Celebrating 25 years of women deacons - Jenny Bowen

We spoke to Jenny Bowen about the 25 years since she was made a deacon in the Diocese of Liverpool.

Jenny Bowen was ordained as a deacon in 1987.

Jenny taught Geography at Bellerive girls school when she first became involved in church life, serving on the PCC, leading confirmation classes and visiting older people of the parish, all of which made her consider a full time church role.

“I knew that I couldn’t become a deacon or be priested at that time, but I knew that I wanted to serve God through ministry. I accepted the situation and was licensed as a Deaconess. However, once I was in that role, I really began to realise what I couldn’t do, which was quite frustrating as I was used to being able to do what I wanted – I had gone to university and had had a career as a teacher, and I was used to having my independence.”

Jenny was licensed to St Nicholas Blundellsands for three years and then she moved to St Mary’s West Derby in 1986 before becoming a deacon in 1987. Jenny was priested in 1994.

Jenny performed her first wedding at the church just five days after becoming a Deacon. “That was really quite special for me,” said Jennifer. “It felt like a big occasion for me as well as for the couple! I remember being very keen that it went smoothly, which it did. I got to know the family, and I often see the bride’s grandmother, who is now in her 90s, at the lunch club at St Mary’s.” Jenny has performed many weddings since.

Jenny’s experience at her first wedding differed to another experience she had where the bride was unhappy to be married by a woman. “I was down to take the wedding of one couple, and, when the bride found out that a woman would be in charge, she complained. It actually came to me as a shock that it was the bride, and not the groom, who didn’t want to be married by woman. At another wedding I did, I was told afterwards that the groom’s family weren’t happy about a woman conducting the service beforehand, but afterwards they were delighted how it went!”

Jenny also recalls a letter she and other female deacons received on the day that they were ordained in 1987. “We all received a personal letter from two priests who opposed the ordination of women. Although they still didn’t agree, they said that they hoped that they hadn’t offended us, and that they wished us every blessing in our ministry, which I found quite moving.”

Jenny adds, “Compared to other Dioceses around the country, Liverpool was always very supportive in its approach to women’s ordination. Bishop David Sheppard had a very positive approach to women in ministry. Although we had different titles to the men and there were things that we were not allowed to do, he referred to us on equal terms; we were just as important even though our ministry was different from men’s at that time.”

Jenny has recently retired but says that she has loved her time in ordained ministry. “Every day really is different, but in all of the varied things you do to support your church, you are still serving God.” She is now honorary curate at St. Mary’s West Derby working With Mark Colman and his team and ministry can still be quite a challenge!