On Sunday 11 June I will have the privilege of preaching at a Service of Thanksgiving for Women’s Ministry in the Cathedral. 2017 is a significant year of anniversaries, an opportunity to remember and celebrate some key moments in the gradual acceptance in the Church of England of the ministry of women in leadership roles:
- 50 years since female lay readers were appointed;
- 30 years since women deacons were ordained;
- 25 years since the vote was taken for women’s ordination to the priesthood in 1992.
In this diocese, of course, the ministry of women has long been welcomed and appreciated wholeheartedly by the vast majority of church members. It is an encouraging environment in which women can flourish and realise their potential, serving in roles which suit their varied gifts, personalities and skills, being who God made them to be, in the same way that men can. Hopefully, as the impact of our Kingdom People: Calling Young Disciples project grows, we will similarly see young people and children increasingly playing their part, growing in confidence that what they bring is valued and vital to our shared life as God’s people.
I am acutely aware that I am in a senior role in God’s church, as one of a steadily growing number of women, because wise people invested in me, saw my leadership potential, gave me opportunities and trained and mentored me. They picked me up when I stumbled, let me make mistakes and learn from them, and stretched me to do more than I thought I could, trusting that God equips the called, rather than calls the equipped. I am especially grateful to those who did that when the church still had questions about the role of women. I think they were following in the footsteps of Jesus!
When Jesus walked on earth, women were uneducated, not given a legally valid voice, and treated like property. He refused to bow to those cultural stigmas, instead modelling a way of relating to women which was totally different – radically inclusive, no limits on their God given destiny or restrictions on how their gifts could be exercised. It is when women and men, and young people and children work together that the church is enabled to be what it is created to be, the hope of the world, fully representative of the body of Christ as we seek together to be Kingdom People
I hope many from across the Diocese will be in the Cathedral at 4pm on 11 June to celebrate the ministry of women. I pray too, that each of us will think of young people in whom we can invest –especially girls, and invite them to join us, so that we are a truly multi-generational church encouraging the gifts and contributions of everyone.
The Venerable Nikki Groarke
Archdeacon of Dudley