Silver Anniversary of the Ordination of Women Priests in our Diocese

Today marks the 25th anniversary of women’s ordination in the Church of England and Revd Canon Wendy Wilby, has told how it felt to be in the “Class of ‘94”.

Now retired, Wendy was ordained deacon at Ripon Cathedral in 1990, made a priest there in 1994 and is now one of its honorary minor canons.

“I joined the ranks of those waiting and ten of us were ordained on the Saturday night and another ten ordained on the Sunday morning,” said Wendy, left and right, coming out of the service in 1994.

“It was just wonderful.

“I’d had a calling to ministry from the age about 13, which horrified our High Church vicar!

“It’s quite hard to remember now, just how challenging this all was for many in the church.

“Indeed, a lot of those objections went under the surface after 1994.

“But I received encouragement and then found myself with my first curacy in Barwick in Elmet and Scholes.

“My first parish as a vicar was at beautiful Birstwith, in Nidderdale.”

Wendy went on to have a full and varied career, including being the first woman vicar of Halifax Minster and the first woman Canon Precentor at Bristol Cathedral, before returning to Yorkshire with her husband, renowned composer Philip Wilby.

She is also the chair of the National Association of Diocesan Advisers in Women's Ministry

“The 25th anniversary isn't just a nostalgic exercise, it's a time to look forward.

 "Outside the church, people are amazed that there is still so much fuss,” said Wendy, pictured on retreat with other deacons and the then Bishop of Ripon, David Young.

“That said, things have come on by leaps and bounds, although we still have a task to keep to prodding people to stand up against things, such as unconscious bias.

“Many dividing walls still need to be broken down by male and female colleagues working together."

The first group of women were ordained to the Church of England priesthood in Bristol Cathedral on March 12, 1994.

Bishop Barry Rogerson, who presided at the ordination, has said: “Over the last twenty five years I have observed and received the ministry of women in parishes, but also in chaplaincies; hospitals and hospices, schools, universities and prisons and know what an innovative and positive contribution women priests have made. 

“Perhaps today we might give a thought for all those women, worldwide whose vocations to the priesthood have still been neither recognised nor tested.”

Hope of our Calling - a special service to mark the anniversary - will take place at Ripon Cathedral, on Sunday, June 16, when the Bishop of Ripon, the Rt Revd Dr Helen-Ann Hartley will be preaching.

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