Silence and Rejoicing: A Service of Celebration in the Diocese of St Albans

Silence can hold immense power.  In a world of clamour, creating silence can speak eloquently, making voices redundant and words empty.  Yet for everything there is a season.  A time to be silent and a time to speak; yes, even a time to be silent and a time to shout, whoop, holler and cry out in joy.  And that time finally came in All Saints Hertford last Thursday at the St Albans Diocese celebration service marking 20 years of women in the priesthood.

Paul, Bishop of Hertford took us back to the day of the General Synod vote when we were asked to receive the result in silence.  And what a silence.  A large group of that first cohort of women priests stood together in the chancel for our celebration service, women who were silenced as 20 years ago the church finally recognised their vocation, their ministry, their place in God’s mission to the world. A remarkable group of women, silenced for so long, then received their voices in silence.  As someone who was ordained priest only last Petertide, I can easily forget the hard labour of those men and women who paved the road before me, those who toiled in the heat of the sun so that the Church might more closely reflect the Kingdom.  Last Thursday was a time to give thanks for them, to rejoice for all they have done.

And our worship was full of rejoicing for all that God has done and has given since 1994. We rejoiced that the Eucharist is no longer a place where gender gets in the way. As Ven Christine Hardman presided, I had to remind myself that this would have been out of the ordinary just two decades ago, and rejoiced that I had forgotten. We rejoiced in the ministry and gifts women have brought to St Albans Diocese in the last 20 years, we rejoiced in how far we have come.  We rejoiced with shouts, whoops, hollers and cries of joy.  We rejoiced with bread and wine and cake and remembrance.

But, as Bishop Paul acknowledged, the journey is not yet over; there remains too much silence.  We live still with in church where the lost sheep eclipses the lost coin, where the witness of Peter eclipses the witness of Mary. We live still in a church where women’s voices are heard too little.  We live still in a church where encouragement to cry out in joy comes from a Bishop who is by default a man.  We pray for a time when the music of the Church will match the music of God, and all voices will be raised in rich and joyful harmony to the God who made us in her image.

Latest Diocesan Synod results on WiE legislation

The four diocesan synods that met yesterday, Carlisle, Ely, St Albans and Winchester all voted strongly in favour of the new legislation for women bishops. This means that so far 13 dioceses have voted in favour and none against. The total of all of the votes in these 13 dioceses gives a 91% or better majority in each of the three houses. The full breakdown so far is detailed in the spreadsheet attached.
Please pray for the seven dioceses that vote on Saturday 22nd March, Bath and Wells, Birmingham, Bradford, Lichfield, Oxford and Peterborough.

Celebrating 20 years of women’s ordination

This week marks the 20th anniversary of women’s ordination to the priesthood in the Church of England and what a celebration this is! The first ordinations were held on the 12th March 1994 at Bristol Cathedral. The alphabetical “first” of the first 32 women to be ordained in England was Prebendary Angela Berners-Wilson and WATCH is delighted to publish her account of the day as well as an account from Barry Rogerson, the retired Bishop of Bristol.

 

Prebendary Angela Berners-Wilson

The alphabetical ‘first’ of the first 32 women to be Ordained in England.

It seems almost impossible to believe that it is twenty years since that wonderful day in 1994 when thirty two of us women were – finally – Ordained into the Priesthood at Bristol Cathedral on 12th March.  Memories of that day: as we left Glenfall Retreat  House near Cheltenham the coach turned the corner of the drive and we saw a sheep that had just dropped 2 new born lambs who were staggering to their feet. “I hope one is a boy and one a girl” shouted one of my sisters. That was the whole point, at last women could take their rightful place alongside their male colleagues behind the altar. It was never – despite what the press said –  a case of women trying to push themselves ahead of men, but rather a recognition of the equality of all God’s children, so that those women who felt called by God to this role, and who had been accepted through the Church’s rightly rigorous processes, could at last have our vocations recognised.

The service itself was amazing, moving and spirit filled. The feeling of expectation and joy emanating from the congregation as we processed up the aisle at the start of the service was almost palpable. We were each allowed to invite just 4 or our friends/colleagues to lay hands on us alongside the Bishops and Archdeacons at the moment of Ordination. I wanted a woman to be one of my four ‘pairs of hands’, so I invited Rev. Alice Medcof, a good friend who was a priest in Toronto, Canada, to come over for the occasion. She had to produce not only proof of her Ordination but also her Baptismal certificate before she was allowed to take part.

