25th October 2023

On Sunday 1st October all four deacons serving communion were women. Afterwards some of us were speculating that this might be the first time this had happened. If so, it was notable for not being notable! Most of us don’t find anything remarkable about women holding any office, or performing any function within the church.

Tyndale first elected women deacons in 1918 and yet it was not until 1976 that the women deacons were first invited to serve at communion!

These dates are interesting – the first coincides with women first being given the vote in parliamentary elections and the second is the year after the first woman became leader of a major political party in this country.

Some Christian denominations have been quicker than others to recognise the roles of women. The Roman Catholic Church will still not ordain women, but there are signs that it may be moving (slowly) towards eventually doing so.

To a very large extent the changes which have taken place reflect the way society more generally has moved. Famously, in the 18th century Dr Johnson reflected the view of most people (or at least most men) when he said:

“Sir, a woman’s preaching is like a dog’s walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.”

The fact that all twelve disciples were men reflected the society of the time. But it could be claimed that the first evangelists were women – Mary Magdalene and one or more other women (the gospel accounts vary) were the first to announce the news of the Resurrection.

Today we give thanks to God for the faithful service of so many women.

David T Roberts