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All are invited to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the ordination of women

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On Tuesday 30 April 2024, there will be a special service of Choral Evensong at Norwich Cathedral to mark this year’s 30th anniversary of the first ordination of women to the priesthood in the Church of England. 

At 11am on Saturday 30 April 1994, a service took place in Norwich Cathedral for the ordination of 20 women as priests. It was the first of its kind in the Diocese of Norwich. 

The service on Tuesday will see a handful of the original 20 women, who were ordained in Norwich on this day 30 years ago, join together once more. The group of women will robe together with one of the original 20 reading the first lesson. The service begins at 5.30pm on the 30 April 2024.  

The Revd Canon Julie Boyd is the Bishop’s Adviser for Women’s Ministry and Team Rector for the Aylsham and District Team Ministry. Revd Canon Julie says: “There is so much to be thankful for. We celebrate how the ministry of those first women ordained in 1994 paved the way for so many others to fully explore their call to ministry.  We celebrate the ministry of all women and men serving God alongside one another in ways that welcome others in, no matter who they are.  We give thanks to God for the hope we have for the church of tomorrow, full of grace and love.” 

The first female Bishop of Lynn, the Rt Revd Dr Jane Steen joined the Diocese in 2021. Bishop Jane says: “It’s a great joy to celebrate thirty years of women’s ordained priestly ministry.  As the whole people of God, lay and ordained, work out our calling, we seek to fulfil the baptismal vocation the Lord has given us, and it is a blessing that the Church offers a variety of ministries in which those callings can be expressed.” 

The Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham Usher says: “It will be an utter joy to mark the 30th anniversary of women being ordained priest in the Church of England. We will be joined in the cathedral and online by some of the 20 women who were ordained on that day exactly thirty years ago. Each has given much to our life together in this diocese. One of their contemporaries ordained in another diocese was Canon Sally Theakston and I benefit hugely, in her role as my chaplain, from her wisdom and pastoral care. I thank God for those pioneer women and all who serve God’s church in ministry today.” 

The Bishop’s Chaplain, the Revd Canon Sally Theakston will be taking part in the service. Sally was ordained in 1994 and became the first female Anglican chaplain to serve in the Royal Navy. She joined the Diocese of Norwich in 2002.  She says: “As we mark the 30th anniversary of the ordination of women to the priesthood I am grateful for the women and men who worked to make this possible.  We owe a debt of gratitude to women who served faithfully as Lay workers, Deaconesses and Deacons and whose priestly calling was never formally recognised.  This service, and others taking place throughout the Church of England, will be occasions of great joy.” 

The first female Archdeacon of Lynn, the Venerable Catherine Dobson was appointed in 2022. Archdeacon Catherine says: “As we celebrate this anniversary, we give thanks to God for the ministry of all clergy, and especially for those who have campaigned over the last 30 years, as we seek to reflect more closely the kingdom of heaven on earth.  When I hear the stories of those who were at the forefront of making this change a reality 30 years ago, I am deeply humbled by their determination and fortitude and I am thankful that they have made my ministry and the ministry of all female clergy possible today.” 

The service is taking place at Norwich Cathedral. The Dean of Norwich Cathedral, the Very Revd Dr Andrew Braddock says: “Norwich Cathedral will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the first ordination of women as priest with a keen sense of thanksgiving. Looking back with gratitude, this milestone also encourages us to continue working for equality and diversity within the Church and beyond today.” 

Everyone is welcome to attend the service on Tuesday 30 April at 5.30pm in person or you can watch the live stream here.