A reflection by the Dean of Salisbury, the Very Reverend June Osborne DL
The 20th Anniversary of Women Priests, St Paul’s Cathedral
Saturday, 3 May 2014
Women who were candidates for ordination in 1994 were no different from any other ordinands. We’d been on a journey of discernment, travelled with a sense of God’s call and we believed that grace would be God’s gift. Like any priest, the challenge was to exercise Christ’s ministry in his world. So what we did in all 43 dioceses, was utterly familiar. For a very long time the Church has sent out priests, and we simply did it again in 1994.
Yet what happened that year, from the Bristol diocese in March to the Truro diocese in July, was also of cosmic significance. Men told us they recognised a greater fulfilment of ministry in our ordinations. Women told us of how their sense of dignity and spiritual authority felt validated. As the great West doors of our Cathedrals opened to us we knew we’d crossed a new threshold, and the nation cheered on the Church of England.
The vocation of being the first is superficially exciting. How many times have we heard it said to us “so you were one of the first?”
Yet being the first also holds its own demands.
- We’ve embodied change.
- We’ve helped re-imagine faith.
- We’ve moved people’s sense of God, of church and of leadership.
- And we’ve done all this whilst finding our own voice. We’ve had to stand tall so that we could wash the feet of the poor and needy, not because servitude is expected of us but because it’s the way of Christ.
- We’ve had courage. As the hymn says ‘our hearts were brave and arms were strong.’
We’ve brought our womanly humanity to the priesthood hoping that everyone might better know the touch of divinity in their life. We’ve offered the resilience and vulnerability of Mary of Bethany and Mary Magdalene. With them we’ve been witnesses of an Easter faith. In these 20 years ‘We have seen the Lord’.
Alleluia, Christ is risen.
He is risen indeed, Alleluia.