The Westcott Women

Our names from left to right are:

  • Revd May Heffernan (sadly now deceased)
  • Revd Katy Hacker-Hughes
  • Revd Veronica Hydon (now a Canon of Chester Cathedral)
  • Revd Mary Leigh (on the occasion of whose priesting on 4 December 1994 this photo was taken)
  • Revd Ulla Monberg (now a Canon of Brussels Cathedral)
  • Revd Maxine Marsh (sadly now deceased)
  • Revd Katharine Rumens

The matching stoles were specially designed and created by and for us, to wear at each of our priestly ordinations, which happened variously that year in London, Birmingham and Chelmsford. The stoles have the motto embroidered in gold on the underside: WESTCOTT WOMEN   – 11th NOVEMBER 1992 , which recalls when we all together witnessed the historic vote in General Synod from the gallery at Church House. Not visible in this photo of course is the third cross embroidered at the nape of the neck of each stole. The wave pattern can be interpreted as you wish, but for some of us it signified the movement of the Holy Spirit on the face of the waters, disturbing the status quo and marvellously creating “a new thing”…

I do enjoy remembering that when the Bishop stepped up into the pulpit at Mary’s ordination service (last but not least, held on the feast day of Nicholas Ferrar 4 December) he couldn’t help spontaneously expressing not a little consternation at the sight of these purposeful women thus attired and seated before him in the front pew, realising that we were indeed already “making waves” in the Church, impressed as he was by the visible impact of our authenticated calling and shared companionship, gathered there as some of the first women ordained to priesthood in the CofE!

We have continued over the years, I believe, to faithfully live out our individual callings, variously serving as parish clergy in urban, suburban, rural, industrial town, estate and city settings, including serving as chaplains to hospitals, hospices, cathedrals and to establishments showcasing the arts and media, and in the important tasks of discernment of lay and priestly vocations, as bishop’s advisors, as rural or area deans, and as deans of women’s ministry, and not least, in the demanding role you will no doubt currently recognise, over a decade of service as tutor and chaplain on a theological training course.

We all look much younger in this photo, of course!?! But I hope at least we will have inspired you as present Westcott Women to follow your own diverse callings with integrity, perseverance and courage, continuing to confound whatever low episcopal expectations may still abound, and in your turn humbly but radically to make a remarkable difference for good in the world and in the Church, in furtherance of God’s realm here on earth and ultimately alone to God’s glory.

Revd Veronica Hydon

One thought on “The Westcott Women

  1. May was always so very proud of her “Westcott Women’s stole.” It was placed in her hands as her body lay in the coffin. The Church failed May, and contributed to her early death. In her last years she had a restored faith in God but remained wary of a patriarchal and abusive organisation.

    To this day I remember with great love and affection my dear friend, whom I miss with heartfelt longing and call to mind the Westcott Women who accompanied her on her final journey.


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