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'God kept tugging at my sleeve' - Joan's story

Joan Hicks had been a Christian since childhood, but it was whilst living and working at the Taizé Community in France in her mid-20s that she first felt a calling to ordained ministry. This began a journey which ended with Joan being part of the first cohort of women to be ordained priest in 1994. 

She said: “I rebelled when it came to confirmation as a child. I wanted to be able to make the promises with integrity. Something did not feel right, and I didn’t want to make those promises unless I felt ready to make them. In my teenage years I drifted away from church. I wasn’t quite sure where God was in what had been happening in my life.”  

Joan had returned to her faith and attending church at university, when most of her circle of friends turned out to be Christians. She prepared for confirmation, finished her degree and decided to go to work for the Taize Community in France. 

She said: “I went for three months and stayed for 18. I had the most amazing experience of community life with young Christians from all over the world, of different denominations. Our life there was punctuated by prayer and worship three times a day.”

After returning from France, Joan began her career as a teacher, feeling sure thoughts of ordination would be forgotten. Joan added: “I got a teaching job in a good school with lovely children, but I would come home and I just knew that this was not what God was calling me to do. Times of prayer and worship became particularly intense and Bible readings about vocation resonated with me. It felt as if God kept tugging at my sleeve. I knew I could ignore it no longer. I had a strong feeling that God was calling me to ministry in the church.”

After going through the discernment process within the Church of England, Joan was recommended and began her training for ordained ministry. At that time women could only be ordained as deacons, but during her curacy, the calling to priesthood became even stronger. 
She said: “There were things I was unable to do as a deacon that just became incredibly important, like presiding at the Eucharist, being able to bless people or absolve them of their sins. I became increasingly frustrated by the limits on my ministry.

“The ordination service when I was made priest was just the most extraordinary time. The ordination was so special, and I had such a strong feeling of God’s presence. One part of the ordination service was particularly important because of the battle to get to that point. It was the question to the congregation ‘is it your will that they should be  ordained?’ and they say ‘it is’. There was such a rousing response. That was a wonderful affirmation.”

Joan, who now serves as a vicar in Cox Green, Maidenhead, acknowledges there will ‘always be work to do’ towards equality for women within the church but feels the majority of people accept women’s ministry now.

She concluded: “Most people have experienced women’s ministry now, so it feels very natural for a woman to be ministering as a priest. Having men and woman ministering together is what we want and need for a healthy church. I have never taken for granted the joy and privilege of serving as a priest, and particularly presiding at the Eucharist. It has been challenging, but I have never doubted that this is what God has called me to be and to do. What a journey It has been.”

Joan was one of many who gathered to celebrate her milestone at a special Eucharist service in Christ Church cathedral.


Page last updated: Monday 17th June 2024 4:07 PM
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