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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:

Anne Howard

“What are you doing with the rest of your life?”

When George Regas asked me that back in 1979, he rocked my world. I was a green young newspaper reporter, and I’d just written a series of stories about the nuclear weapons conference that All Saints and Leo Baeck Temple had staged. As a result of that conversation, I left the newspaper, and went to work at 131 South Euclid Avenue as the new Director of the Interfaith Center to Reverse the Arms Race.

I got a new job, but I got a whole lot more. I discovered at All Saints a whole new way to see the world and myself: I learned that the church could be a powerful force for social and political change, and that I could be an agent of change.

At first, I saw the church was a place that could change the world. In time, I learned that the church, with all of its humanity and complexity, its glory and its grit, could change me. I began to see myself as a woman of faith.

I learned at All Saints, long before the phrase was coined, that it was important for women to “lean in.” I left All Saints to go to seminary, along with my husband Randy and baby son Benjamin. We went to Cambridge to study ethics at a school renowned for its feminism, where two of the Philadelphia women, Carter Heyward and Suzanne Hiatt, were faculty.

Long story short, I was ordained 26 years ago. All of my life, I’ve encountered women at the church door, tears in their eyes, who tell me that they’ve never felt included in worship until they heard a woman’s voice in the pulpit and at the altar.

And now, as Executive Director of The Beatitudes Society, I work with young clergy who are committed to being agents of progressive social change in the public square. And I still hear from young women about the obstacles they face. With All Saints at my back, I tell them to “lean in.”

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