It has been an exciting new start to the Methodist Year already. We welcome Chris, Hannah and family and look forward to working together in the ministry team. The role of the ‘ministers’ is to support the ministry of all God’s people – so we hope we will continue that journey of discovery. October is an important month because we celebrate Black History. This matters so much to our church because much of the media and the European story has presented African and the African diaspora in negative light. We shouldn’t really have to celebrate it – but it’s so good we can! Look out for the weekend 21st and 22nd of October with a Saturday social and film and a Sunday celebration service.
I want to use my Focus slot to remember an important Anniversary - that of Constance Coltman – a pioneer in ministry. (Some of this article is taken from the Methodist Church, ‘Sing the Faith’ website - click here)
The centenary of the ordination of Constance Coltman is marked on 17th September 2017. Laurence Wareing remembers Constance and asks where the hymns are, about women in ministry.
Though not the first woman to be ordained as a minister in Britain, Constance Coltman was the first woman to be ordained into the presbyteral ministry of a mainstream British denomination: the Congregational Union of England and Wales. Formal discussion about the ordination of women had been ongoing in the denomination since 1909.
Constance Todd (her family name) was born in 1889. She was admitted for training at Mansfield College,Oxford, in1913. Four years later, Constance was ordained alongside Claud Coltman; they married the next day. They began ministry together in London Docklands. A committed pacifist and suffragist, Constance was also an early supporter of birth control. In later years, she did much to promote women’s ordination across the churches,at home and abroad. In 1929 she helped to found the interdenominational Society for the Ministry of Women in the Church. Constance died in1969.’
My mother and I were ordained together at the Methodist Conference of 1984. I think this was the first time a mother and son were ordained on the same occasion and we were even interviewed on Breakfast TV by Ann Diamond! Despite the long time since Constance Coltman’s ordination it has taken the Church a long time to value and appreciate the leadership of women. This has been to our loss! My mother is fond of saying, ‘The first Christian sermon ever preached was by the woman who found the empty tomb. The men didn’t listen and the Church has struggled to listen ever since’.
I wonder who else we find it hard to listen to. The whole theme of white male privilege is very much in the news. Men are feeling left out and angry! But it is an inevitable aspect of progress. In the past things were wrong in that some benefited unfairly from the status quo. Changing this does mean a loss to some as we achieve a better balance. However, I believe the benefit to all as we seek to take heed of the rich diversity of human society far outweighs any loss that might be felt.
I know that at EMC we are keen to celebrate the contribution of different cultures and experiences as well as cheering for Constance Coltman!