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Women's ministry and worship at the heart of celebration service

Women took centre stage at a special Eucharist service at Christ Church Cathedral to mark 30 years since women were first ordained priests in the diocese.

There were hymns written by female composers, inclduing the debut performance of one written especially for the occasion by Christ Church Precentor the Revd Philippa White. The mass setting and anthem sung during the service and the solo organ pieces at the start and end were also composed by women. Before the service, a quarter peal was rung by 10 women bell ringers. 

The afternoon’s sermon was also preached by a member of the cohort, the former Archdeacon of Northampton, the Ven Christine Allsopp, and reflected on the important and prominent role of women in the bible such as Mary Magdalene, as the Apostle to the Apostles. She said: "Women are called not in spite of their gender, not in spite of who they are, but because of it."

While women could be ordained as deacons from 1987, it was not until later that they were able to become priests permitted to celebrate sacraments such as Holy Communion. The first ordinations of women in the Diocese of Oxford took place on 16 and 17 April 1994 in Abingdon, High Wycombe, Reading, Banbury and Buckingham. Many of those first 67 women were present to lead the way for their peers once again, this time in the form of heading the procession of clergy into the Cathedral at the beginning of the service. 

The occasion also served as a broader celebration of women in the Church of England. The service was led by the diocese’s first female Bishop, the Rt Revd Olivia Graham, Bishop of Reading; while the first female Dean of Christ Church, The Very Revd Professor Sarah Foot, served as liturgical Deacon. The additional liturgical roles in the service were also played by women priests from around the Diocese, or by those currently training for their ordination.

Bishop Olivia said: “It was a wonderful occasion to bring women’s ministry to the fore and commemorate this milestone, especially as we were joined by so many of the women who were part of the 1994 cohort. It was a joyful day, just as it was 30 years ago, to stand side by side with these history makers and all those who fought for women’s ordination, and celebrate all that has been achieved.”

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Page last updated: Thursday 2nd May 2024 4:08 PM
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