Past, present and future women in priesthood celebrated

Past, present and future women in priesthood celebrated

Sunday the 2nd of December 2018 marked the auspicious occasion of the 40th anniversary of women being ordained to the priesthood in our diocese.  At St James Lower Hutt, where the first ordination happened forty years ago, a special service was held, and on account of those who were there, it was a “beautifully crafted” service.

Our assistant bishop, Rt Rev Dr Eleanor Sanderson was co-presiding at the service, with Rt Rev Dr Penny Jamieson, DCNZM, and the Venerable Judy Hardie, a former Archdeacon of Belmont.  Bishop Eleanor felt that it was an “incredible privilege” to have Bishop Penny there.  Bishop Penny was the Bishop of Dunedin from 1990 until her retirement in 2004.  She was only the second woman consecrated as a bishop in the world, and the first in the world to be elected as a diocesan bishop.

Archdeacon Judy’s story was shared in an interview with the Archdeacon for Kāpiti and Ohariu, Ven Julie Rokotakala, in which she shared of her experience of sensing God’s call to ordination during a time when stereotypical views of a woman’s place still prevented her from pursuing that call.  She persevered, and was eventually ordained.

The service used liturgy prepared by Archdeacon Carole Hughes of the Diocese of Auckland with contributions from our own Archdeacon Wendy Scott and others, and was organised by Rev Jean Malcolm of St Peter’s on Willis, Rev Jennie Sim, Vicar of Newlands-Paparangi, and Rev Annette Cater, the new Priest Associate of Tawa-Linden Parish.  According to Rev Judith Wigglesworth, who attended the service, there was an overwhelming sense of honour, not only towards those pioneering women who paved the way for other women to be ordained as priests, but towards women everywhere such as Tarore and Rosa Parks who bravely took a stand for what is right, having an impact that has reached far beyond their own lives.  Bishop Eleanor expressed her own thanks for women who have been firsts in many capacities.  “I’m enormously appreciative of the changes to the Church that have paved the way for the next generation of women,” Ellie shared.

The processional hymn encapsulated this honour and appreciation, and can be read here:

Praise God for Faithful Women

Praise God for faithful women
who, from the Gospel’s birth,
have lived their lives for Jesus
in every land on earth
by leadership and teaching,
with work of loving care,
as visionaries and mystics
in solitude and prayer.
They stand throughout our history
as signs of hope and grace,
revealing Jesus’ presence
within their time and place.

Give thanks for their persistence
in claiming Jesus’ call
to be what he has made them,
whose church includes us all:
to serve as priests and leaders,
stand at their brothers’ side,
enriching Jesus’ people
with gifts too long denied.
Old barriers have fallen;
the Gospel sets us free
to follow where God leads us
in true equality.

So we, who walk together
into the coming day,
give thanks for faithful women,
who join us as we pray
to share with those we care for
the truth we have believed,
and bear into the future
the light we have received.
With called and chosen women
who lead us in God’s ways,
we bring our dedication,
our offering of praise.

 by Marnie Barrell, 2017

Judith shared of the sense of past, present and future that was so vividly felt in the service.  She recognised her place in the company of women who have answered the call to ordination, acknowledging her own anniversary this year of ten years since her ordination to the diaconate, followed by her ordination to the priesthood a year later.  “I have a sense of walking alongside those who pioneered the way, and I also see those who are younger, who have such energy and vitality for their call.  I am somewhere in the midst!”

The Collect from the service reflected this sense of past, present and future beautifully, and can be read here:


God, who has created us in your image,
as we remember 40 years of the ordained ministry of women in these lands
may the gift of memory become our treasure,
may our present time celebrate prophetic voices
that we may offer vision and hope for the future;
through Christ Jesus,
who is alive with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

The service was preceded by an event at which people were able to share their stories, and to offer buttons representing significant female leaders in the lives of attendees, which will eventually form part of a cope made by Rev Annette Cater to be homed at the Cathedral, for visiting female priests to wear.  Attendees were also asked to make an offering of sanitary products to be donated to the Wellington City Mission.

The event overall had “lots of celebration,” according to Rev Jenny Dawson who was in attendance.  “There was recognition of pain and struggle… but also that we are growing in our care for each other, our recognition of diversity, and our valuing of difference.”  Bishop Eleanor echoed Jenny’s observations, saying “I am deeply humbled to hear of people’s stories, and the humility and patience that so many of those stories shone with.”

The statement made by the organisers is shared from the liturgy booklet here:

A word from the curators of this event...

It has been a privilege to shape, hold and birth this particular event. And it hasn’t come lightly.

We have made a conscious, prayerful effort to make as many connections today as we can. The many stories, themes and perspectives that shape both the call of ordination with the “Women” part of our human creation. This is complex, often challenging and always surprising in its shape. And it is felt and experienced very deeply.

So thank you to those who were asked and said no.
Thank you to those who were asked and said yes.
To those who were not asked and would have liked to, sorry.
To those who are absent, we still love and celebrate you.
To those who are here but hurting, let us share your burden.
To those who are here in support, thank you.

To those who are not sure why they are here, ask God.

May God bless you this day and always with …..