Gaynor Tyler (d. 1990)
Rural Retreats and changing attitudes to women priests
My SSM ministry started in fairly conventional fashion as an Assistant Curate. Having hailed from a Church where collaborative ministry had at one time been the norm it has been a challenge coping with the varying opportunities to work collaboratively (or complete lack of ) over the years. Five years after being deaconed in 1990 I moved with Richard to Wales to live and offer from our home a small place of retreat providing what we called ‘Time Apart’. We intended running Rambling Retreats in the hills of Mid-Wales having experienced the slowing down and healing enabled by the open spaces, a kind of physical contemplative meditation. Things rarely turn out as one intends and we had to amend and develop our ideas. By various steps that included us accepting bed and breakfast guests as well as people on retreat, we arrived at a pattern which lasted seventeen years, welcoming people from all over the world. We always treated our B&B guests as much as possible as if they were on retreat and we often ate the evening meal with them and indeed had many long and wonderful conversations and several friendships.
We have always regarded whatever number came on our programmed retreats as being the right number. In our early days we scheduled a week’s walking retreat but only had one person book. This was a very busy nun from a large retreat house. I phoned to advise her of the situation and she said she would come anyway. At the end of the week she said the space and the peace had actually been just what she needed. Another time we had three people coming on a programmed retreat plus someone who just wanted time out and who did not want any input or interaction. At the last minute two pulled out. Again the one left said she needed to come but would do her own thing. She particularly wanted to go to the Centre for Alternative Technology. We said “Would you like us to take you?” She said yes. We replied: “We’ll take the theme ‘Journeys’”. The other person, perceiving it to be a rather unconventional form of retreat also said she would like to come. She later told us that that experience with us had changed her life.
You may have noticed that there hasn’t been much mention of ‘Church’. When we first came here, the place we bought was in a group of parishes whose vicar was firmly against women priests. I worked initially as a deacon but was told, when women were priested in Wales, that if I accepted the Bishop’s licence he would regard me as a lay person. This happened and in our tiny parish there was much upheaval for a while. I was at the same time licensed to the Deanery for several years, filling in when needed all over the Deanery which is in fact almost the size of Southwark! When we’ve offered our house and ourselves (as members of the church) as resources in the parish, in general the house has been taken up but not us – not until recently when having virtually retired we were asked by a priest who had moved to a relatively nearby parish to lead a PCC Away Day.
So the strands of my ministry have run in parallel rather than been interwoven. Things have changed: women priests are now welcomed. I sometimes think that my main church ministry has just been to be here as a woman priest. There are, however, still many fundamental issues to be resolved around SSMs (and the laity) and the art of collaborative ministry.
Revd Doris Goddard (d.1996)
Class of ’96 – the last of the old SOCs!
I was amazed to be recommended for training after a ‘thumbs down’ from my second ACCM selection (after a 10 year gap) but then an overturn from my Bishop, who also said I’d ‘fit in to the Southwark Ordination course’ -and that Martin Baddeley would look after me. My first interview with him was, I remember, short. He knew exactly why I wanted to be ordained – to serve in a school for secondary aged boys rejected from mainstream schooling, where I already was.The training passed in a happy blur-up to London each Tuesday evening, walking back to Waterloo to catch a train in a large gang of us, chatting about what we’d learnt, struggling to keep up with essays, and weekends away…
Ordination was in Guildford one sparkling sunny June morning, celebrating with those I loved best, then serving at school, in my home parish, then another parish in the deanery as NSM for 9 years. Then I felt called to apply for a house for duty in the Blackdown hills in Somerset, a county both my husband and I loved. I worked there for two or three days a week whilst completing my teaching years in Surrey (so that I left school at the same time as my tutor group, as I’d previously promised them), involving a weekly round trip of 220 miles, with four days teaching and three days in the parish- but so worth it.
Retiring from teaching at 60, after three years commuting, I sought to move to another house for duty on a bus route for my non-driver husband. I was told I was too old to ever have a stipendiary job in the C of E (I wasn’t looking to be paid). A year later, my Archdeacon was pleading with me to take on two little villages near the Polden hills half-time for three years. I’m still here after seven years, not really half-time, but very much part of the tight-knit community. Last year I became Chaplain to the local community hospital (how does one follow a full-timer?), and three mental health units, so am now employed by the NHS one day a week. I’m also County Chaplain to the Guides and Brownies, Trustee of the local foodbank, serving Chaplain at Wells Cathedral and Glastonbury Abbey amongst other things, but I’m happy to do them all, and still delighted to serve. It is a privilege to be alongside people not only at the important milestones – the baptisms and confirmations, the weddings and the many funerals, but taking a quiet Communion at an elderly person’s bedside, or leading a joyous service with child and adult.
SOC gave me knowledge, yes, but so much more…fellowship, and a quiet confidence that I was doing what the Lord wanted. I will be eternally grateful for the places I have been able to go, and the people I have been able to meet. As Martin Baddeley always said, to be able to exercise not ‘my’ ministry, but the Lord’s ministry through me.
I am so grateful to have been one of the last old SOCs!