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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:

Shannon Kelly

I do not remember a time when women were not ordained. I grew up in a diocese where the Canon to the Ordinary was a female priest. I grew up surrounded by women in leadership in the church. It was not until I was in high school that I truly appreciated what all of that meant and the struggles that had happened in order for this reality to be true. Once it was brought to my attention that this was not always the case and I heard the stories of struggle and advocacy, I was so grateful for those who had gone before who had made this a reality. I also knew that this same kind of stepping up and advocacy had to be a part of whatever work that I did.

My call to the priesthood is centered around being called to serve the church in education and formation. Education is about learning the history, theology, biblical stories, etc. that has created the places we are in today. Formation is taking that education alongside your prayer, spirituality, and practices and embracing who God has made you to be and what God has called you to do. Throughout my ministry, I have tried to educate with an eye toward those who have gone before us and laid the foundation for where we are today — women and men, young and old, people of all races, genders, and life experiences. As I work with young people I stand and speak as their advocate when they are not being heard. I work with them to help them see that things are not impossible (but they may be hard) and that they can do what is set before them. I hope to show them the cloud of witnesses and invite them to do what God is calling them to do.

While the road of being a female priest has not been without struggles and inequality, I keep moving forward knowing that the struggles we encounter and face may benefit others. When I was ordained to the transitional diaconate, Brian Thom (now bishop of the Diocese of Idaho) preached a great sermon, reminding me of all that I will need and what I will encounter as I minister to and with the people around me — things like love, joy, peace as well as Lent, Easter, and Pentecost. His final word he shared with me was “Passion.” He said, “Don’t forget your passion… let it lead you through your life.”

Passion for advocacy, justice, peace, and love is what has brought me this far and I hope it will carry me far into the future.

The Rev. Shannon Kelly’s passion and vocation is focused on Christian Formation for people of all ages. She has served in congregations in California, New York, and Wisconsin as well as on the Diocesan Staff as Assistant to the Bishop for Christian Formation in the Diocese of Milwaukee. Shannon is currently serving as the Lifelong Formation Consultant for The Episcopal Church, editing and writing curriculum for Lesson Plans that Work, serving as the Associate for Curriculum Development for Living Compass Ministries and serving as a consultant with ChurchNext.

She is also serving as the Province V Youth Ministries liaison to the Episcopal Church, serving on the Episcopal Youth Event 2014 Mission Planning Team, and involved in Episcopal Camps and Conference Centers programming.  She wrote and edited God of My Heart, a book of prayers written by youth, for youth. She has served on the Episcopal Youth Event Design Team in 2011 and as Chaplain to the 2012 General Convention Official Youth Presence.  She lives in Columbus, Ohio with her husband, The Very Rev. Dr. Thomas Ferguson, Dean of Bexley Hall Seminary, and their son.  

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