Towards the end of the service a man came and stood in front of the microphone. Oh no, I thought, here we go, here is the dreaded but half anticipated protest. Not a bit of it! This man turned out to be a Roman Catholic Priest from Belgium who prayed the most amazing and unexpected prayer that the Catholic Church would soon see the error of her ways and follow the Church of England’s example and allow women to be Ordained! After the service was over I was mobbed by yet more journalists from the BBC and I remember saying that this was “a spring time for the church.”

Well 20 years on and things have changed considerably. Nearly a third of our clergy are women. We now have women Deans, Archdeacons, Cathedral Canons, and let us continue to hope and pray that by the end of this year it will be possible to have women as Bishops in England. Then it really will be “summer in the church” after the long wait, the floods of disappointment in November 2012. Meanwhile, happy anniversary to the cohort of 1994!

Barry Rogerson – retired Bishop of Bristol

It had been thirty six years since I had argued as student that women should be allowed to be ordained, and now it would happen. I had watched those who were ordained move from being Parish Workers, Religious and Deaconesses to being deacons and now they would be priests. I had listened to people change their minds about whether women should be ordained or not, for in the end the argument was won by the way in which women deacons had exercised their ministry. So the Ordination Service was an occasion of joy, tinged with a certain anxiety that someone would object. They didn’t. The only demonstration was outside the Cathedral asking that women be ordained in the Roman Catholic Church.

What do I remember most? Thankfulness to all those who made the liturgy run so smoothly and beautifully. Thankfulness that so many people came from other parts of the Church, not least the World Council of Churches and a couple of Roman Catholic priests from Belgium. Thankfulness that above all it was an outward and visible sign of an inclusive community which was such a central part of the message and mission of Jesus of Nazareth.

There were many letters and newspaper articles, which arrived by post, but one I treasure above all. It came from a lady in Hampshire, whose Church does not ordain women. After watching the service on BBC2 her daughter said, “Mum, you know that bottle of champagne you gave me for my 21st birthday, let’s open it, because this is about us.”

Making a Track

A selection of the first Christian feminists: inspirations for our own journeys of peace and justice. For more information about this series of Lenten reflections please click here

Bishop Kay Goldsworthy at Westminster Abbey

Rt Rev Kay Goldsworthy, Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of Perth, Australia, is to be bishop in residence at Westminster Abbey during Holy Week (13th – 20th April). She will preach at a number of the services during that week, including on Good Friday and Easter Day. Further details will be available from the Abbey in due course.

National celebration of the 20th anniversary of women’s priesthood.

National celebration of the 20th anniversary of women’s priesthood.

London, Saturday 3rd May.

2pm Procession from Westminster Abbey to St Paul’s Cathedral – all welcome.
5pm Service of celebration at St Paul’s Cathedral. Seating in St Paul’s is by invitation only, distributed by Dioceses. There will be audio feed and communion brought to Paternoster Square, outside the Cathedral.

Let’s make it a great day!

St Paul’s are keen to have an idea of numbers likely to join the procession, so please let WATCH know if you are thinking of coming, by sending an email to [email protected]

First female Dean of Norwich appointed

The Queen has approved the nomination of the Revd Canon Jane Hedges as the next Dean of Norwich.
Canon Hedges, an honorary vice president of WATCH, will be the first female Dean in the Cathedral’s 900 year history.
Canon Hedges (58), who is currently Canon Steward of Westminster Abbey, will succeed the Very Revd Graham Smith who retired in September.
Canon Hedges trained for ministry at Cranmer Hall Durham in 1978, before women could be ordained as deacons and priests. She was made a deaconess in 1980 and was ordained deacon when the Church of England changed its laws to allow female deacons in 1987, and was one of the first women to be ordained priest in 1994. She spent the early years of her ministry in parishes in Fareham and Southampton before becoming Stewardship Adviser in the Diocese of Portsmouth in 1988.
In 1993, Canon Hedges became Canon Residentiary of Portsmouth Cathedral, then spent a further five years in parish ministry in the Diocese of Exeter before being made Canon Steward of Westminster Abbey in 2006.
Commenting on her appointment, Canon Hedges said, “My move from Westminster Abbey to the Deanery of Norwich will be both exciting and challenging. I am particularly looking forward to working with Bishop Graham and his senior staff team and getting to know Chapter colleagues and the community at the Cathedral as we explore together how to take forward its ministry within the Diocese in imaginative ways. Being part of the community at Westminster Abbey has taught me an enormous amount about Benedictine spirituality and hospitality and so it is a great joy to be joining another community where the Benedictine principle of welcoming all people is at the heart of its life. My family and I are looking forward to getting to know people throughout the Diocese and to exploring the beautiful countryside and coast of East Anglia and to welcoming people to our home in the Deanery.”
The Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham James, commented, “I am delighted to welcome Jane Hedges to be Dean of Norwich and look forward greatly to working with her. Jane has a wide experience in ministry in parishes, a cathedral and most recently at Westminster Abbey. Jane is well known in the Church of England for the quality of her pastoral and teaching ministry. I am sure that she possesses the gifts we need at this stage in the life of Norwich Cathedral and the Appointment Panel was unanimous in wanting Jane to be our next Dean. I look forward enormously to her installation on Saturday 21 June. Jane and her husband Chris can be assured of a very big welcome to Norwich and the Diocese.”
Lord MacGregor, High Steward of Norwich Cathedral and Chairman of the Appointment Panel said, “The Panel’s process was professional and thorough, with much local involvement including substantial contributions from the Chapter and others to the Cathedral information and job specification. We had an excellent response when the vacancy was made known, which I am sure reflects the high standing in which Norwich Cathedral is held. We were fortunate to have several outstanding candidates on the short list, and after rigorous consideration the Panel was unanimous in our recommendation of Canon Hedges.
I am delighted to welcome Jane as our new Dean, and wish her every success in the challenges and opportunities ahead.”
Canon Hedges is married to Chris and they have two sons, Jonathan (23) and Adam (21). Joining them in their home in the Cathedral Close will be their Labradoodle, Rufus, who was born in Thetford and two new kittens also born in Norfolk.

