Daily Reading for January 24 • The Ordination of Florence Li Tim-Oi, First Woman Priest in the Anglican Communion, 1944
No saint claims to be a saint, and neither did you—except in so far as we are all called to be saints. In 1987 when Bob Browne was making the film Return to Hepu, you said to him: “I am just an earthen vessel with God’s treasure inside me.” No saint would claim more than that for herself. Yet here we have an icon of you with a halo. Just as I was writing this letter to you, by the grace of God, an Orthodox priest was explaining on BBC radio his understanding of an icon. Every human being, he said, is made in the image of God. So when we look on an icon of a human being, we are to see, in it and through it, the image of God. So when we, and others after us, come and stand before this icon of you, we are to see the treasure of God in your earthen vessel. I hope you are happy with that.
Sixty years ago what did my father and you talk over before he made you a priest in the Church of God? . . . Did my father tell you that he was tempted to give you a new name—Cornelia? He recognised, even if you did not, that to ordain a woman was equivalent to Peter baptising the gentile Cornelius¬—quite contrary to the then understanding of God’s will. Peter had been shown that, contrary to Jewish belief, gentiles were not unclean¬—and neither are women. What mattered to my father, as mattered to Peter, was that God had already given to you the gift of priesthood, which for three years you had been licensed to exercise, and your ministry had been manifestly blessed. Who was he to deny what God had already done? . . .
In this eucharist we give God thanks for you and for all you mean to us. Words by Sydney Carter [from his song Present Tense] were adapted for my father’s epitaph. They are equally true of you: “She showed us how the Christ she talked about is living now.”
From “A ‘Letter to Florence’ on the Diamond Jubilee of her Priesting” by Christopher Hall; found at http://www.litim-oi.org/downloads/diamondjubilee%20Letter.pdf