A New Life Begins: The Ordination of Rowena Payne

Photograph from the Diocese of Eastern NL Facebook page

On Sunday, February 25th, the Archdeaconry of Labrador celebrated the ordination of Rev’d Rowena Payne to the Sacred Order of the Priesthood. The ordination was a truly joyous occasion that embodied what it means to be in Christian community. I had the immense privilege of being the Bishop’s Chaplain during the service, which means I got to witness, up close, the way the unending grace of God has worked in this remarkable woman’s life.

For many years, Rowena was denied the opportunity to pursue what she knew to be a call to the priesthood. To be present for the rectifying of this injustice brings into sharp focus the impact that faithful, courageous, and resilient women like her have had on women like me. 

I am only a priest because of the unwavering conviction of women like Rev’d Rowena that God was speaking to them and calling them into a life of service. 

I am only a priest because of the transforming work God has done in hearts, minds, and institutions through women like Rev’d Rowena.

I am only a priest because women like Rev’d Rowena, through all of the noise that told her no, heard, listened, and proclaimed the yes she received from God. 

Jesus tells us: “Take up your cross and follow me.” Many of us have no idea what shape our cross will take. Rev’d Rowena has carried a cross she should never have had to carry. She bore the weight of irresponsible interpretation of scripture for much longer than she should have. But she has carried that cross with grace, with obedience, and with the support and love of her Saviour, who she has always known has carried that cross with her and for her. 

In response to witnessing this beautiful example of faithfulness, the best thing I can do is give thanks to God for the support, bravery, wisdom, passion, compassion, and love he has given Rev’d Rowena over the years—all of which has led her to this moment. 

In a way, Rev’d Rowena’s ordination was a healing experience for me. I entered the priesthood with apprehension, bordering on full-blown rejection. To witness a woman who has endured years of turmoil, both within and without, finally be able to answer the call she’s been hearing for so much of her life was nothing short of miraculous. And I realized it is because of this generation of women that I was even allowed to feel the way I did at my own ordination and have it not be proof of my unfitness for ordination.

I find myself reflecting on ministry in the Archdeaconry of Labrador, a ministry that is almost entirely led by women. I am so grateful to God to be doing his work in Labrador with so many faithful women and men. Thank you, Rev’d Rowena, for your decades of ministry in Labrador West and for your continued ministry in that parish. 

Most of all, thank you Jesus, for the transforming work you have done in Rev’d Rowena’s life and all our lives to make this earth one that better reflects your Kingdom. Amen. 

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