The first woman to be ordained to the Order of Deaconess in the Diocese of St Asaph is celebrating 50 years of ministry.
The Revd Margaret Harvey, who is originally from Flint, and now lives in St Asaph, was ordained as a deaconess in Bagillt Church on 13 October 1968. She went on to become one of the first women to be ordained as a priest in January 1997.
The Bishop of St Asaph, the Rt Revd Gregory Cameron will preach at a special service affirming women’s ministry and celebrating the 50th anniversary of Margaret’s ordination on Thursday 18 October at St Asaph Cathedral.
Bishop Gregory said: “Women’s ministry is thankfully now an equal part of the ministry offered by the Church in Wales. It is in large part down to women like Margaret who were prepared to answer God’s call and push on the door, that we now rightly see women in all roles in the church. I look forward to celebrating this important anniversary with her.”
A deaconess was originally licenced directly by the bishop for work in particular parishes. Their role was similar to that of a male deacon, but it wasn’t until 1980 that women could become deacons on the same basis as men and were admitted to ‘holy orders’. Women remained barred from priesthood until 1997, and from the role of bishop until 2013.
Margaret’s family in Flint were well known in the local community. Her grandparents had been the first couple to drive away in a car from their wedding service at the Congregational Chapel. She moved from Flint to Trinity College Bristol where she had previously studied and then taught theology. In 1986 she moved to Corwen and was a founding member of Coleg a Groes Retreat House and Community. At about that time, she was made Deacon-in-Charge on St Tysilio in Bryneglwys.
Margaret said: “It was a real privilege to be ordained a deaconess and minister to the people of Flint who I’d grown up with, knew and loved. I began work straight away leading and preaching at the Harvest Service.
“The years before we, as women, were ordained as priests enabled us to ponder the meaning of priesthood and made us demonstrate the need to develop creative thinking and action. As we now move into an era when women as priests is a concept which is generally accepted, it good to ponder the lessons we can learn from the stories of the past. It remains us that waiting, although painful, can be a very creative act, even if it seems too passive.”
The Jubilee service for Margaret takes place at St Asaph Cathedral on Thursday 18 October at 6pm and will be followed by refreshments. Everyone is welcome.