(Photo: Diocese of New Westminster)
What a kaleidoscope of feelings we have been through this evening! There was such a tremendous air of expectation as people began to fill the Cathedral just after 7:00 p.m. Even then, there was a large crowd - by 8:00 p.m. the church was full and people were standing in nooks and crannies.
I sat beside a fellow from Nigeria on one side and a woman from Victoria, a parishioner of the Cathedral there, on my other side -this event being such a major one for all of us from many places in the Anglican Church.
Bishop David Sommerville’s sermon stressed the importance of ministry for all of us - no direct references to what was the major development in our church tonight - the ordination of women! In the middle of his sermon he stopped as 5 men marched down the aisle carrying a very long pew and set it down up front for more people to seat. In his relaxed, gentle, gracious style, the Bishop carried on. He continued with the service in this same manner even when Rev. Jim Pennrice marched to the front of the church and presented his objections to the ordination going forward. The objections were written on a scroll which Rev. Pennrice read from and then presented to the Bishop. The Bishop received the scroll and stated that the service would continue. Rev. Pennrice left the church.
I felt so angry, degraded that this view is prevalent in the church that I love. But the reality is that people will leave the Anglican Church because they object to women priests. This Anglican Church that can feel the groaning and challenge of the Holy Spirit and respond faithfully, as it did tonight.
There was a strong image of patriarchy at the time of the ordinations - a large group of male priests clustered around first Elspeth and then Virginia with arms outstretched to bless their ministry. But then, these are the men who support their ministry and will be their co-workers in the Diocese. When the Bishop presented the three newly ordained priests, people clapped and clapped! Elspeth cried as did many of us in the congregation.
For the rest of the service there was an acceptance of this new role for women in our church, as if we had been consecrating and sharing the bread and wine for years. I thought of my children and gave thanks that they will see women in this role as priest when they attend church and it will be normal for them. At the communion rail as I received the eucharist I was full of gratitude that women can enter into the full ministry of the priesthood - there is no limit to their ministry. For many of us this has been a long struggle to see the fulfillment of inclusion of women in all ministries.
There was great rejoicing downstairs after, at the reception. What a wonderful feeling to be able to share in community this very important and long overdue event in our church. It was joyous! And it is Advent - what a perfect time full of expectation and hope!