Celebrations marking the anniversary of Women's Ordination

First published on: 22nd March 2024

The service celebrating the anniversary of Women's Ordination was held on 12th March in the Lady Chapel at Liverpool Cathedral.

Several milestones were remembered; 80 years since the Revd. Bishop Ronald Hall ordained Florence Li Tim-Oi in the Diocese of Hong Kong and South China, the first woman ordained in the Anglican Communion. We also remembered the first women to be ordained priests in the Church of England, 30 years ago on 12th March 1994 in Bristol, and the GS vote 10 years ago in 2014 in favour of Women's Episcopy in the Church of England.

The service celebrated these milestones in women's ministry and gave thanks to God for all he has done through the priestly ministry of those women he has called.

Photo: The service leaders - Archdeacon Miranda, Revd Frances, Canon Amanda, Canon Ellen, and Verger Jen


Celebrating a Legacy: Bishop Hall's Impact on Women's Ordination

We spoke to Revd Frances Shoesmith about her connection to Bishop Hall and the celebrations:

"As the granddaughter of Bishop Hall, I've always been aware of my family's history, particularly his role as Bishop of Hong Kong during Japanese occupation. Despite the challenging circumstances, he continued his ministry until retirement in 1966. Recently, I've come to appreciate the profound impact of his decision to ordain Florence Li Tim-Oi as the first female priest in the Church of England, despite it being 50 years ahead of its time. Grandad knew he was breaking the rules, he'd talked to church people in London and had even been to talk to Number 10 Downing Street about his plans to ordain Florence as a woman priest.  He was told not to but he knew that if he didn't ordain her priest then some large congregations within Japanese-occupied territory wouldn't be able to receive Communion for the whole of the war. He didn't want that to happen so he decided to go ahead.

In preparing for our recent celebrations honouring women's ordination, I reflected on the personal significance of my grandad's actions. While I wasn't initially a churchgoer when the Church of England began ordaining women priests, I later felt a calling to pursue ordination myself. I appreciated that without my grandad's actions back in 1944 then this path might not have been open to me. He was one of the people who pushed the process forward to some extent. When we step forward and do something that pushes the boundaries like that, it can have an impact. I'm aware that for my grandad it was really hard for him to make that decision. Despite facing opposition and enduring personal hardships, he remained steadfast in his conviction.

His actions came at a cost; he was never offered another job as a bishop anywhere else so he stayed in Hong Kong all the way through until he retired. This meant the family was separated as my Dad and other family remained in England. The sacrifices we make when we do what we believe God is calling us to do can often affect us personally. So, like my grandad, we have to face those tough things. As Christians, it's about following God's call.

Participating in recent commemorations, such as the service at our Cathedral and a service at St. Martin in the Fields in London, back in January, has been deeply meaningful. It's a reminder of the progress we've made, yet also highlights the ongoing struggle for full acceptance of women in both the church and society. Bishop Rose Hudson-Wilkin, the first black woman bishop in the Church of England, eloquently articulated this at the service in London, underscoring the need to continue advocating for equality.

While we've come a long way, there's still much work to be done. As we honour the legacies of those who paved the way, let us remain committed to creating a more inclusive and equitable future, where all are welcomed at God's table."

Photo: The icon is of Revd Li Tim-Oi, draped with one of Bishop Hall's Chinese stoles, inherited by Revd Frances Shoesmith when she was ordained. 

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