27 June 2019
Jersey General Hospital’s Chaplaincy Team Leader, who was one of the first women to be ordained into the priesthood 25 years ago, has been invited to a garden party by the Archbishop of Canterbury to mark the historic milestone.
Reverend Maureen Turner is due to attend the party at Lambeth Palace on Monday 1 July to mark a quarter of a century since the first female ordinations took place within the Church of England.
Rev Turner, who initially worked in the textile industry after leaving Leeds University, trained at St. John’s Theological College, Nottingham before being ordained as a Deacon at Lichfield Cathedral in 1987. At the time women were not able to enter the priesthood. However, that rule was overturned by the Church’s General Synod in 1992 and two years later, following the updating of ecclesiastical law, the first women were allowed into the priesthood.
Rev Turner, who lives in St Aubin with her husband Derek, who is also a priest, said she was "stunned" by the General Synod’s decision. "I wasn’t expecting it as there was so much opposition and argument against it. When it was announced I thought: "Hallelujah".’
Rev Turner was made priest at Coventry Cathedral on 23 April 1994. She said: "I remember feeling a sense of occasion and a sense of history being made. We were very much pioneers because it had always been a male priesthood. Some of us had a bit of nervousness thinking about the future."
Rev Turner conducted her first ceremony as a priest at Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon ("Shakespeare’s Church") on 24 April 1994. It was during her time in the parish that she felt a calling to minister to the sick and dying. She began training at her local hospital once a week for three years before she was appointed full-time chaplain at Myton Hospice, Warwick in 1999. During her time at the hospice she completed an MA in Healthcare Chaplaincy and later moved to the Leicester Royal Infirmary as Chaplaincy Team Leader, during which time she also gained a NEBSM diploma in Healthcare Management.
Rev Turner, who moved to Jersey 12 years ago to take on the Chaplaincy Team Leader role for the Hospital, said: "The chaplains are based in the General Hospital but we also spend time at other HCS sites such as Overdale, Sandybrook and St Saviour’s Hospital. It is a fulfilling role.
"Patients, relatives and members of staff invite you into their circle. You are there for crisis moments. We want to bring a bit of peace or dignity to the sick, dying or bereaved. People look to us to give them some comfort and calm. We won’t have all the answers, we don’t advise people but we can listen and be a calming, peaceful non-judgmental influence."
Rev Turner is among the first 900 women who have been invited to a garden party at Lambeth Palace. Today, there are more than 5,900 priests in the UK – nine of whom are in Jersey. There are also 18 female bishops.
Rev Turner, who is a member of the professional body the College of Healthcare Chaplains, said: "I think what is good now for people coming into the church is there is more of a career structure. When we first started we almost had to work harder than the men to be taken seriously and to show that we can do a good job. We’ve also opened the way for women to be ordained as bishops in the last few years. That was great to see – it’s almost a completion in a way."