
Yours in Christ,
Revd Dr Mary Barr