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WALES: Bishop Joanna makes history by leading worship at Pride Cymru

WALES: Bishop Joanna makes history by leading worship at Pride Cymru

By Brecon and Radnor Reporter in Community News
31 August 2017

THE first female bishop in Wales has made history by leading worship at Pride Cymru -- a three-day festival in Cardiff celebrating sexual diversity.

The Bishop of St Davids, Joanna Penberthy, was joined on Saturday (August 26) by members of the LGBT+ community and others at the #FaithTent.

She took part in a discussion about faith and sexuality before leading Pride's first ever Communion service.

Pride Cymru's Big Weekend began on Friday and took place on the lawns of Cardiff City Hall, in the heart of the capital city.

The #FaithTent was run by the Gathering -- an LGBT+ church for everyone -- in partnership with the Christian group, CATAC -- Changing Attitude Cymru.

Other Church in Wales leaders also took part in events at the #FaithTent, which this year focused on welcoming refugees and asylum seekers.

#FaithTent coordinator, the Revd Delyth Liddell, a chaplain at Cardiff University, said before the event: "We are delighted to be welcoming our first ever Bishop to the #FaithTent, this year, Bishop Joanna. The #FaithTent is all about radical welcome to a place of sanctuary, spirituality and sacred sensitivity, whatever your beliefs and faith. Our speakers throughout the weekend will be focussing on radical religious inclusivity for all, with a particular focus on how we welcome refugees and asylum seekers.

"The importance of being out in the community, sharing God's love and acceptance for all, regardless of our sexuality or gender, cannot be underestimated. Year on year we have stories of people who come to the #FaithTent believing that God does not want them. The #FaithTent is there to show them that they can have faith in God because God has faith in them."

Bishop Joanna is no stranger to firsts as the canon from Llandrindod Wells became the first woman to be ordained as a bishop after her election as the 129th Bishop of St Davids in November last year.

The married 58-year-old who led the West Radnor ministry area was previously the Rector of Glan Ithon in the Diocese of Swansea and Brecon.

After her historic election she spoke publicly about the "sexism" and sexist attitudes she had fought against in the early stages of her career.

She was a pioneering campaigner for women's ordination in the Church in the 1980s and 1990s and was among the first group of women priests to be ordained in Wales.

She set out on the road to becoming Wales' first woman bishop after what she describes as an "epiphany" during a chance visit to Winchester Cathedral, on the way back to Wales from a family holiday at the age of 16.

"I found myself in what I later discovered was the Epiphany Chapel," she recalled. "I can't remember what happened but I came out with a sure sense that God was calling me to ministry. I had no real idea what that involved, whether it was possible or whether there were women doing it.

"I remember the stunned feeling I had knowing I had been called to this strange and new thing.

At the time of her election as Bishop last year, Canon Joanna said: "Being someone who was at the beginning of women's ministry in the Church in Wales, when there was a certain amount of animosity, it gives me a certain amount of staying power and determination to persevere through difficult circumstances and the possibility of finding joy, excitement and nourishment in unexpected places, and making alliances."

Canon Joanna is not unused to taking on the somewhat starchy attitudes of the senior hierarchy in the Church in Wales as is being shown in her leading the way at Pride Cymru. Indeed it was due to fighting this early era of sexism in the church that Canon Joanna has to thank for meeting her husband. She said: "I wasn't allowed to go to the Church in Wales theological college because I was told there weren't any ladies' loos. so I had to go to an English one. I said jokingly that I was going to bring back an English ordinant, but that's what actually happened."


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