Women take difficult journey into priesthood: Andrew Brown talks to two of the female ministers in the first group to be ordained this week

THIRTY-TWO women will be ordained priests in Bristol cathedral next Saturday, the first in Britain. They range in age from 30 to 69 and all but the eldest are already working in the church.

The two youngest, Karen McKinnon and Jean Kings, are deacons in Lockleaze, a post-war council estate in the north of the city. The Rev Karen McKinnon has been the full-time parish deacon at the church of St Francis and St Mary Magdalene for the last two years.

She will become the youngest woman priest in England when ordained. Her journey has been straightforward compared to that of some of her fellow priests. Sister Rosemary Dawn Watling has been a deacon since 1970; Christine Clarke since 1971. But Ms McKinnon has had to wait only an extra year as a deacon, compared to the men who studied alongside her.

She has wanted to be a Christian minister for 17 years, since she was a 13-year-old Pentecostalist. 'But the Pentecostalists don't let women do anything,' she said.

While reading Theology at Exeter University she met a retired Anglican deaconess whose stories of her life persuaded her to become an Anglican. She was accepted for training to the ministry at her second attempt: the first time round she was turned down as too new a convert.

In Bristol she has encountered no prejudice against women priests, though once in Hull when she was distributing communion wine, which is not a priestly function, one woman pushed the cup away at the altar rails and left with her family.

She says that becoming a curate rather than a deacon will make little practical difference to her life. It is not the ability to pronounce the words of consecration at the Eucharist but the power she will acquire on Saturday to give absolutions after confessions that will make the difference.

One elderly member of the Lockleaze congregation, Louise Jones, who was brought up as a German Roman Catholic, said she had not been to confession for 45 years because if she did her confession would have to be made to a man. 'It is also a help to the priest himself that he will not need to hear all women's confessions in the future,' she said.

Most of the congregation could not see what the fuss was about: the ordination of women could not possibly threaten the identity of the Church of England as it has done for those priests who will leave as a result. It was an issue of justice or of competence rewarded. Almost all the deacons to be ordained on Saturday are in their thirties and forties, and they are barred by the legislation from becoming bishops.

Father Paul Denyer, in charge at Lockleaze, will soon have a staff of four including himself for his congregation: Ms McKinnon; Judith Carpenter, who is studying for the priesthood at the local theological college; and Ms Kings, a part-time parish deacon who is also chaplain at the University of the West of England.

'It will not make much difference to my job as a chaplain,' Ms Kings said. 'People who have experienced a woman's ministry seem to lose their objections. The first time I preached at home you could have sliced the atmosphere with a knife beforehand. But afterwards people were delighted.'

She added: 'Most of the Catholic laity I know are in favour. I did a debate at the local Catholic church on the motion 'This house believes women can be priests', and we won by a large margin.'

But Ms Kings saw difficulties ahead for the women once they had been ordained. 'There is no doubt that there are people who would withdraw all decision-making from women - but we will be less disenfranchised after this.

'Of course some people are afraid of us because they think we are all big and butch. Some of us may be big but most of us aren't butch. Most people, if you say God's calling you, they give you the dignity of believing it.'

(Photograph omitted)

News
peoplePerformer had recently been diagnosed with prostate cancer
News
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
News
The comedian, 42, made the controversial comment following the athlete’s sentencing to five years for the culpable homicide of Reeva Steenkamp on Tuesday
people
Life and Style
Could you tell the difference between this and an organic alternative?
food + drink

Culinary experts in The Netherlands thought it was 'fresh' and 'tasty'

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
One Direction
music
Sport
Today's Liverpool Echo back page
football
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Arts and Entertainment
JK Rowling will not be releasing a 'romance' novel anytime soon
books
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to US
Life and Style
tech

Of all the computers Apple has ever made there’s only one that Steve Jobs had to sell his car to finance

Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidates on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
News
One of the 'princesses' in the video
videoYouTube reinstates sweary video after takedown for 'violating terms'
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
Arts and Entertainment
film

Marvel has released first teaser trailer week early after it leaked online

Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Developer with T-SQL, Watford, Hertfordshire - £350 - £360

£350 - £360 per day: Ashdown Group: SQL Developer with T-SQL, Watford, Hertfor...

Business Intelligence Consultant - Central London - £80,000

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Business Intelligence Consultant - C...

SEN Teaching Assistant

£70 - £85 per day: Randstad Education Group: SEN Teaching Assistants needed in...

Year 4 Teacher required for 2 terms

£21500 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education ar...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?