The idea bubbled up over a breakfast shared by women ministers in communities west of Toronto. Rev. Gale Macdonald was planning a service at her church, Clarkson Road in Mississauga, Ont., to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the ordination of women in the Presbyterian Church in Canada. The other ministers soon got on board, and the resulting service proved to be more than any of them anticipated.
"God completely transformed it from what we imagined it would be," said Rev. Jacqui Foxall, minister at Knox, Oakville, Ont. "I felt called and sent through that service. It wasn't just, let's pat ourselves on the back and remember and give thanks. It was, right now lace up your boots, you have work to do and a legacy to participate in leaving."
The plans for the service were spurred in part by disappointment that this year's General Assembly didn't include a mention of the anniversary of women's ordination. It was on June 7, 1966, that the highest court of the church voted to allow women to be ordained both as elders and as ministers. The vote on opening the door to women ministers was conducted by secret ballot: 133 of the all-male commissioners voted in favour, with 72 opposing it.
Rev. Dr. Dorcas Gordon, who preached the sermon, started classes at Knox College in 1969. She now serves there as principal.
"We have to be careful we don't take this gift for granted and become complacent," she told the Record.
The worship service, which was held on Nov. 9 at Clarkson Road, drew participants from six area congregations, and attendees travelled from as far as Kingston, Ont. Worship leaders included a mass choir, seven ministers, the moderator of the Presbytery of Brampton, and several elders and laypeople. One prayer was led by three generations of female elders from Trafalgar, Oakville. And the benediction was given by nine-year-old Claire Samwell, a member of Knox, Oakville, who feels she might be called to ministry.
Macdonald said one of the ministers who had a great impact on her faith journey had also sensed a call to ministry as a young girl, but in those days women couldn't be ordained....