Women’s Ministry – 30th Anniversary

29th May 2024

Women’s ministry continues to be celebrated at our cathedrals this year marking the 30th anniversary of the ordination of women into the Church of England.

Celebrating 30 years of Women’s Ministry

St Edmundsbury Cathedral is the latest to host a special celebratory service this Sunday (June 2) celebrating the 30th anniversary of the ordination of women in Suffolk.

Women’s ministry continues to be celebrated at our cathedrals this year marking the 30th anniversary of the ordination of women into the Church of England.

Since women were first ordained priest in Suffolk, the county has been at the forefront of progress, with female clergy making up half of all priests in Ipswich. Now there is a total of 50 women clergy serving their communities, making up 42% of all stipendiary priests across the county.

This Sunday many of those ordained in 1994 will be reunited at the service.

The Dean of Women’s Ministry for the diocese, Revd Ali Miller, will preside and The Dean of Winchester, the Very Revd Catherine Ogle will preach. Catherine was among the first women to be ordained priest in 1994.

The Cathedral will welcome guests Clare Sanders (one of those ordained in 1994), Sharon Potter (a current incumbent) and Catriona Brinkley (a current recently ordained curate).

The Revd Canon Philip Banks, Precentor at St Edmundsbury Cathedral, says,

“Alleluia! This service will be deeply moving and joyful. We will look back in sorrow that it took us so long to allow women to take their rightful place as priests in God’s church. We will give heartfelt thanks for all that has been achieved since 1994 in helping to make our churches signs of God’s capacious, inclusive heart of love, serving our communities across Suffolk. 

“And we will look forward, as we continue to welcome all, irrespective of gender, race or orientation, to follow their calling and vocation to serve God’s church in the future.”

Last Sunday (May 26) saw women ordained priest at Portsmouth Cathedral in May 1994 gather together for the anniversary event.

Reverend Ruth Jagger was one of 20 women appointed at Portsmouth Cathedral in 1994 and she said the Church of England had been “enriched” by the presence of female priests.

Revd Jagger, who now lives in Fareham, was pregnant with her son Aidan during the 1994 service and had to leave early due to morning sickness.

She said:

“We had been ordained as deacons in 1985, but then had waited so long to be ordained as priests that I was determined to be part of the first cohort.

“I can’t quite believe that we’ve had women priests for 30 years but I do feel the church has been enriched by the presence of male and female priests.

“I also wanted women to feel they could be priests without trying to be like men, and I think that’s happened.”

In 1985, a vote allowed women to become deacons, and in 1992 women were officially permitted to be ordained in the priesthood, but it was to take another two years before the first women priests were ordained which took place at Bristol Cathedral on 12 March 1994, when Barry Rogerson, the then Bishop of Bristol, ordained 32 women into the Church of England.

Image source, Diocese of Portsmouth