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Hallo again to all. International Women'ds Day: 8 March

Today is the 107th annual International Women's Day, a day to recognize past events, celebrate positive changes, and highlight future goals for equality and better lives for women and girls. We think it fitting the Church of England is installing their first woman bishop today in Chester Cathedral. Blessings to the Rt Revd Libby Lane!

We are aware the idea of women's ordination to any of the holy orders may still be a New Idea or even an Uncomfortable Idea in some provinces or dioceses while it has become commonplace to the point of being unremarkable in others. Despite the comparatively recent inclusion of women to the priesthood in the Church of England, their numbers have grown to the point where about one in five full-time priests are women.* However, there is room for improvement. Only about one in seven parish incumbents are women. More prayer and time is needed to bring these two ratios into alignment with each other—and in better balance.

Our experience is that when one prays with, celebrates Eucharist with, talks with, studies with another person, gender is not the prominent and defining characteristic one takes away from the shared time. We often find ourselves marveling how the Holy Spirit works its wonder to bring one closer to other children of God.

One can look to the durable popularity of The Vicar of Dibley, a BBC television series which first aired in 1994 (two years after the first women were ordained to the priesthood in the Church of England). It featured a female vicar in a country parish in England. The writers didn't avoid the conflict over female vicars—they included some of the common nay-sayings about female vicars in the early episodes. Through the use of humour and the inclusion of lovable universal characters, the writers provided a way for viewers to see their own parishes in Dibley's St Barnabas. The comedy is as humorous today as it was when it first aired. The nuggets about our faith that are wrapped into the story lines are as pertinent as ever. We know of some parishes that view episodes as part of parish council retreats. The gender of the vicar is not the take-away from the series; instead, it is the communal life of the parish with a good sprinkling of theology mixed into daily life. Rt Revd Barbara Harris

We have had the good fortune to travel with the Rt Revd Barbara Harris, the first female bishop in the Anglican Communion. Bishop Harris, through her ministry in her own Diocese of Massachusetts, the US Episcopal Church, and in the wider Anglican Communion, has been a role model and mentor for many of us trying to walk in the light of God. Her strength and her clear moral compass have been a guide post for all of us: young and old, male and female, all racial backgrounds, and every other description of the human existence one can name.

For those of us who are 'women of a certain age', we did not have the opportunity in our girlhood to be acolytes, let alone dream of becoming ordained. Our childhood parish-life female role models were superintendents of church school, organists and choir directors, members of the Women's Institute, and many of the Mary and Martha type of supporting roles our mothers and other parish women held. Now, in many parts of our beloved Anglican Communion, our daughters do not experience those limits. They are able to be acolytes, to see deacons and priests and bishops who are women, to see their grandmothers assist at the altar, and to follow discernment for vocation wherever it might lead—including ordination and priesthood.

Who knows where the Holy Spirit will lead us in the future?

See you next week.

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All of us at Anglicans Online

8 March 2015


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