Today is a significant anniversary for the Church of England. It marks 25 years since the first group of women were ordained priest in Bristol. It marked the end of a strange transition time, as I had trained alongside women, including Debbie, and my year were all ordained deacon in 1990. The men were ordained priest in 1991, but the women weren't, as the changes had not yet gone through.
Because of the timing of our move from Southwell Diocese to Coventry in 1994, Debs missed the big services in both cathedrals, but it worked out nicely as she and one other candidate were ordained at a special service at All Saints', Leamington Spa. As I was sharing here in Beverley the other day, Debs was 7 months pregnant at the time, and said Jono gave a big kick at the moment of ordination. You can see the 'bump' in the picture. That must explain why he now works for a church...!
It was St Barnabas' Day, 11 June 1994, so red stoles were worn. My first Sunday back on duty after Debbie died was Pentecost Sunday, when we also wear red, and this was the stole I wore. It's probably the only bit of clergy garb that really holds any significance for me - reminding me of her, and also that extraordinary day.
The following day, Debbie presided at communion at St James', Whitley - the first time a woman had ever done so, of course, and she also officiated at some other 'firsts' at other churches in the months (and even years) that followed. Back then it was all new, exciting and for some people deeply traumatic, but now it all seems very familiar and normal.