‘A momentous and uplifting occasion’ - 25 years of the Ordination of Women celebrated by the Diocese of Leeds

People from across the diocese packed Ripon Cathedral to mark the Silver Anniversary of the ordination of women as priests in the Church of England.

The special service was presided over by the Rt Revd Nick Baines, Bishop of Leeds, and the Rt Revd Dr Helen-Ann Hartley, Bishop of Ripon, was the preacher. 

25 years ago on the eve and morning of Trinity Sunday, 25 women were ordained as priests in Ripon Cathedral. That same year saw Wakefield Cathedral hosting the ordination of 19 women and a further 12 in Bradford Cathedral. Some of those first women to be made priests were present at the service, along with many other women who have been ordained in the diocese since. 

The service also included interviews with the Revd Canon Cathy Milford and the Revd Jane Finn (pictured below), two ordained women, both at opposite ends of their journeys as priests, who answered questions and shared their gratitude for all the people who had made ordained ministry possible. 

At the start Bishop of Leeds, Nick Baines, commented that the ordination of women represented “a momentous and massive change for the Church of England” in its recent history. 

Drawing on her fondness for archaeology and Dr Who, Bishop Helen-Ann Hartley (pictured left and above), during her sermon spoke of life being about discovery. In relation to the ordination of women as priests she went on to ask, “What, I wonder have we discovered in the last 25 years of women ordained as priests in the Church of England? And more to the point, does anybody really care? The answer of course, is a hopeful yes, but the reality is possibly less than that.”

“The story we tell ourselves might not be the story others tell about us; and in any case: what exactly is the story we are seeking to share? Do we have the courage to proclaim it, and are we prepared to be transformed by it?

“The ordination of women to the priesthood surely takes us deeper than gender equality into how we model God.

“What has to be acknowledged is how much we have come to know through the ordination of women, and how much the Church would have otherwise missed, and of which we would all have been deprived.

“This may not a universal cause for celebration….but it should be acknowledged that we have all been changed by it.”

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