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Female priest ordained at colourful ceremony

By David G Scott

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A HISTORIC moment occurred in Thurso on Saturday when a woman was ordained as a priest at a lavish religious ceremony – the first time this has happened in Caithness.

The Most Revd Mark Strange – Bishop of Moray, Ross and Caithness – officiated at the event in which Ellie Charman became a priest after psalms were sung and epistles read aloud for the enthralled congregation of St Peter and the Holy Rood Episcopal Church.

Bishop Mark Strange in the act of ordaining Ellie Charman.
Bishop Mark Strange in the act of ordaining Ellie Charman.

Ellie, who lives in Thurso but was brought up in Zambia, said: "This is part of a very long journey involving three years of official discernment with the church and being deaconed last year was the first step on the journey to being a priest.

"I can serve anywhere in the Anglican Communion now as a priest. Being able to do that in sacramental fashion with people from all over the world and of all faiths is absolutely humbling."

She described the ordination as the "culmination of one long process" and the beginning of a new life within the Anglican community.

Bishop Mark Strange said before the ceremony: "Ellie has been working at St Peter and the Holy Rood and St John's in Wick for the past year as a deacon has reached the point where I will ordain her as a priest. This means she can now lead the sacramental service of the Holy Communion."

Ellie has also been taking services at Freswick Castle with Murray Watts who has created a chapel within its majestic walls.

The bishop, who travelled up from the Black Isle, said it was the first time in many years that a full-time curate had been ordained in Caithness. "It may even have been as far back as 1746 that the last one occurred."

Ellie said she looked forward to sharing the word of God within the Caithness community. "It's important to show that the church values the community and to share with it. We must look at what we do as a church to make people's lives better," she said.

The first woman ordained to the priesthood in the Anglican Communion was Florence Li Tim-Oi, who was ordained on January 25, 1944, in response to the crisis caused by the Japanese invasion. To avoid controversy, she resigned her licence, though not her priestly orders, after the end of the war.

The Scottish Episcopal Church ordained its first women as priests in 1994 and in 2003 provided for the ordination of women as bishops. The nomination of Alison Peden as one of three nominees for election as Bishop of Glasgow and Galloway in January 2010 attracted wide attention.

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