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'We won't apologise for being an all-female clergy'

'We won't apologise for being an all-female clergy'

This Easter will be especially significant for one of England's cathedrals.

Leicester Cathedral will be marking the Christian festival with what it believes is England's first fully-female clergy team at the helm.

The five women - including the acting dean, Reverend Canon Karen Rooms - were appointed from 2013 onwards.

The move is the latest in a tradition of female firsts at the cathedral which, in 1974, was the first to admit girls into its choir and, in 2000, Vivienne Faull - now the Bishop of Bristol - was the first female cathedral dean.

So what is it like to be part of the cathedral's progressive history?

'I make no apology for us being all-female'
Alison said she had welcomed being joined by four other women

"The church has had centuries of being all-male; why shouldn't we be all-female?"

Canon Pastor Rev Canon Alison Adams, 71, is a former teacher who has previously worked in schools in Leicester and Nottinghamshire.

She went on to manage the chaplaincy in Glen Parva Young Offenders' Institution before coming to Leicester Cathedral in 2013.

"I make no apology for us being all-female," she said.

"I fully respect those who have different theologies from mine but I don't respect misogyny when I encounter it and I think it's good that we are seen publicly in these roles."

As the first of the women to join the cathedral's team, she said she had welcomed being joined by four others.

"It's great fun," she said.

"We get on, we bounce off one other very easily and I think we're all by nature networking, relational-type people.

"It's good company."

'People are getting used to an all-female team'
Karen says the women are very different and bring varied experiences to their roles

"Some people are thrilled but we've also had negative pushback," said Rev Canon Karen Rooms.

"But I think people are getting used to an all-female team."

Karen became the cathedral's acting dean in January.

Prior to that, she had worked in marketing at Boots, before moving to Tanzania with the Anglican Church.

"The fact we're women is interesting and we work well together, but we're always looking for other voices," she said.

She said all five of the women were very different and brought varied experiences to their roles.

These differences helped them engage with the community they serve in Leicester - one of the UK's most diverse cities.

"We're really conscious always about needing diversity, especially in Leicester," she said.

'I hope it will show girls they can do this'
Emma held local government roles before ordination in 2007

"People always need role models," said Rev Cannon Emma Davies, 55, the cathedral's canon precentor.

"I hope that for some people it will show them, particularly girls, that they can do this and that's really important."

Emma started her working life transcribing print into Braille and held local government roles before ordination in 2007.

She started working at Leicester Cathedral in 2021 and oversees services, as well as music and choirs.

She said working with four other women was a special moment in her career.

'It has been liberating'
Manuela said it was liberating to be surrounded by women in her role

"Occasionally we face prejudice and to be in a place where that is not the daily norm is quite wonderful."

Curate Rev Manuela Schmucki, 35, is originally from Switzerland, where she trained as a pastor and completed a BA in theology before moving to Leicester Cathedral in 2021.

"I've worked in churches for a long time and I'm very used to being in mostly or all-male spaces," she said.

"Up until my post here, all my supervisors always have been male and to experience having women all around me has been quite different but also liberating."

'We are putting a message out to the world'
Julia was the first woman ordained in Crete

Curate Rev Julia Bradshaw is used to being a trailblazer.

In 2019 Julia, 62, became the first woman ordained in Crete and worked there as a curate before before moving to Leicester Cathedral in 2021.

She said Leicester's fully-female clergy team sent a statement.

"We are putting a message out to the world that it doesn't matter whether it's all men or all women, we can still do what we have to do for God," she said.

"It shows people that it doesn't matter who you are, you can achieve what you want to achieve and you can be in a leadership role."


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