Women and Faith

ANN JABLONSKI was born in 1944. As a teenager she gave up her Christian faith but now has a close relationship to the Anglican church through the Cathedral in Portsmouth, joining the congregation, volunteering as a bereavement counsellor, and supporting the church with an annual fundraiser.

She had initial reservations in joining the church, suffered sexism in her working life, and women’s role in the church:

“The role of women [in the church] has been absolutely essential.  You’ve got the women of the congregation and the women of the clergy.  That cathedral wouldn’t run without the women volunteers, that cathedral wouldn’t run.

Women were involved from quite early on with distributing the communion to the sick so that was quite unusual because it’s normally a clergy role and the …at that time the highest a woman could get in the congregation was as a Deacon. 

I always remember when we had our first woman Deacon. When they announced her appointment from the pulpit there was a ‘ooohhhhhh’ you could hear the in-take of breath ‘but she won’t be joining us because she’s pregnant’ argh –  there was another intake of breath…There was an exit from the congregation when she joined us, they could not accept it and toddled off to the Holy Spirit where they are still making trouble.”

SUE WARD was born in 1943, in Derbyshire and remembers the Methodist Church as being quite different to the Anglican church in its early acceptance of women as preachers:

The Methodist church was a ‘huge part’ of her early life and growing up that was where her identity lay. She moved to the Caribbean with her first husband where she taught in a school.  She is now Church Warden and a lay pastoral assistant, at the Anglican cathedral in Portsmouth:

“Interestingly I was at the beginning of the priesting of women before it happened when I was in Tottenham [London], we didn’t have a Ministry of Women group – MoW was it called? But we had a woman who was really keen, and I went to Canterbury to celebrate the MoW and remember seeing women in dog collars for the first time and thinking it was utterly alien and strange – but amazing…

Women’s role in the church has always been enormous it’s just that there is a concept that they were always being told to make the coffee, the tea, but actually no because there was always women’s groups.  There were always brilliant women speakers in the Methodist church who were often better than men there were lay preachers in the Methodist church who were women, it was the Anglican church that didn’t admit women.  I would say that women’s role in the Church has always really mattered and it’s a stereotypical role to say men wanted them to stay and make the tea.”

KITTY PRICE was born 1974 in Grantham Lincolnshire. Her father was a former Bishop of Portsmouth and was totally supported by her mother – with her parents always acting as a team.

After an academic pathway that took her to Masters level she went for ordination, but for various reasons did not continue through to Priesthood.

“I’m very critical of the Church of England but from within it not without…

When I was a late teenager, that was when women were ordained, so the change I wanted to see in the world, of the church, was happening…

My grandfather who was ordained late in life, having had a career as an architect, he was very against the ordination of women… and my grandmother had become a Roman Catholic, so was also against the ordination of women, but for different reasons.

And seeing the two of them love each other very very deeply but being so opposed on this debate was quite a good lesson really, because it showed that you can and you must love people, despite different views, but they had such fundamentally different views about the way the church was going…

A lot of the negativity would come from women about women’s ministry and I just cannot understand that. I just cannot understand it. The only argument that makes sense – I don’t agree with it – is that traditionally it’s been men, therefore we shouldn’t have women.

But I do wonder whether, certainly vicar’s wives, who are very against the ordination of women, whether there was an element of frustration, that they had their own vocation that had been put away very tightly in a personal box as they supported their husbands.… gender should not be an issue, should not prevent you from entering ministry in the Church.  That if you were not necessarily as effective in your ministry it should be nothing to do with your gender.