On Saturday 10 May a special service was held at Canterbury Cathedral to mark the twenty year anniversary of women being ordained priests.Around 20 women, dressed in white, who were ordained in Canterbury Cathedral or other Cathedrals in 1994, processed through the Cathedral accompanied by the Bishop of Dover, the Right Reverend Trevor Willmott, and by the Bishop’s Adviser for Women’s Ministry, Revd Sheila Cox, and the Assistant Advisers for Women’s Ministry.
The Archdeacon of Canterbury, the Venerable Sheila Watson, who was one of the first women ordained in 1994, presided at the Eucharist.
The congregation of c. 300 people included supporters of the 1994 women priests along with around 60 women ordained after 1994.
Preaching at the service, the Reverend Canon Noelle Hall, Vicar of St Pauls and St Martin’s in Canterbury, who was ordained in Canterbury Cathedral twenty years ago, spoke of the journey to ordination. Describing the applause given to the 23 newly ordained women as they processed out of Canterbury Cathedral on May 8 1994, Canon Noelle recalled thinking ‘Why me? Why us?’.
Developing this theme, Canon Noelle spoke of Mary Magdalene being the first person to witness the risen Lord and described the privilege that men and women share in their Christian vocation. “If we follow Christ, we cannot claim the right to always be kept safe, but we can claim the right to always be caught up in the excitement of Jesus’ life and what that means.” She concluded: “Why me? Why us? This privilege remains with us all, to the end of our lives.”
The newly formed Canterbury Cathedral Girls’ Choir led the singing at the service, which included two of the hymns sung at first women’s ordination service in Canterbury in 1994.
Canterbury Diocesan Women’s Ministry Adviser, Revd Sheila Cox, commented: “The service was a very special and moving celebration for all women priests in the diocese – from those like Noelle Hall, who were ordained twenty years ago, to women who have been ordained priest more recently.”
A national service was held at St Paul’s Cathedral on Saturday 3 May, during which the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said to the women priests gathered that the Church of England ‘still had a long way to go.’ The service was preceded by a procession of hundreds of ordained women from Westminster Abbey to St Paul’s.
Further information from:
Emily Shepherd, Director of Communications, Canterbury Diocese 01227 459 401, 07876 210 446, firstname.lastname@example.org
Women ordained in 1994 with the Bishop of Dover outside Canterbury Cathedral