IT is 30 years ago that women priests were first ordained into the Church of England - and Bradford Cathedral is marking the anniversary with a special service

The Celebration of 30 years of Women Priests service will take place on Saturday, May 4 - almost three decades to the day when the first women were ordained at the Cathedral.

On Sunday, May 8, 1994 there were two sets of ordinations held in Bradford Cathedral. The Cathedral is seeking memories from people who were at the services.

Next month’s special service - which takes place at 11am and will focus on women’s voices - will be led by the Rev Canon Dr Sue Penfold, who was ordained at Bradford Cathedral at one of the first ordinations, and still regularly leads services there.

Also preaching at the service will be the Rt Revd Anna Eltringham, Bishop of Ripon, and there will be the commissioning of several new ‘Women’s Ministry Advisors’ for the Diocese of Leeds. All are welcome to attend the service.

Bradford Cathedral is looking to speak to people who were at the services back in 1994 to capture their memories of the day.

The Revd Pete Gunstone, Minor Canon for Worship and Nurture, says: “This is an important service that will celebrate the whole ministry of all the women of God, lay and ordained, as well as celebrating the increasing diversity of ministry that the ordination of women has enabled.”

Looking back at the historic services, the Revd Canon Dr Sue Penfold says: “Being ordained priest in 1994 was an enormously joyful occasion.

“My strongest memory is that the atmosphere as we entered the Cathedral that day felt full of glory.

“In the months that followed I discovered that being a priest changed ministry in ways I hadn’t expected, as though up to then I’d had one arm tied behind my back, but now could move more easily.

She adds: “It’s strange looking back 30 years - we’re much less likely to be treated as a novelty now.

“So much has changed, not just for those of us ordained but also for other women watching us and being encouraged to use their gifts in different ways.

“I hope the service will celebrate the many and varied ways that women serve God and others in the church and the world.”

This year also marks several other milestones, including the 10th anniversary of the decision to ordain women as bishops; the 80th anniversary of Florence Li Tim Oi, the first woman to be ordained to the priesthood in the Anglican Communion; and 35 years since Barbara Harris became the first woman consecrated as a bishop in the Anglican Communion.

* For more information on A Celebration of 30 years of Women Priests - and to book your place - visit

* If you have any memories of the ordinations back in 1994 that you would like to share, contact

Emma Clayton