Today, this last day of the Fabulous Forty through Lent (sniff) I'm thinking about the suspicion and restrictions that come from other quarters regarding a vocation to be a priest and 'rightly and duly administer the sacraments.'
Can any fabulous female step forward?
As well as having a desirable girls' name (like Lydia, Hannah, Eve...it makes me broody........for a nano second) she is introduced by Paul thus: 'I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church in Cenchrea (...) for she has been a great help to many people, including me' (Romans 16: 1).
Here's the thing: 'servant', 'minister' and 'deacon' (as in ordained deacon) are all English words that derive from this word rendered 'servant.' So an equally good translation would read 'our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church', a designation which suggest a recognised public church role, usually ordained, which in the C of E at least, is now tied up with ordination, first to the diaconate, then to the priesthood and presiding at Holy Communion.
Ecclesiology is contested within Christendom and all our words are a jumbled mess in people's minds: I've given up trying to explain why I was first ordained deacon and couldn't preside at Holy Communion even though I was a Rev and wore a dog collar, and why I had to be ordained again (as priest) but didn't stop being a Curate at this point...and why I can be known as a Minister but not a Vicar yet...(but always a deacon in spirit...)
I'm just glad that it would appear, in essence at least, that women's public ministry roles in the Christian church didn't start in 1994 with the C of E finally getting round to ordaining women, but perhaps a little bit earlier....