I never got round to writing a blog about becoming a priest back in June because a whole load of stuff just got in the way.
But as today, 12th March 2019, is the 25th anniversary the ordination of women as priests in the church of England, it seems like a good time to dust off the idea and get writing.
One question I often get asked is: are you really a priest?
People ask this because they think that priests are Catholic, celibate, old men. Despite the new super short hair, I am none of these things.
When I am asked this question, I explain that the Catholic structure of Bishops, Priests and Deacons was kept when Henry VIII founded the Church of England. It has long been acceptable for Anglican priests to marry if they so choose. Then in 1994 the Church of England ordained women to the Priesthood.
So, yes, it is perfectly possible to be a 25-year-old, married woman who is a priest.
Before becoming a priest last June, I spent some time meditating on all the priests I knew who had influenced me in some way. I made a pretty page in my journal and wrote their names down, praying for them all as I did so.
It turns out that I know quite a few! Looking at that picture, I reckon that 20 of them are women. I have always been immensely grateful to the women who went into ministry before me, who fought tougher fights than I do and who have been, and continue to be, an inspiration to those they serve.
As I started secondary school, there was a curate in my home town called Juliet who was young, funny and relatable. It was watching her deliver a sermon at a St George’s Day service that I had one of my first thoughts along the lines of ‘hmm, maybe one day that could be me…’
As a teen, a retired vicar called Liz started attending my church and she has a compassion and care for others that I’ve rarely seen since. She was one of those first women ordained priest 25 years ago. When she had her dog collar ripped out of her shirt by a stranger in the street, she faced opposition in a way that I never have and hopefully never will.
Then when I was 16 or so, my home church appointed it’s first incumbent who was a woman. Sue was one of the first people who I voiced my sense of calling to. She guided me through the discernment process, helping me grapple with various issues and form some of my own theological thinking.
At my first year in vicar school, Bryony, the curate in my placement church in Durham, gave me a glimpse of what day to day ministry looked like, as did Naomi, my supervisor in Sneinton.
Along the way, there has also been Myra, Joanna, Dot, Julia, Jen, Kate, Chen, Jane, Jenny, Ruth, Kate, Suzie, Sue, Alison, Frances, Anne, and Janet, too many to name, really.
There are many priests, both male and female, who have contributed to my journey and helped to guide me along the way. I have always believed that God needs people of all kinds in his church, and likewise to lead it.
Today, many are choosing to use the hashtag #justapriest25. A priest called Jules came up with the idea and you can read her blog about it here.
The point is that female priests are just priests. Yes, some priests are women and some priests are men, but that doesn’t need stating all the time. Just like a doctor who is female doesn’t need defining as a ‘lady doctor’, and a police officer who is female doesn’t need to be called a ‘police woman’. They’re just doctors and police officers! In the same way, we are just priests.
So today, on the 25th anniversary of the ordination of women to the Priesthood, I would like to say thank you to priests. Tall priests, small priests, loud priests, quiet priests. Chaotic priests and organised priests. Young priests, old priests. Priests in checked shirts and priests in chasubles. Priests in tiny chapels, priests in huge cathedrals and everything in between. Priests who are men and priests who are women. Priests who love men and priests who love women. Priests who are flourishing and priests who are struggling. Priests of all kinds.
Thank you, priests.
Photo: me and Sue, from my home church, on my ordination to the Priesthood, June 2017.
Photo at the top: David, Mark and me, from the churches I work in at my priesting.