Friday, March 04, 2016

United Church Herstory

It is Women's History Month in the States, although it is October rather than March in Canada. Seeing that March is the month for the US reminded me that 2016 is the 80th anniversary of the ordination of the first woman in the United Church. The majority of students for United Church ministry are women these days, and women ministers serve in many significant positions of leadership. Just the same, eight decades on it is still a challenge for women to have the same opportunities as men, or to be paid fairly, or to work without harassment and bullying.

Here is the bio about Lydia Gruchy, the first ordained woman in the United Church, from the British Columbia Conference website

She was born at Asnières, France, on September 5, 1894. She was raised in France and England, and came with her family to Strasbourg, Saskatchewan, in 1913. In 1920, she received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Saskatchewan. She then studied theology at the Presbyterian College in Saskatoon (now St. Andrew’s College), graduating in 1923. For several years, she served as a lay minister in the rural communities of Saskatchewan.
Gruchy sought ordination in 1926 in the newly formed United Church of Canada; her presbytery petitioned the General Council repeatedly, every two years, showing that she was already doing the work of an ordained minister and that she was clearly qualified. Gruchy was ordained by Saskatchewan Conference in 1936, the year that the Church altered the Basis of Union to allow for the ordination of women. She served as minister’s assistant at St. Andrew’s United Church in Moose Jaw, then was called to Toronto to serve as secretary to the committee on the deaconess order and women workers in the United Church. Gruchy returned to pastoral work in 1943, and served at various small charges in Saskatchewan for the remainder of her career. After retirement in 1962, she settled in White Rock, BC, and became an active member of First United Church. Lydia Gruchy died on April 9, 1992.
Gruchy is also the first Canadian woman to receive an honorary doctor of divinity degree, which St. Andrew’s College awarded her in 1953.

Did you know about Lydia Gruchy? Are you surprised (pleasantly I hope) to discover that women have been ordained for so long in the United Church? Do you think women are treated with increasingly greater respect and fairness in our church, and if not, what needs to happen to bring this about?

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