Celebrating 20 years of women priests in the Diocese of St Asaph

The priestly ministry of women will be celebrated in St Asaph Cathedral as part of events across Wales to mark 20 years of women’s ordination.

Among the first women priests at St AsaphThe first women ordained in January 1997 will be joined by the Bishop of Gloucester, the Rt Revd Rachel Treweek and the Bishop of St Asaph, the Rt Revd Gregory Cameron for the special service on Saturday 7 January at 11am.

The anniversary comes just weeks ahead of another milestone in women’s ministry in Wales – the consecration of the first woman bishop, Canon Joanna Penberthy, as Bishop of St David’s Diocese, on January 21.

Ordinations Jan 1997History was made on January 11, 1997, when every cathedral in Wales held their first ordination service for women priests. Sixty-one women were ordained on that day and their names have been featured in a logo designed for the anniversary. Many of them will be taking part in the services on January 7.

The Bishop of St Asaph, Gregory Cameron said: “Today it’s impossible for me to think of a Church in which we don’t celebrate and welcome the equal ministry of women. We really can give thanks for the huge step forward that the Church in Wales took in 1997.

“We’ve been greatly enriched by the dedication, service and insight of so many women over this period. May God continue this blessing.”

One of the first women ordained priest in the Diocese of St Asaph was the Revd Margaret Harvey.  At the time, she was Deacon-in-Charge of the Parish of Bryneglwys, near Corwen.  She said: “For me the most exciting part of that weekend in January 1997 was what happened the morning after ordination at the end of my first Sunday morning Eucharist as priest.  As usual people gathered around the font to chat about the service.  Someone said we didn’t think it would be different but it was.  Now we understand, it isn’t your meal, it’s ours.”

Services will be taking place in all six Cathedrals across Wales.  The idea for a simultaneous celebration was first put forward by the St Deiniol’s Group, an informal group of senior lay and ordained women from across the Church in Wales, whose members in each diocese have been involved in the planning.

Details of the cathedral services taking place on January 7 are as follows:

  • St Asaph (preacher, the Bishop of Gloucester, Rachel Treweek);
  • Bangor (preacher, Enid Morgan);
  • Brecon (preacher, Canon Carol Wardman);
  • Llandaff (preacher: Canon Jenny Wigley);
  • Newport (Bishop Dominic Walker);
  • St David’s (Canon Joanna Penberthy).

A collection will be taken for Welsh Women’s Aid at the service at St Asaph Cathedral.

For more information about women’s ministry in St Asaph see Teulu Asaph and for the history of women’s ministry in Wales, see the Crossing Thresholds book.