I write this at a time of celebration as it is 20 years since the first women were ordained priest.
Yes, I do celebrate with great thankfulness the gifts women have brought to the church as priests, yet I myself was caught out by the re-emerging pain of those times.
Please pray for all those women who, like me, were unable to be priested in ’94 with the others and this time of ‘celebration’ is bringing back the pain with the joy.
There were two of us in the Diocese of Guildford, my colleague was an LOM working with a vicar who would not allow her to be priested… and myself. At that time we had to jump through many ‘hoops’ to be sure that our vocation was to the priesthood and not simply the diaconate, though no one could ever explain to me what the difference was, and that we would be up to the task of ‘being the first women’. All this caused me so much stress that my recovery from depression was reversed and I became too ill to go through with it. To my great distress I had to pull out.
The Lord was good to me even then!! I was on pilgrimage to the Holy Land and in Jerusalem when the ordinations were taking place. A time of great consolation.
I was ordained priest very quietly in ’95 at the instigation of Archdeacon John Went, who had been very caring to me. I didn’t even have an interview with the Bishop, who was on holiday at the time. (I have just now wondered whether this was deliberate!)
My first celebration of the Eucharist was at a quiet midweek service in the church at Sands. I was privileged to serve in the Parish of Seale, Puttenham and Wanborough, who gave me back my life and my confidence.
In 2001 I ‘retired’ to my home parish of Hale with Badshot Lea.
I felt that the Lord had called me back here to serve, and very soon we were all faced with quite a series of trials and tribulations….
Now, 13 years later, I am thankful for the privilege I have had of serving here as priest, and I thank you all for the love and kindness you have given me.
However, as many of you know, the breakdown of my health in the early years of my ministry, faced as I was with the stress of being a ‘woman’ when the church was undecided what to do with us, has left its’ marks in me. I am tired now and I have decided to ‘come of the rota’. I will, of course, remain here as a worshipper in the congregation and hope to enjoy the journey with you all for many years to come.
May God continue to bless us into the future.
Love from Jennifer