A quarter of a century ago a momentous vote was taken in favour of women’s ordination to the priesthood. This Sunday Ripon Cathedral is marking the occasion from the pulpit – with a sermon from one of its newest team members – Canon Ailsa Newby.
It’s part of a national initiative which hopes to see women across the UK take to the pulpit in commemoration of events 25 years ago. It will also be the first sermon at the cathedral by Canon Newby – the former lawyer sought ordination following her work with prisoners for the charity Justice.
The tide of change for women in the church began 50 years ago with the appointment of the first female lay readers – then two decades after that came the ordination of women deacons. Ripon Cathedral welcomed its own female deacon this month as Rev Caitlin Carmichael-Davis began her curacy.
Canon Wendy Wilby, who has been serving as an interim Canon Residentiary in Ripon, was amongst the first women priests to be ordained in 1994 – (it had taken two years for the legislation to work its way through parliament and the church!)
Canon Wilby is also the Chair of the National Association of Diocesan Advisers in Women’s Ministry. She said: “Up and down the country we are hoping that as many women as possible will be preaching in our churches on July 16. We have been privileged to witness a seismic ministerial event of enormous proportions in our generation. We must give thanks to God for all that women are formally bringing to the church.
“We at Ripon Cathedral are rejoicing in the gifts and skills that have been offered by women in ministry over many years. This last 50 years has seen a major transformation within the Church of England. It now provides a wholeness of ministry that represents both the women and men of our congregations and communities.”