I have discovered to my dismay that, although I thought I had now gone through all the boxes of my late father’s archives, sorted them and got a handle on what was left … I had forgotten about the boxes which had been stashed in another bedroom.

So I started on those today, and came across a letter I wrote to him in 1988 when I was attending Selection Conference to see if I would be recommended for ordination training.

By the time you get to the Conference, you’ve had numerous chats with your vicar, your vocations advisers, your Diocesan Director of Ordinands: in my case the diocese concerned threw in an extra, a Bishop’s Panel, just to add to the fun.


If you pass all those you get sent to the 3-day Conference. My letter begins:

‘Dear Pa,

By the time I leave here today, I will have attended 6 services, had 4 half-hour interviews, spent 2 and a half hours on a written exercise, taken part in 3 group discussions and been secretary to one group, had chats with 21 people (20 of whom were total strangers) and been scared stiff throughout – all on 0.01% of sleep and 120% proof coffee!’

I go on to give more details, especially the exchange with the Conference Chairman. I vividly remember sitting down in his room, and he began

“Now this is a really silly idea, isn’t it, Gill. I really don’t know why you’re here. You’ve got a husband who doesn’t know where he’s going” (at the time Hub was looking for a curacy or apprenticeship with an experienced vicar), “- 4 kids – it’s all quite crazy.”

I remember thinking ‘This is like riding a bucking bronco. I have to stay on if I possibly can. He’s trying to shake me off course.’ So I said: “Absolutely bats, I agree”!

Since that time I’ve acted as a vocations adviser myself – in fact, still do – and have heard various experiences of Selection Conference. It became clear that mine was particularly tough that year – it was before women could be priested, so I think the powers-that-were, were being more than usually difficult. Fewer than half of us were recommended, and most were men.

But I was, to my surprise. Which goes to show, sometimes it is just as well to be honest when you have an aggressive interviewer!

But behind it all were the steady prayers of my father. I know I have them still.



  1. It must have been really nice to come across the letter and to know your father had kept it all those years πŸ™‚

    It really is amazing they let women ‘in’ at all isn’t it really…. and it was so brave of you to put yourself up for it… and a real testament to your faith and the power of the Holy Spirit… Must have been very hard to stand up in front of all the men in those days….. very brave of you! πŸ™‚ Pioneering! :)xxx


    1. Well … not really brave at all … just putting one foot in front of the other becoz God told me to … and I wanted very clearly from the start to be a deacon, I’ve never had any priestly calling … which probably helped, even though women weren’t able to be priested then!

      Yes, I was touched the way Dad had kept things from me. I even found a poem I’d written as a teenager and given to him. I’d forgotten all about it.

      How is the Bother Back today?


      1. Bother back is ok so far….. a few twinges but nothing serious so far. Have slept with pillows under knees and a folded vest under small of back 8| as yer do….. which seems to have helped though it had me floundering about feeling trapped in the night :)) :))


      2. Sorry – accidentally clicked the thingy when I hadn’t finished.

        That is wonderful how God prompted you step by step towards being a Deacon. Somehow it makes sense to have a man and woman as priest and deacon together with their flock/family of a congregation……:yes: We could do with a female deacon to keep our male priest in order sometimes…. πŸ˜‰


      3. :yes: and because the Catholic church has got a well-worked-out diaconate (much more so than ours!) then it might be a possibility for women to enter the diaconate. After all, we did have them in the earliest church!


      4. I am not aware that Catholic diaconate is well worked out though I have read that it does NOT exclude women from becoming deacons….. it is just that there hasn’t been one and I suspect people are under the impression women aren’t allowed….. so that is VERY interesting…..!!

        We don’t have a deacon at our church – don’t know why – maybe just nobody wants to be one and it is a big parish… 600 through the doors for Sunday mass over three sittings if you see what I mean….

        When I first started coming to church the nuns used to jokeingly call me the deaconess for some reason!

        The MCPs will always be strong. Just glanced through one of the Catholic rags and felt so disheartened by the male attitude to women and abortion. I swear they don’t care about the unborn baby at all actually they just take out their hatred for the female on vulnerable young women – have to say it is the sticking point for me and sometimes I just think how can I remain a Catholic with such vile people sounding off and being very active?

        But they are just sinners…. have to remind myself not all Catholic men are like that……


      5. MCPs … ??? Scuse my ignorance 😳

        Yes, the Catholic diaconate has married men in it who act as assistants to the priest.

        I would find it very hard, having an all-male leadership whose theology seems to be a mixture not only of God stuff but also very much of ‘male self’ stuff – the Orthodox are much the same, and there’s a lot in common with Muslim attitudes to women as well – you know, it’s all ‘our’ fault if men are tempted etc etc.



