Cathedral marks International Women's Day

There will be prayers throughout the day in the Cathedral led by women from our community for International Women's Day on 8 March.


This past month we have celebrated the centenary of the Representation of People Act, which gave women over the age of 30 the vote for the first time - on the 6 February 1918. Colleges in Oxford like Somerville were active in their support for those who campaigned for universal suffrage. The Church of England at the time, however, was less than helpful. True, some brave clergy, and quite a few laity, got behind the Suffragettes and other campaigners for suffrage. But many others stood by; and some even opposed.

So, wondering if we might find a prayer of reflection, redress or repentance from the Church of England on this centenary, on 6 February 2018, I turned to the Church of England’s website this week for prayers and collects, hoping that I might use some. I found none.

I find this rather strange, and to a large extent, deeply concerning. The suffragettes were a good example of /the church militant/, and one of their ways of raising consciousness among the population, a century ago, was to disrupt church services. They protested - they were reformers, protest-ants. Prominent suffragettes were harassed and harangued. Some were imprisoned and force-fed. Many were exiled within their families and communities. 

The Suffragettes were exemplary in their struggle for the cause of equality. We forget too easily how recent this was. So all the more reason to be mindful of the many challenges that still face us in the present: gender justice; equality for women;  the force of law and justice for women who are oppressed, or the victims of violence and discrimination; women who are abused; women’s rights – and action taken that promotes fairness and freedom. 

Arguably, these are some of the most testing times for all who seek to work for gender parity. Our hope is that International Women’s Day will not only raise our awareness and further our cause, but also celebrate the milestones that have already been achieved in the long march for equality.

We at Christ Church Cathedral wholeheartedly support International Women’s Day. In our churches, we are profoundly aware that we still on something of a journey. But there are seeds of hope, and signs of change. In our work as a Cathedral and as a Diocese, we seek to not transform our communities, but also our churches – that they may become authentic ambassadors of equality, and beacons to inspire the present and future generations. 

We warmly welcome you to Christ Church today. May God bless your time here, and all the work that we do in our respective communities to enable equality and mutuality to flourish in a world that longs be delivered of fear, and to fully rejoice in our God-given freedom.

The Very Revd Professor Martyn Percy

Dean of Christ Church