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Celebrating the first 20 years

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This is a text-only version of an article first published on Wednesday, 4 June 2014. Information shown on this page may no longer be current.

by the Revd Dr Amanda Bloor

Jubilant smiles.

Archbishop Justin waves with the class of 94.

St Paul's Cathedral.

THE sun shone in London on 3 May as crowds gathered to mark the first twenty years of women's priestly ministry in the Church of England.

The Archbishop of Canterbury preached at a service of celebration at St Paul's Cathedral to which every woman ordained in 1994 had been invited, along with representatives from each diocese, including a large contingent from Oxford.

See: Sharing the Journey 7 June 2014 The day began with a picnic lunch in Dean's Yard at Westminster Abbey, where there were cries of delight as old friends met up and stories were shared.

Women and men, clergy and laity, young and old, listened to speakers on the steps of Church House before setting off to process together to St Paul's.

Traffic came to a halt, pedestrians waved from bridges and pavements, and even the police officers accompanying the procession seemed to have smiles on their faces. At the Cathedral, those with formal roles in the service put on their robes, whilst others filed in to fill the building.

The service booklet instructed the congregation to remain seated as those women ordained in 1994 processed in, but in a spontaneous gesture of love and affirmation, they rose to their feet and applauded as each of the 700 women walked past.

The applause rolled around the building and seemed to go on for ever. Archbishop Justin had been invited to preach, but to many people's surprise he took the role of deacon in the service, setting up the altar and serving Canon Phillippa Boardman, who presided.

In his sermon, the Archbishop made explicit reference to the costly nature of vocation, and for some, the "bitterness of disappointment and rejection caused by the knee-jerk resistance of an institution facing change. " He apologised on behalf of the Church and for himself; a moving and healing moment.

But soberness gave way to joy.

'This is birthday time, party time,' Archbishop Justin said, and as the congregation - and the people watching the service outside the Cathedral on a screen set up in Paternoster Square - shared Holy Communion together, there was a real sense of gratitude and thanksgiving. Sharing the Journey Download poster The Diocese of Oxford is holding its own celebrations on 7 June, under the title 'Sharing the Journey. ' A service of Holy Communion at Christ Church at 11am will be followed by a panel discussion at St Mary the Virgin at 2pm.

All are welcome.

There's no need to book a place, but it would help planning if you could let us know that you intend to be there. Please email tinadstirling@aol. com or call 01296 747587.

Why not gather a group from your parish and travel together?Some of the women ordained in 1994, and some of the bishops who ordained them, were unable to be at the service because of infirmity or because they had since died.

Some carried the scars of painful journeys following Christ's call.

But as we left St Paul's to travel back to all corners of the country, one word from the message of support sent by Archbishop Desmond Tutu rang in my head: 'Yippee!'So what was the reaction of women who were at the St Paul's service?The Revd Beren Hartless, Director of Initial Ministerial Education for the Diocese, said: "It was a great day, full of joy and inspiring conversations on the long slow march from Westminster Abbey to St Paul's. "The most moving moments, for me, were the standing ovation for us as we processed into the cathedral.

The clapping seemed to go on for ever! And Archbishop Justin serving as deacon.

It took me back to my first presidency at the Eucharist in 1994 when my training incumbent, who was also in the march with us on Saturday (he is the Bishop of Liverpool designate), did the same for me.

It's awesome to realise that such men are so aligned with the servant model of Jesus.

The funniest moment was the slowly dawning realisation that the 1994 cohort had almost all gone grey, or white- haired). "The saddest moment was seeing a young American man shouting at the women priests on the march, saying we shouldn't be leading the people of God.

I called out 'God bless you!' as I passed him.

But, really, that was the only dark moment in a day of great celebration.

And what is joy if it isn't highlighted by a shadow or two?"The most inspiring moment? Seeing the young women and men priests, with us through the day, there taking up the baton and continuing the task we had begun. "The Revd Jo Coney, (pictured right) a retired Diocesan LLM Advisor and now an Associate Priest the Wolvercote and Wytham Benefice, said: "The standing ovation which started as we began to come in was a complete surprise and incredibly moving and humbling. "

The Revd Jo Coney Rosemary Tucker, from Yarnton, said: "What a wonderful day - so full of joy and thankfulness. The sharing of stories on the procession from the Abbey to St Paul's it felt like a pilgrimage.

The waves and support from the people on the street and from those in cars who we were holding up. Then the service such a mix of formality and informality.

I will never forget the tears and the smiles as we in the congregation clapped as the priests from 94 came into the cathedral.

It was such a privilege to be there I will never forget it. "The Revd Thelma Shacklady, a retired priest with permission to officiate, said "The whole day was inspiring and unforgettable, but if I were to select four particular memories the first would be standing in Dean's yard at Westminster Abbey and seeing the huge crowds waiting to process from there to St Paul's.

To be part of such an impressive gathering was quite overwhelming.

The second was standing on the steps of St Paul's with my fellow priests, a great field of white, facing the crowd in Paternoster Square and the barrage of cameras, and applauding as the Archbishop of Canterbury joined us.

Next was the lump-in-the-throat moment as we filed into the Cathedral to a standing ovation, contrary to the directions on the service paper which suggested we should walk in silently. " ; ;

Page last updated: Wednesday 4th June 2014 12:00 AM
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