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In last month's magazine, we read that 25 years ago on 12th March 1994 the first thirty two women priests in the Church of England were ordained. On February 27th that year I arrived here as your parish deacon, and two months later was ordained priest by John Perry, Bishop of Southampton. John Pares has kindly indicated that, although he will be away, on April 28th, the nearest available Sunday, we will celebrate women's ministry at the 10am service and I will give thanks for 25 years in the priesthood. Please, no gifts and no fuss, but I promise there will be cake, and I'm delighted to tell you that my dear friend Anthony Chambers, then Vicar here, has agreed to preach for us.

I was deaconed in 1992, at a time when the priesthood was still a no-go area for women. So, when a year later our male colleagues prepared for their ordinations, we stayed at home. One of my most treasured possessions is a postcard sent from our retreat centre by the men at their pre-ordination retreat. It simply said "Wish you were here".

As we know, the vote that November went our way, so that the long process of parliamentary legislation could begin. After that, the first diocese to take advantage was Bristol, and all their women deacons were made priest in the cathedral on Mothering Sunday. In this diocese we had been fully consulted about how we would like things to proceed. At that time, it was customary for men to be priested in their parishes rather than centrally, and we were keen to make some use of that model. So the plan we came up with was for five ordinations spread around the diocese, ending with the last one in the cathedral. There were nineteen of us, three in Bournemouth: Marjorie Honnor, from St. John's and St. Michaels, Phyllis Manhood, Deacon in Charge at St. Augustine's, and myself. The venue was St Augustine's, and many of you with many more from my previous parish were there. It was of course a memorable occasion. There was a strong Police presence in case of trouble, but thankfully not needed. The Press called us "the first three Dorset women" because most of Dorset was in the Salisbury Diocese where things didn't happen until May.

The next Sunday I presided at the Eucharist for the first time, praying that I would get all the fiddly bits in the Eucharistic Prayer right. I needn't have worried - my hands seemed to know what to do before I did. After that I gradually learnt how to be a priest, from Anthony Chambers, whom I'd known since he came to St. Barnabas as a curate back in the 70s, and from you. I can honestly say from experience that your congregation, if you let them, will teach you all you need to know (except perhaps the technical bits). You fulfilled that function most beautifully and I'm so grateful. I didn't expect to be here 25 years on and consider myself still "on probation" but I'm not looking for another home if you'll let me stay a little longer.

I want April 28th to be not just about me but women's ministry in general - Readers/Lay Ministers like my colleagues Ruth and Sheila, the women who battled on our behalf in the early days, many of whom were too old or had died before they could be ordained themselves - and the women who are being ordained now in a climate of normality, whose energy and vision give me so much hope for the future.

See you all, I hope, on the 28th.


Canon Pam