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Jane Kenchington

I was born in Tavistock, Devon, where a month after my birth I was baptised in the same font that saw Sir Francis Drake being baptised many centuries earlier! After a year, we moved to Hitchin, in Hertfordshire and that’s where I spent all my childhood and teenage years. I attended the local girls’ grammar school which encouraged us to think the sky was our limit. As a family we regularly attended Hitchin Parish Church, where I loved the choral music and the sermons and the youth group – and generally experienced Christianity as a good thing. I then went to Hull University where I read for a degree in chemistry; got involved in the Church there and started thinking about ordination. But there was one slight problem – women, at that point (1979) couldn’t be ordained! With a degree under my belt, I then spent three years in Ghana, West Africa, where I taught chemistry in a Roman Catholic Secondary Boys’ Boarding School. It was there that I realised that I was far more interested in theology than in chemistry and once I returned to the UK, whilst teaching in secondary schools in this country, I tested my vocation for full-time Church ministry (Women were still not allowed to be ordained!). A year after the Church of England voted to allow women to be ordained deacon, I started training for ordination at a theological college in Cambridge. After that, in 1990, I was ordained deacon in Gloucester cathedral and spent 3 years as a curate in Winchcombe. Richard and I married whilst I was in Winchcombe. In 1994, women were allowed to ordained priests and I was in the first group of women to be priested. All through this time, it was quite difficult being an ordained woman in the Church because there was a lot of prejudice against us. Opposition came with pioneering. After Winchcombe, I did several part-time jobs (because I had young children) – in parochial ministry, in theological education and latterly as Dean of Women Clergy for the Diocese of Gloucester. Now I’m Rector of this Benefice and loving the work!