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Celebrating the 80th anniversary of the first Anglican woman priest

The Revd Canon Eileen Harrop attended the Thanksgiving service at St Martin-in-the-Fields, London, to acknowledge the 80th anniversary of the first priesting of a woman - Revd Florence Li Tim-Oi - in the Anglican Communion, by Bishop Ronald Hall.

Here, Eileen, who is Priest-in-Charge of Ingleton St John the Evangelist and Staindrop St Mary, talks about the occasion. It was a particularly poignant one for Eileen as Bishop Hall had also confirmed her mother, (Dr) Anna Hui Woon-Chuen, in Hong Kong around the same time as Florence was priested.

A Thanksgiving Service with Celebration of Eucharist was held in the church of St Martin-in-the-Fields, London, to acknowledge the first priesting of a woman, Rev’d Florence Li Tim-Oi in the Anglican Communion in 1944. This year is also the 30th anniversary of the first Ordination of Women to Priesthood and the 10th anniversary of the first Consecration of Women in the Church of England.

Florence Tim-Oi was a Chinese woman deacon during a time when education and professional opportunities for women were very limited in China. World War II extended to the East when Japan entered the war, and the Anglican Church was very short of Priests to conduct Communion services. Observing that Florence Tim-Oi was a gifted deacon and recognising that she had the calling to Priesthood, the Bishop, The Rt Revd Ronald Hall, ordained Florence Tim-Oi in the territory of Free China on 25th January 1944. Her ministry was cut short when Bishop Hall was told that his licence would be removed by the Church of England if he did not withdraw her Permission To Officiate. Florence Tim-Oi returned her licence to spare Bishop Hall having to make that difficult choice.

Revd Frances Shoesmith, Granddaughter of Bishop Ronald Hall, presided at the Thanksgiving Service, and her father, Revd Canon Christopher Hall, Bishop Hall’s son, was also present. It was a poignant occasion for Eileen also, as it was Bishop Hall who confirmed her mother, (Dr) Anna Hui Woon-Chuen, in HK around the same time Florence Tim-Oi was Priested.

The first woman to be Consecrated as Bishop in the Church of England The Rt Revd Libby Lane shared how much she felt strengthened and encouraged by the memory of Florence Tim-Oi when preparing for her Consecration in 2014. Bishop Rose Hudson-Wilson delivered the Sermon and Bishop Sarah Mullally gave the Blessing.

A special feature of the Eucharistic Prayer were prefaces acknowledging women whose names are recorded in scripture including those who had served as leaders in the early church alongside the named male apostles.

Members of the Teahouse network of Chinese Heritage clergy were among those participating in the service. The Lord’s Prayer was prayed in Cantonese, the language known to Florence Tim-Oi, by Rev’d Aggy Palairet:


Top: The Revd Canon Eileen Harrop (centre) with members of Teahouse, the network of East Asian and Chinese Heritage clergy of the Church of England.

Middle left: The order of service from 25 January. 

Bottom right: Eileen with the Revd Canon Christopher Hall, son of Bishop Ronald Hall who ordained the first woman priest in 1944.


First published on: 30th January 2024
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