What’s the collective noun for…

…a gathering of 70 young women interested in ordination?

I’ve no idea. A group of vicars is a ‘prudence’. A host of ladybirds is a ‘loveliness’. Quite frankly, it matters not a jot what the correct collective noun is, the fact that it happened in the first place is utterly awesome.

Did you know that women in their 20’s (and particularly of an evangelical inclination) are the least represented demographic amongst ordinands? There are many reasons why this is the case. Possibly, young women are more reticent about coming forward. Perhaps they lack role models to encourage them in their calling. Chances are, they’re worried about the role of being a woman in a church that doesn’t always welcome their gender. Maybe they’re terrified of the uniform. Whatever it is, it’s likely to be something that can be overcome with a little work.

This is where #ywv2013 came in. A day to encourage young women to explore what God might be calling them into.

youngwomen_churchweb

I was there largely thanks to its location – my vicar school – and my enthusiastic response to the Dean’s suggestion that a few female ordinands go along to share their experiences. Of course, given the way the church works, it turned out I knew several people on the planning team and attending the day themselves, so it was a great opportunity to network and catch up too. (Fear not Dean, I did also emphasise what a jolly good time I’m having at college and plugged St Mellitus where appropriate.)

It was soon abundantly clear that this was going to be a very exciting day. 70 women from across the country felt that God was possibly calling them to ordination – people travelled from as far afield as Doncaster and Cardiff to be there. The team was excited at the response and the guests were excited to be with like-minded contemporaries. The future of the Church of England all of a sudden looked to be a much brighter place for women!

Young women gather at St Jude'sListening to Helen Fraser share her experiences of selection, training & curacy.

It wasn’t long before I wished that something similar had been held five years ago when I began exploring my calling. I was comparatively lucky, as I knew people who had been through the process and were just ahead of me in it. Most of these were women – and single women at that. Someone I chatted to on Saturday said I was the first single female ordinand she’d met! I also have parents who’ve been through it and have (literally) written a book on the process. I had plenty of people to talk to and never felt isolated. However, that is definitely the exception rather than the rule. The majority of those present on Saturday had come on their own, desperate to find people who they could learn from, confide in and ask questions of. It was an enormous privilege to be able to provide some form of solidarity with them!

There are all sorts of perceived barriers to ordination when you’re a young woman:

  • Is it biblical for a woman to lead a church?
  • I’ve never heard a woman preach – are there any good ones?
  • Clerical shirts look rubbish on women, especially if you’re blessed with a chest…
  • What will my husband do?/Who wants to marry a vicar?
  • Can I lead a church without a husband?

That last one really hit me yesterday, while at a conference for the network of churches that my church is a part of. There wasn’t a single female vicar present – every church was led by a married man, with a supportive wife. (More positively, there were at least five female ordinands in the room.) They accounted for the majority of evangelical churches in London. If you’re a member of one of those churches, where do you draw your inspiration from? Who are your role models? It’s something I find incredibly difficult every time I’m in one of those gatherings. (Although don’t get me wrong, the churches are doing great things, it’s just frustrating that women are noticeable in their absence – well, to me and the other female ordinands I chatted with. Should I mention I also got asked to join a panel of 4 curates/ordinands “as a woman”?? I digress…)

This is why we need these days. So that young women can see the amazing things that female clergy have already achieved. That even in a world without female bishops, good stuff is happening. That you can be married, and a mother, or single and still live out your calling. That there are lots of other women exploring the same call, and they’re not freaks. That life does not end once you become selected for ordination, it’s only just beginning…

 

Speak Your Mind

*

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.