Praise God for the ministry of women

judy adamson
Praise God for the ministry of women image

The 30th anniversary of women’s ordination into the diaconate will be celebrated this month at the place where it all began: St Andrew’s Cathedral.

The director of studies at Mary Andrews College, the Rev Jackie Stoneman, was one of 28 people – 14 women and 14 men – to be ordained on that summer’s day in 1989. Looking back, she describes it as a “very significant” event.

The congregation burst into applause

“When the service finished the whole Cathedral burst into spontaneous applause!” she recalls. “It was wonderful. I really felt sorry for the fellows – they were involved in this historic moment but for them it had been happening for years.

“[In the past], when women came out of college, some were made deaconesses but others were licensed as a parish sister, which was a really weird title because everybody thought you were a nurse! One of the benefits of actually getting ordained was that you could say, ‘I’m a minister’ and it made sense to people. There was the recognition within the church and the community.”

"I'm a minister"

Miss Stoneman says the celebration will take place as part of the Cathedral’s normal Thursday night service on May 23. The Archbishop will attend but the Dean, Kanishka Raffel, will lead the service and a number of ordinands from 1989 will take part – including the Rev Di Nicolios, the Diocese’s first Archdeacon for Women’s Ministry, who will preach on 2 Timothy 4:1-8.

The significance of 2 Timothy 4:1-8

“Paul’s towards the end of his ministry, and he’s encouraging Timothy as he hands the baton on to keep on proclaiming the truth about Jesus and keep on working in the ministry he’s been called to,” she says. “And for Paul, he’s finished the race… he’s kept the faith and the crown of glory’s awaiting him, which all who believe in Jesus are looking forward to.

“It does apply to us – we’re all still powering on because you never really retire in ministry – but it’s also an encouragement that it’s okay to be handing on to others as we head towards finishing our race. It’s wonderful to still be able to serve God and his people.”

"We're all still powering on because you never really retire in ministry"

One of Miss Nicolios’s strongest memories of her ordination was the support she received from the church where she worked at the time.

“I was working in Annandale parish and my rector had really encouraged me to put my hand up to become a deacon,” she says. “He said, ‘That’s what you’re doing here already – it’s a recognition of your current ministry’.

"That's what your doing already"

“The ordinations in those days were still on a Sunday, so he cancelled the service and all the congregation came into the Cathedral for the ordination! I’d been there for five years or so after I left college and knew people well, and they were all so excited. It was a fantastic time.

30 years of faithful gospel proclamation 

The present Archdeacon for Women’s Ministry, the Ven Kara Hartley, will be interviewing two women on the night – one from the first group to be ordained, and one younger deacon. She says the service will be a great opportunity to give thanks “for the partnership that men and women have enjoyed in the diaconal ministry for the past 30 years… and also in the broader landscape of ministry.

“It’s such a milestone for these women – 30 years of faithful gospel ministry and gospel proclamation, and praise God for that.”

"Praise God for that"

The Rev Dr Keith Condie, one of the men ordained in 1989, says, “It was a great honour to be there on that day with those women… There was an acknowledgement that many – probably all of them – already had very significant ministries which us guys hadn’t had, because we were just starting out. For them to then go on and make some extraordinary contributions in a whole range of different contexts since that time has been a wonderful thing to see as well.”