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On July 29, 2014, the Episcopal Church will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the ordinations of the first women as priests. To observe that anniversary, we reached out to women who have served at ASC over the last forty years — as well as those who have been sponsored for ordination and gone on to serve elsewhere — to share their stories. Here is one of them:

Margaret Cunningham

All Saints, Pasadena sponsored me for ordination, but there was not unanimous enthusiasm.

George Regas looked at me sadly, shaking his head as he said, “You know, Maggie, there are an awful lot of women your age looking to be ordained,” to which I replied truthfully but rather disrespectfully, “And there are an awful lot of men your age who are already ordained.”

Tim Safford was more blunt: “You don’t have a chance in hell of making it through the process.”

Fast forward to 1996, the year I received my M.Div. from EDS, started working at All Saints, and was ordained to the diaconate.

By the time I was priested in 1997, there had been ordained women in the Episcopal Church for more than twenty years and I in no way considered myself a trail blazer. And yet over and over people would tell me on the way out of church how moved they were to see a vested woman at the altar.

Because I was often the only ordained woman on the staff, I frequently preached on Mary Sunday and the Feast Day of Mary Magdalene. Once, my male colleagues dared me to preach on the Feast of the Circumcision. No problem!

The Rev. Margaret Cunningham is an Episcopal priest who has served on the staffs of All Saints Church in Pasadena, California, and the Church of the Redeemer in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. A former high school English teacher, she is now retired from parish ministry and lives in a suburb of Philadelphia. She is the author of Putting Away Childish Things: Sermons for Curious Adults.

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