Town’s first woman priest calls it a day
The town’s first woman priest has retired after dedicating 33 years of her life to the Church of England.
Canon Doris Staniford, attended St Albans Church, Gossops Green, for the final time on Sunday (September 30) where part of the service was taken by the man who ordained her.
The church will be without a priest until at least the new year but Doris, 67, is confident in her old team’s ability to hold the fort and said that services would carry on as usual.
The journey to the priesthood was not an easy one for Doris – even though she had decided at the age of 11 that that was her calling.
After training as a nurse on the advice of her father, she went on to theological college and entered her first post as a parish worker in Hove in 1979 before being ordained as Deaconess at St Martin’s Brighton one year later.
She came to Crawley 26 years ago and served as chaplain of Crawley Hospital and chaplain of St Catherine’s Hospice and, apart from a three-year stint in Hove, has been here ever since.
Whilst being ordained into the priesthood was a source of joy to Doris, the attitude of some people – even some friends – is something she still finds difficult to talk about. She was priested in 1994 in a ceremony at St Swithuns Church, East Grinstead, while, at the same time, a service was being held in nearby St Mary’s protesting the ordination of women.
Doris said: “I was in London when the vote to admit women into the priesthood was being taken. I sat and watched the vote on television and I realised that there would be a lot of people who would find it hard to accept. Some of my friends distanced themselves, which was very hard.”
Even getting her licence to preach was difficult. She said: “I had to have the Bishop of Guildford licence me to the parish because our own at the time wouldn’t do it.”
Her career in Crawley has never been boring – from abseiling down the side of hotels to raise money for St Catherine’s Hospice to welcoming the Archbishop of Canterbury to the parish to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the vote to admit women to the priesthood – her days have been full.
She said: “The bus stop is outside my front door and people talk to me as I come out of the gate. If people have a problem they just come and knock on the door – sometimes it’s a bit late at night but that’s part and parcel of the job.”
Doris, who was diagnosed with cancer in June, said she will miss the people of Gossops Green the most but was pleased that she is now no longer the only woman priest in Crawley.
She said: “It’s been quite emotional. Even people who don’t normally come to church have said goodbye. There have been so many changes – from being the only woman priest to seeing all the new ones coming in for training and then sending them on their way. It’s great to see.”
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Wednesday 22 May 2013
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