      6. Male Chauvenist Pigs! :))

        But it is their error to be that way – it is their weakness and their sin – pride and arrogance and a lack of humility….and it is not in the teachings or the doctrines of the church… and my priest isn’t like that at all – in fact if anything he is much harder on the men….guess he hears confessions and knows the truth about them!

        I haven’t met that many priests obviously but the ones I’ve talked with are very warm towards women and not sexist at all. Our bishop is lovely… I don’t feel sexism in our church apart from in a few of the male congregation to be honest…..

        However… some of the religious men of various orders are a bit gruesome…. which is depressing. One who talked at my CCRS group…. if he comes back to this year’s group I am going to really take him to task very seriously and methodically. John the Baptist here… make straight the way of the Lord ……etc

        I do think Catholics are slowly modernising their attitudes and there are quite a few apologists out there who are turning things around re the sexism thing.

        Scott Hahn – a convert – kind of pointed out that when Eve was tempted by the serpent… what was Adam doing just standing there neither backing her up nor defending what she first said but just standing there like a typical male… letting the woman down and then blaming everything on her…. Apologists like that can change the mindset… open it up a bit.

        He is a convert of course….. :)) But this is why I am keen on ecumenism… we all hold good pieces of the great puzzle and let’s put them all together and make a perfect jigsaw……

        I feel change has to come from within and it will…..


      7. Yes, I’m sorry 😳 I didn’t mean to imply ALL leaders are like this … but far too many are :yes: But I am really pleased that things are slowly changing, and it does have to come out of theology, not out of our own feelings or even out of our secular context, although we have to keep being relevant!

        And I TOTALLY AGREE about Adam and Eve :yes: :yes: :yes: :yes:


      8. yes – it was refreshing to read that! When Catholics ‘get it’ they do get it big time…. takes a long time to change anything in the church as the Vatican only holds such councils every hundred years… But I read the priests or religious Catechism of the Catholic Church and it isn’t sexist and it is beautiful.

        I think humans like to twist things to suit their own ends and cash in on cultural traditions backed by random scriptural quotes to support them.

        There’s that great one about women having to honour their husbands and the husbands being the head… missing out the bit that says how the husbands are to honour their wives as they would their OWN BODIES…. now then… for a man to do that …. ???? Why don’t we get that bit read in church! :)) :)) I wonder…..

        Even Paul says we are all equal ….. there is no man no woman no Jew no Gentile etc in JC…. all are equal in him. Don’t hear that very often either πŸ˜‰

        Cultural traditions affect things a lot don’t they. I’d hate to live up north with northern men after what my northern female friends have told me who live down south with no intention of returning….

        My nun who is now living up north is horrified by it…. :))


  2. My guess is that you were incredibly lucky to be selected then. At about that time a friend (male) was turned down for NSM on the grounds ‘you are too keen to emulate your father’ – something I guess any child of the vicarage is/was likely to come up against however sincere his/her own vocation.


    1. Yes, I was so surprised. The Chairman (there are bits I haven’t posted from that letter) turned out to be flirtatious on the one hand and anti-women on the other. In his final sermon, he accused the women candidates of, and I quote, ‘fluttering your eyelashes at the susceptible chairman in the hope that he will select you.’ We were stunned – we thought we were there with a group of professionals and that the whole system was under prayer and a spiritual approach!

      The trouble is, in that situation we were very vulnerable, very conscious that the rest of our lives was in the hands of the selectors, and so although we talked about it amongst ourselves we didn’t feel able to say anything about it or raise any objection.

      However, once I got through I decided to raise the issue with my Dean for Women’s Ministry, on the grounds that somebody needed to know for the sake of future women candidates. Interestingly, she said ‘yes, this has been mentioned on previous occasions.’

      Sometimes I wonder how some people reach positions of influence in the C of E!


  3. What a lovely post..I enjoyed this Gilly!
    I came across letters my Mother had written to me a while back,I was sobbing at the end!!!

    It s always emotional to come across such things…

    Wow! WELL DONE that woman getting in!!! Brilliant.I never realised it could be so difficult, and especially for a woman back then!
    Well you showed them and did you Pa proud!!!xxx


      1. Why forlorn hope? In fact why don’t you think you will be read to the end? Your writings do not read like “the reverent and terribly appropriate clergy voice”.


      1. Believe it or not…I was ‘vetted’ by the Bishop…and the Chancellor of Cathedral…at the time…the latter…and I became fairly good friends….You might have heard of him: Prof Peter Hinchliff – was at Oxford…in latter years.


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