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Vicar's Musings for Ordinary Sunday 23

7 September, 2014

Last Sunday there was an important meeting of the parish to consider the recently released Parish Council Report "The Question of Ordained Women's Ministry at the Altars of St Peter's Eastern Hill." For any parishioners or visitors who have not yet seen the report (a record of the 7 congregational meetings on the issue) there are plenty of spare copies available at the back of church. Parish Council member, Dr Rwth Stuckey, presented an analysis of the report to the meeting highlighting the following information:

  • Around 130 parishioners attended one or more of the congregational meetings.
  • Of those in attendance, 47 individuals gave a speech on the question.
  • There were 37 speakers who were clearly in favour of a change to the current parish practice of allowing only male priests to celebrate at the Eucharist.
  • 7 speakers were opposed to ordained women's ministry.
  • Of those opposed to ordained women's ministry, 2 specified that they would not leave the parish if change took place.
  • Another three speakers were unclear in what they said as to whether they were in favour or against any change.

There was an important discussion at the parish meeting concerning pastoral care. Whether we change or not, there will be parishioners who are hurt by the decision. Will we be inclusive of and pastorally sensitive towards such people? A number of speakers answered firmly in the affirmative, reflecting I think a strong sentiment in the parish: yes, we want to move forward together whatever the outcome. One speaker asked me for an assurance, should there be change, that the parish pew sheet would contain the names of officiating clergy for the following week. This would mean that those unable to accept the ministry of an ordained woman could plan ahead and attend another service if necessary. I gave my word that this will happen if the decision is for change in the parish.

Today there will be a straw poll (i.e. non-binding vote) at all Sunday Services. On arrival at church please check your name off the electoral roll and you will be given a voting slip and a pen. If your name is not on the electoral roll but you would still like to vote, you will be given a different coloured voting slip. The slips will be collected during the service. As your Vicar, and with ultimate Diocesan responsibility for worship at St Peter's under the Bishop, I will need to make the final decision on this question. My intent is to take a short retreat later this month, to seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and then to bring my decision to the September meeting of the Parish Council. The way ahead for us as a parish will then be clearly communicated amongst parishioners. Pray for me as I do for you.

The Rev'd Dr Hugh Kempster

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