Network Norwich and Norfolk > Regional News > Norfolk marks 20 years of women priests

Norfolk marks 20 years of women priests 

20 celebration womenTen female priests returned to Norwich Cathedral on April 30 – exactly 20 years from the day they were ordained - to celebrate the anniversary of women in the priesthood. 

There are now 96 women priests in Norwich diocese and many of them, along with other supporters, both male and female, packed into the cathedral to celebrate the advance that was made and the progress since. 

The Revd Canon Mair McFadyen spoke of how she was called into ministry in the 1980s and the irresistibility of that call.  The atmosphere was one of celebration and reflection as communion was shared and intercessions made.

Earlier in the day, four women shared their personal journeys into ministry and how the struggle for the ordination of women shaped that experience.  From Jane Durrell who started working for the church in 1966, and retired just two years before the first women were ordained, to Heather Cracknell – only a couple of years into her ordained pioneer ministry, the breadth of experience and challenges these women have faced was inspiring to hear.

Margaret Webster, a founder member of the national Movement for the Ordination of Women spoke of the dogged progress of the campaign “It was not easy-daisy path with occasional large events – it was often just a hard slog!”

women priested on 31394The Ven Jan McFarlane, Archdeacon of Norwich shared the elation she felt when she heard the news of the vote with fellow deacons and was among those first ordained in 1994, and the devastation when the vote for women bishops failed.  She also described the “peculiar pressure of being a ‘first’ female priest to lead a wedding/baptism and so on, with a sense that you had to perhaps be better than the men.  It could be a lonely place to be.” 

Heather Cracknell acknowledged the debt of gratitude to those women and men who had forged this path and provided role models for her.  She laid out the challenge of the struggle being part of the story, and our need to continue to challenge our society’s under-valuing of women.

The Right Revd Bishop Graham, Bishop of Norwich talked of the day being: “a reminder of where we have come from : to a generation now coming through into ministry where it’s as natural as breathing to have men and women working side-by-side.  As we celebrate this anniversary, it’s an opportunity to both reflect and to learn.”

Article and photos courtesy of

Pictured: the service at Norwich Cathedral and the women priested in 1994

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