Pioneering Norfolk vicar hangs up her dog collar
2008: She was one Norfolk's first women priests, but now the Rev Gill Bridges is to hang up her dog collar.
The 65-year-old Sprowston vicar will retire at the end of the month after 20 years of ministry in the county.
And while the Rev Bridges said she has loved her time working for the Church of England, she is looking forward to being able to spend more time volunteering and indulging in her passion for walking and caravanning.
Through her role in the church she has worked in Hellesdon, West Earlham and Lakenham and for the past nine years in Sprowston, at St Cuthbert's in Wroxham Road and at St Mary and Margaret's in Church Lane.
She said: “It's such an enormous privilege to be part of people's lives for just a little while at perhaps their happiest and saddest times.
“The church is like a family and so it's going to be very hard to leave. We have got such a super team and I think the people of Sprowston are particularly good at welcoming people in a laid back way.
“They don't make a big fuss but they just welcome new people and work with them.
“I still love the work and will hopefully continue to help out with holiday cover, but it is a huge commitment and I'm very aware that I get more tired now.
“You need lots of energy to do the job.”
Before being ordained, the Rev Bridges travelled around the world with her husband Sid, who was in the RAF.
During this time she held a variety of jobs, working in a laboratory, shops, pulling pints behind a bar, as a training instructor in Sainsbury's and a counsellor in a charity.
The couple, who have two daughters and three grandchildren, fell in love with Norwich 32 years ago while stationed at RAF Coltishall and made Hellesdon their home.
It was 26 years ago when her then vicar told her he thought God was calling her into the ordained ministry.
She agreed and that was the start of a long process of selection and training until she was ordained deacon 20 years ago and then priest alongside many of her female colleagues following the introduction of women priests in 1994.
A member of Norwich's Movement for the Ordination of Women Group, Rev Bridges said: “One of the most fulfilling aspects is having been part of the great developments in ministry since I was first selected for training as a voluntary deaconess, before women wore dog collars.
“I am proud to have been part of this freeing of women and men alike into much more creative and suitable posts.”
She added: “Women have virtually equal opportunities to men; already we are to have a woman archdeacon here in Norwich, and I hope it won't be long before we have a woman bishop in the country.”
The Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Rev Graham James, said: “Gill has been so much a part of the church's ministry in Sprowston and Beeston that it's difficult to imagine life there without her.
“Gill's pastoral care, practical wisdom and instinctive understanding of people are part of why she's held in such affection. We wish her a long and happy retirement, and we're very glad that she will be staying in Norwich.”
A service to mark Rev Bridges' retirement will be held at 10.30am on Sunday, September 21, at St Cuthbert's, in Wroxham Road.
It will be followed by a party to celebrate her 20 years of ministry.
Story and picture courtesy of www.eveningnews24.co.uk