Yesterday I was very lucky to have a ticket to the service at St Paul’s Cathedral celebrating 20 years of women priests (or as I call them, ‘priests.’) In 1992 when the vote went through I was at university and I don’t really think it registered with me; I certainly don’t remember the 1994 ordinations. I was probably about as far away from the church as I could get at that point, so that isn’t exactly surprising.
The walk from Westminster to St Paul’s was lovely – laughter and sunshine along the way. We were some of the last into St Pauls (having been drinking fizz in the pub round the corner for a bit) so the 1994 cohort had already started to process in. We stood amid the applause and cheers watching the women walking in. And I realised then that I wanted to say thank you to all of them.
I’ve worked in places where being me has been a disadvantage. Imagine having a holiday job as a student – as a delivery assistant – where they wouldn’t let you drive the van because you were a woman… or as an AV technician when they didn’t trust you to lift a telly by yourself. So I’ve had moments where I’ve wondered why my skill was ignored just because I happened not to be a bloke. But only moments.
Their fight, their sacrifices, their banging of head against brick walls – all the arguments that were going on when I wasn’t even a Christmas and Easter attending C of E person – meant that 20 years later, I could walk into the DDO’s office with no questions asked. Well, there were lots of questions, but you know what I mean. My actual gender wasn’t part of the criteria. No-one said ‘no, you can’t do this, you’re not a chap.’ Women as priests are, in many places, unremarkable. And that is something to celebrate.