We talked to Janet Roberts Priest in Charge at St Nicholas Blundellsands about her memories of to mark the 20th anniversary of the ordination of women to the Priesthood.
Q. What memories do you have of your ordination?
My memory of the ordination is of it being a very joyful occasion, the cathedral was packed & there were not enough tickets for all the folks who wanted to come in support of the occasion.As we walked from the well the 1st people I saw were four folks from my parish who I knew didn't have tickets. They told me afterwards that they had sneaked in.
Q. What was it like in the early days of your ministry? What challenges did you face – how did you feel?
In 1994 I had already been in ministry for 15 years as a parish worker, a deaconess & a deacon. People in the parishes I have worked in have always been very supportive & appreciative of my ministry; many could not understand why the church did not ordain women & why it took so long to happen. I did from time to time come across male clergy who were rude & dismissive but there were always plenty of others who were encouraging.
Q. What called you into ministry? What excited you, what challenged you?
I felt a call to ministry from when I first became a Christian & was told to go out & tell people.
The best things about ministry are seeing people come to faith, grow in faith & being in a privileged position to share in momentous moments in people’s lives.
Q. How has your ministry grown and changed over the years?
It now feels more equal & accepted, whereas when I began in ministry there were few women working in parishes & I was a novelty. Now people are used to women being vicars.
Q. What have been your highlights?
Working in collaborative ministry & seeing others ministries blossom. A particular joy was working with ordained local ministers & seeing their joy in being allowed to minister.
Q. Have you noticed a change in attitude to women in ministry? Has it got easier for women coming into ministry? Do you feel in any way the sense of being a trailblazer?
Yes I do feel as though I was a trailblazer because I was among the first women in this country to be ordained priest. I was an assistant for 18 years because that was the only option for women in ministry. Women are now treated exactly the same as men& do not realise how different it was 25 years ago. I remember Lena Prince saying the first job she was given to do as a parish worker was to clean the church toilets. I would be surprised if that sort of thing happens today.
Q. What has women’s ministry brought to the church?
I hope it has brought a more collaborative style & that the ministry of men & women is truly complementary. There are values in both & it is good to have both.
Q. What are your hopes for the future? – For yourselves personally and for women in general?
No particular hopes personally, only that God would call & equip all sorts of people with all sorts of gifts who can communicate Christ to all people. I would love to see a vibrant, lively church that encourages the ministry of every Christian, be that in the church or in their workplace & community.