Celebrating 30 years of women’s ordinations as priests

Monday was such a joyful day as female clergy and ordinands came together to celebrate 30 years of women’s ordinations as priests. The time together began with a wonderful afternoon tea, followed by Festal Evensong in Southwell Minster.  We’ve shared some of the story of the day below.

There was a palpable sense of celebration in the air as women began to arrive at the garden party hosted by Bishop Paul and Sarah. Some of those travelled in from around our diocese, and others (who have since moved away) travelled from further afield for the occasion. The sun was shining, and the afternoon tea provided delightful tiers of sandwiches and cakes for all to enjoy. Through this time stories and conversations flowed freely across the tables bringing many smiles (and often laughter!) . Amongst the 60 women gathered, there were many generations represented, with the oldest 94 years old, and the youngest just 6 months. It was wonderful to hear when people would wave across to someone on another table and say, ‘that was the person who inspired and encouraged me in my faith!’. 

As the afternoon tea came to an end, the sun continued to shine as the group made their way across from the Bishop’s Garden to Southwell Minster for a special Festal Evensong .It was at this point partners, families and others from across the diocese joined together for the celebration.

Evensong was a moving and reflective time as the Girls’ Cathedral Choir led worship, while readings and prayers were led by a number of active and retired female clergy across our diocese. This included Revd Jean Tomlinson who was one of the first women ordained in our diocese in 1994.

Revd Canon Prof. Alison Milbank shared the homily, which ended with a rousing call, aimed specifically at the young girls attending, but also for all listening:

God may be calling you today, to help him turn the world upside down, and to sing his Kingdom into life.

For with him, nothing is impossible, who is Father, Son and Holy Spirt. One God, forever and ever.


Following a final prayer and blessing from Bishop Paul, those attending began to leave the service and it was great to see one final gathering of the ’94 crew’; those who were ordained 30 years ago in Southwell Minster and further afield (pictured below).

The first women to be ordained to the office of Priest in Southwell Minster, Sunday 29 May 1994
The ’94 Crew’ gathered at the celebrations

These are the pioneers and change makers to which the life of the church owes so much gratitude and thanks.

We are so thankful for all the incredible and inspirational women across our diocese, past and present, lay and ordained. We pray for all of those God is calling at this time, in whatever way, to follow Christ with compassion, confidence and courage in everything they do. 

If you feel God is prompting you about his call on your life, you can visit our vocations page to find out more information. You can also speak to your local church leader. 

Please see a link below for the full gallery of photos

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