Jim Thompson. our lovable bishop who ordained me deacon in London's East End, used to say that not a week went by without him wondering why he was still in the Church, and yet not a day or two without experiencing something of the amazing gifts which come with being a priest. I thought of this when I was reminded this week of the 25th anniversary of the passing of the ordination of women measure in the Church of England's General Synod. Writing in the Church of England Newsletter this week, Emma Percy, Chair of WATCH (Women and the Church) in the UK, commented pertinently about the joys then, and the achievements and frustrations since. As she reflects:
It is now 25 years later, almost half of my life, and the young people I work with have never known a Church of England without women priests... (now) part of culture appearing in TV, adverts, novels; both fictional and real examples. Yet, tensions over the role of women still continue in the church... The debates around women bishops meant that the church’s continuing uncertainty about really welcoming women into all orders of ministry was played out for the wider world to see. Sadly, this means that many younger people think the church is out of step with gender equality.
25 years on I rejoice that the church has benefited, and continues to benefit, from the priestly ministry of so many women. I rejoice in the ministry I have been able to have. I hope that we can continue to encourage women to serve in this way and that the Church of England will find ways to truly celebrate the momentous decision made 25 years ago.
Those are memories and reflections with which I concur. It is a mixed bag. Indeed, as my first grandchild comes to be baptised (in Christ Church Gosford) tomorrow, and in the wake of the Australian postal vote on marriage equality, it leaves me pondering: what will be the shape of the Church in another 25 years?...
Nei Neiwa Yi Yu Gali. I’m sorry, I don’t know many words of local language: especially the words used for celebrations just like this, in this place, for thousands of years. So those words will have to do. But imagine that. Imagine all who have gathered, like us, for thousands of years in this Darkinjung and Guringai country: meeting, binding in love, feasting, singing, and dancing, the joy of human relationship. Nei Neiwa Yi Yu Gali: we walk, or dance, together, with Mother Earth. Don’t we?! Isn’t that what we do today: aren’t we dancing a celebration, together, with this part of Mother Earth, and with these two remarkable people, Cathleen and James, who owe so much to this place.
Thank you everyone for gathering here and thank you, Cathleen and James, for choosing to bring us here - and not to Sydney. For this is a truly amazing area with fabulous people and places. Indeed, it is an area full of Indigenous birthing places: like the birth canal which runs out from Narara, James’ homeland; close to Gosford School, where James and Cathleen first met; out past the Gosford Anglican site where Cathleen first lived and where she and James have just been married; further out past our family home in wonderful Woy Woy, towards Sydney, where Cathleen and James now live; and to the sea, a living expression of the depth and open future to which they are now called, into a new birth together, in the mystery of love.
Today is James and Cathleen’s day. So let me just share three brief things. Unusually, for me, they are from three men and no women. For, throughout Cathleen’s life in Australia, I have been part of a female household: fabulous females indeed, but all females, even both our dogs. So it is a huge joy fully to welcome James into my closest family, as a fellow male. Maybe God - bless her - has finally started to readdress the balance?! At any rate, Beeny, today, just for once, I’m going to ditch my usual feminist desire for inclusivity, and offer you, with James, three pieces of masculine wisdom...
Two weeks ago I shared in the gorgeous wedding of my daughter Cathleen and James Murch. It was a delightful occasion and one which, I quickly realised, also represented quite a time and rite of transition for myself. Happily the wedding took place at St Mary's Anglican Church in Gosford, because of James' family origins and our continued family connections with friends on the NSW Central Coast, not least Fr Rod Bower who led the ceremony. Through the kindness and generosity of Lorraine and Jeff Long in Umina, we were also able to begin the bridal party journey from our beloved Woy Woy Peninsula. As such, it was such a joy to travel by limousine past so many places of family and personal significance: along Ocean Drive, up past St Luke's Woy Woy, past the station and portal to Sydney, along the beautiful Brisbane Water Drive, past Cathleen and James' old school, past Kibble Park and several special event memories there, along Mann Street with a glance at Central Coast Stadium, and to the church site itself where we had spent so much enjoyable time in the first years of emigration from England. The occasion linked all of that, and so much more, with fine and enjoyable wedding celebrations, sprinkled with quirky, loving features typical of the couple. In doing so, it took us all into new space, consolidating James and Cathleen's relationship in many vital new ways, and taking each of us who are close to them into new spaces and relationships of our own.
Jo Inkpin is an Anglican priest serving as Minister of Pitt St Uniting Church in Sydney, a trans woman, theologian & justice activist. These are some of my reflections on life, spirit, and the search for peace, justice & sustainable creation.