Wangaratta Cathedral, 6 February 2016 Maryann Leonard and Christine Page ordained as priests Send out your light and your truth O Lord; Let them lead us. Let them bring us to your holy hill and to your dwelling. Amen May I first say that it is a privilege and honour to be commissioned as the Director of Vocations for this diocese and to express my appreciation of the mentoring and support that Lyall Turley has given me. Thanks to Lyall’s prayerful work and dedication, care for people and considerable scholarship, the Vocational Discernment Protocols and Practices in this diocese have a very solid and sound base. As long as prayer continues to undergird everything, and there is willing participation by examining chaplains, panel members, mentors - and so forth, we can have confidence in the ‘rightness’ of the process for our diocese. One clear affirmation of that ‘rightness’ is the calibre of the two fine women, Maryann Leonard and Christine Page, who are being ordained as priests today. Both women are greatly gifted - just read their biographies! The ordination retreat was an opportunity for us, three mature women, to find common threads in our Christian journeys, and to understand each other better as we reflected on both the ‘being’ and the ‘doing’ of a priestly vocation. In prayerfully and humbly sharing our common life and our stories, we learnt from each other and built, even for those few days, a community of Christ. In some ways, of course, the retreat was historic. It was an all women ‘first’ for this diocese - two female deacons with a female priest as retreat leader. I think our Registrar Tim appreciated this from the beginning as he found a very suitable retreat venue in Benalla, which had, he noted, and told me, ‘frilly curtains’. And so now, here we are. Maryann and Christine have come - at last, it might seem, and yet at the right time, in truth - to ordination as priests. Today brings both change and challenge for your lives, and may I say, for the lives of your families too. The bonds of love and of community mean that lives are intertwined, and I’m sure your loved ones have already discovered that there is no ‘quiet life’ when the Holy Spirit is ‘disturbing’ someone close to you. To Christine and Maryann’s families and friends I say, “Your love and support is a valuable ministry in God’s kingdom and is much appreciated.” So - expect the unexpected then, but be assured too, that God’s all-embracing love and presence includes your needs and holds and sustains you, even as you love and support ….Christine… or Maryann. This is the message in the reading from the letter to the Hebrews. Jesus, Son of the Father, shared in our humanity in every way - including suffering and even death. Because of that, Jesus knows, truly understands, how hard life can be and he, Jesus the risen Lord, helps us. Whether ordained or lay, and regardless of gender, we are never ‘on our own’ as we do grapple with the uncertainties, injustices, fears, sorrows, pain and hardships of life. It is in Jesus, in this abiding love, that we see, and know the truth of, God’s kingdom. It is this that we, as Church, are called and equipped to proclaim and live out. This abiding love. Simeon and Anna were devout and righteous people who looked with faith and hope to a time when all would again be right between God and God’s people Israel. Anna was of a great age for her times - 84 - and possibly Simeon, who could now die in peace, was an older man. The Holy Spirit was present and active on the day the baby Jesus was brought to the temple and ‘designated as holy to the Lord’. Jesus was named and circumcised - and recognised. This is the child. The hope- being fulfilled. The light to the gentiles - vocation clearly discerned, named, proclaimed and blessed by Simeon, who was inspired by the Holy Spirit. For Anna too, seeing this child brought forth praise for God and she spoke of the child to those waiting and trusting in God’s faithfulness and mercy. Simeon and Anna, male and female, both recognised the child Messiah, for gender is not God’s issue. Both shared the good news. All are God’s beloved children, and all are gifted by the Holy Spirit, and all are offered, through Jesus Christ, restoration and fullness of life. The Church is broad, diverse and inclusive. Anna and Simeon both held the conviction of a truth, a promise fulfilled. Both, in Jesus, saw a vision of a future kingdom that would, in all probability, not be realised in their lifetimes. The vision continues before us in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Here we see vocation fulfilled in the promise of assured presence, new abundant wholeness of life, abiding love and eternal faithfulness. We all hold in our hearts a conviction of a truth, a kingdom not yet fully realised. As we grapple with the uncertainties, injustices, fears and sorrows of being members of a seemingly divided and declining church, we older ones know that we have only the present in which to proclaim and live out the abiding love which is Jesus, and which realises the glorious vision of God’s Kingdom come. The future journey of the Church on earth is beyond our knowing. And so we just persevere in hope and joy and faith. In Maryann and Christine, we have two mature, humble, hardworking, intelligent Christians, who are well formed and informed for the ministry to which they are called, that is to be priests in this diocese at this time. They each have the gifts and faith to bring forth, in the here and now of their ministry, fruit which will last. Christine has a passion for justice, a deep reverence for God and energy to engage fearlessly with issues of discrimination and social justice. Maryanne has a passionate commitment to children and their faith nurture and energy for making connections and enabling ministry within and beyond the church community. Both are committed to the gospel, humbly aware of the awesome responsibility of the office of priest and trusting completely in God. Maryann and Christine are now offering themselves fully - their giftedness and their human vulnerability - to the Church, for the building up and strengthening of God’s kingdom in the communities in which they minister. Today, in this service, witnessed by a diversity of many people of all ages and Christian denominations, Bishop John will lay his hands upon each of you, pray the Holy Spirit upon you and authorise you, set you apart, for the office and work of priest. Thus the communion of the Anglican Church accepts your offering of self, with humble respect and a warm welcome. Like Anna and Simeon, probably many of us here will not live to see what this changing, evolving, transforming, still coming- to - birth new creation of Christ’s church on earth, or even in this place, will be. But we know that, for as long as we tell of the child - Jesus the Christ - and live out the vision of the Kingdom of God that he embodies, all will be as it should. And so, today, it is with hopefulness and praise that we give thanks for Christine and Maryann, God’s chosen ministers for the here and now and pray God’s blessings on their lives and ministries. Amen.