This afternoon I went to the induction of a new priest at a parish not far from here. The service was just the kind of joyful celebration you might expect but it also opened my eyes to an aspect of the Church of England that I might otherwise have forgotten about.
You see, the parish in question belongs to Forward in Faith and the service featured not only our own diocesan bishop but also a Provincial Episcopal Visitor...a flying bishop to the world at large. Both bishops and the new incumbent were gracious and charming, but I was brought up short by one visiting cleric who decided that the only safe policy when confronted by a woman in choir dress, was to pretend you hadn't seen her, even if she was directly in front of you and attempting to share the Peace.
My own parish is well "up the candle" and I know that not everyone in the congregation felt able to welcome my advent, but even those who have the biggest issues with my sex and calling have been uniformly polite and friendly to me personally. There will be some who find that my priesting this summer brings their anxieties to a head, and some who feel that they cannot in conscience remain in a church where a clergywoman ministers, but I feel sure that none of them would ever be less than kind as they wrestle with their consciences. The whole "feel" of the afternoon reminded me very strongly of the Anglo Catholic churches in which I worshipped 20 years ago, and also made me aware of how much my own attitudes have changed....I came back from the service feeling very raw and bruised, but on reflection I'm glad I was there and even glad of that negative experience...I'm also very very glad of our bishop, who was hugely affirming in a climate where I felt unwelcome simply because I was myself, Kathryn.