First female Dean of Norwich appointed

The Queen has approved the nomination of the Revd Canon Jane Hedges as the next Dean of Norwich.
Canon Hedges, an honorary vice president of WATCH, will be the first female Dean in the Cathedral’s 900 year history.
Canon Hedges (58), who is currently Canon Steward of Westminster Abbey, will succeed the Very Revd Graham Smith who retired in September.
Canon Hedges trained for ministry at Cranmer Hall Durham in 1978, before women could be ordained as deacons and priests. She was made a deaconess in 1980 and was ordained deacon when the Church of England changed its laws to allow female deacons in 1987, and was one of the first women to be ordained priest in 1994. She spent the early years of her ministry in parishes in Fareham and Southampton before becoming Stewardship Adviser in the Diocese of Portsmouth in 1988.
In 1993, Canon Hedges became Canon Residentiary of Portsmouth Cathedral, then spent a further five years in parish ministry in the Diocese of Exeter before being made Canon Steward of Westminster Abbey in 2006.
Commenting on her appointment, Canon Hedges said, “My move from Westminster Abbey to the Deanery of Norwich will be both exciting and challenging. I am particularly looking forward to working with Bishop Graham and his senior staff team and getting to know Chapter colleagues and the community at the Cathedral as we explore together how to take forward its ministry within the Diocese in imaginative ways. Being part of the community at Westminster Abbey has taught me an enormous amount about Benedictine spirituality and hospitality and so it is a great joy to be joining another community where the Benedictine principle of welcoming all people is at the heart of its life. My family and I are looking forward to getting to know people throughout the Diocese and to exploring the beautiful countryside and coast of East Anglia and to welcoming people to our home in the Deanery.”
The Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham James, commented, “I am delighted to welcome Jane Hedges to be Dean of Norwich and look forward greatly to working with her. Jane has a wide experience in ministry in parishes, a cathedral and most recently at Westminster Abbey. Jane is well known in the Church of England for the quality of her pastoral and teaching ministry. I am sure that she possesses the gifts we need at this stage in the life of Norwich Cathedral and the Appointment Panel was unanimous in wanting Jane to be our next Dean. I look forward enormously to her installation on Saturday 21 June. Jane and her husband Chris can be assured of a very big welcome to Norwich and the Diocese.”
Lord MacGregor, High Steward of Norwich Cathedral and Chairman of the Appointment Panel said, “The Panel’s process was professional and thorough, with much local involvement including substantial contributions from the Chapter and others to the Cathedral information and job specification. We had an excellent response when the vacancy was made known, which I am sure reflects the high standing in which Norwich Cathedral is held. We were fortunate to have several outstanding candidates on the short list, and after rigorous consideration the Panel was unanimous in our recommendation of Canon Hedges.
I am delighted to welcome Jane as our new Dean, and wish her every success in the challenges and opportunities ahead.”
Canon Hedges is married to Chris and they have two sons, Jonathan (23) and Adam (21). Joining them in their home in the Cathedral Close will be their Labradoodle, Rufus, who was born in Thetford and two new kittens also born in Norfolk.