Five star service in celebration of Lancashire's first female priests from 25 years ago

Bishop Julian and Bishop Jill with five of the first women priests in Lancashire.
Bishop Julian and Bishop Jill with five of the first women priests in Lancashire.
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Five of the first female priests to be ordained in Lancashire were reunited this week for a Silver Jubilee celebration.

Five of the first female priests to be ordained in Lancashire were reunited this week for a Silver Jubilee celebration.

The five played a part in a special service to mark the 25th anniversary of women becoming vicars in the Church of England.

Rev Brenda Harding, Rev Margaret Jenkinson, Rev Ann Wood, Rev Patricia Impey and Rev Dorothy Hankey were all in the original cohort of 13 ordained by the Diocese of Blackburn on May 14, 1994.

“For me personally it was a miracle when the vote happened at General Synod in the early ‘90s,” said Rev Harding, who is based at Christ Church, Lancaster.

“I was 52 at the time and if it had been much longer I may not have been ordained. It has been a great privilege to be able to exercise my priestly duties over the years.”

The first 32 women were ordained as priests in March 1994 in Bristol. Lancashire’s first 13 were ordained on May 14 at Blackburn Cathedral. Exactly 25 years to the day, five of those original 13 returned to be part of a “moving day of thankfulness and encouragement.”

A special Eucharist took place at the Cathedral to celebrate the milestone, presided over by the Bishop of Blackburn, the Rt Rev Julian Henderson and Lancashire’s first female Bishop, Rt Rev Dr Jill Duff, who became Bishop of Lancaster last year.

Earlier on the same day Bishop Jill led a retreat at Whalley Abbey called “Celebrating Women’s Voices and Vocations.” And after the events she said Jesus had “brought women out of the shadows.”

“I was so thrilled to be able to celebrate 25 years since those first pioneering women were ordained. Today has been a celebration of all that has gone before.”

Bishop Julian added: “I have found the ministry of women has enriched our life as a church and it was good to celebrate with out first group of women priests.”

One of the original 13, Rev Margaret Jenkinson, who began as a priest iat St Oswald’s Church in Preesall, said: “Looking back on the past 25 years and having the chance to be here today feels really good.

“It’s actually been a bit of a reunion because I haven’t seen many of the women I was ordained with in the years since as we all went out separate ways.”