Archbishop praises trailblazing women priests

Trailblazing women priests have been feted by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, at a special service.

Welby led the service in London to commemorate the 25 years since the first woman was ordained to the presbyterate in the Church of England.

Over 80 women priests were at the celebrations. Some were among those who were in the first group of 32 who were ordained on March 12, 1994.

Among the five female bishops in attendance was Libby Lane, who in 2015 was the first woman to be consecrated in the Church of England.

Other women at the service included Dr Isabelle Hamley, who is the Archbishop of Canterbury’s chaplain and Prebendary Angela Berners-Wilson, who was the first woman to be ordained in the Church of England. (A prebendery is an honorary canon.)

Isabelle Hamley preached the sermon at the service.

In her sermon, she reflected on the gift of Jesus that Mary and Joseph were given, and the risks and responsibilities of nurturing it.

“Let us cherish this gift where it is public and obvious, and where it is hidden, private and yet equally powerful. Together, may we witness to the gift that lives in us, and the God who has called us to follow him,” she said.

Speaking at the service, Welby said: ‘Many of those here today have been pioneers as they work out what it means to be an ordained woman in the Church of England – not just for themselves and their communities, but for the whole of the Body of Christ.

“Today let us bear witness to those who paved the way in 1994, as well as upholding those whose way into ministry has been opened up since,” he added.

Berners-Wilson said it was “amazing to be — by a few seconds — the first woman to be ordained to the priesthood in the Church of England.

“For 25 years it has been the greatest privilege to finally be able to live out my calling, after a 15-year probationary period first as a deaconess then as a deacon,” she said.

Former bishop Barry Rogerson, who welcomed the women to the ranks of clergy 25 years ago, sent a relayed message that was broadcast at the chapel during the special service.

Congratulating them on their success, he urged attendees to spare a thought for “all those women worldwide whose vocations to the priesthood have still been neither recognised nor tested.”


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