I attended a very fine Eucharist today at St Paul’s Cathedral, celebrating twenty years of women’s ordination to the priesthood in this diocese.
The liturgy was strongly led by Bp Barbara, and a great sermon was preached by Colleen O’Reilly, interweaving the Johannine text (Mary Magdalene’s meeting with the risen Christ in the Easter garden) with the story of women’s ordination. Colleen reminded us too that the authentic descriptor for a priest was not ‘woman’ but ‘faithful’.
There was lovely cantoring by Muriel Porter, and a choir sensitively and ably led by Elizabeth-Anne Nixon. For women clergy, the Service included a re-affirmation of our commitment to our ministry and a blessing by Archbishop Keith Rayner.
Afterwards, as we all huddled on the steps — more than fifty of us — to have our photo taken, there was a sense of euphoria and joy. If this is not irreverent, I was reminded of Jesus’ saying in Luke 10:23-24: ‘Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.’
A great celebration indeed, and heartening for all who attended: that was exclusively and rightly the focus of today’s event.
But the war is not yet won. We still have a way to go and today was an oasis, a deeply-felt thanksgiving to God, as we pick up our packs and prepare to journey on.
There are still dioceses in this country that will not ordain women as priests. What we take for granted in the Melbourne diocese, they don’t yet have. There are countries overseas which, though coming breath-takingly close, are still not consecrating women as bishops — though we in Australia will soon have four women bishops, including Bishop-Elect Alison. There are still husbands who demand obedient and submissive wives in their homes and cloak their need for power in wooden exegesis and threadbare theology.
And also for us here in our diocese, there are still those who would discourage women from responding to their call — who would push us back to a time more than twenty years ago, when men led and women followed.
There are even choirs in this country, in this diocese —well, yes, in this Cathedral, as a matter of fact — who will not, by definition, permit women and girls to join them.