Fifty years in licensed ministry


On 30 October the Revd Joan Wagstaff celebrated fifty years in licensed ministry, all of it in the Diocese of Chester. Her church of St John’s, Great Sutton surprised her with a special service on Sunday 27 October to mark this occasion.

The Revd Joan Wagstaff trained at Josephine Butler College in Liverpool, completing a course in Social and Moral Welfare. She was licensed by Bishop Gerald Ellison on 30 October 1969, taking a position at the Chester Diocesan Adoption Agency where she worked for 17 years and was involved directly and indirectly with the adoption of around 1,500 children across Cheshire, and establishing an adoption link with the Isle of Man.

On 26 June 1975, Joan was made a deaconess, serving the parish of St Thomas, Ellesmere Port. She was the first person made deaconess in the diocese and was the first social worker to be made deaconess in the whole of the Anglican Communion. She then went on to be made deacon in 1987 with the first group of women and then continued to be at the forefront of ministerial change by being ordained priest in 1994. After her priesting she was worshipping in a parish which had resolutions against the ministry of women and sat faithfully in the pews, doing what she could, but unable to exercise the fullness of her ministry, until those resolutions were later rescinded. Joan has served on numerous committees across the diocese and is still in active ministry, making her the longest-serving woman in the diocese.

Joan was surprised in the middle of the sermon at St John’s when her photo appeared on the screen! In addition to the ordinary congregation, faces from Joan’s past came to pay tribute to her, including former adoption parents, and the Revd David Herbert, who had served with her in Ellesmere Port. Joan also received letters of commendation from the High Sheriff of Cheshire, Mark Mitchell; the former curate of Ellesmere Port, then Bishop of Manchester, the Rt Revd Nigel McCulloch; and our own Bishop Keith, who wrote that she had done "untold good" through her prayerful pastoral service, and that she should be thought of in the same way as the faithful women of antiquity mentioned in Romans chapter 16.

The service ended with Joan receiving a blessing from the Revd Antony Dutton, using the same prayer used at her dismissal service at the end of her training fifty years ago, before further celebrations with fizz and a marvellous cake, complete with a figure of Joan.

Below is a picture of Joan when she was a Deacon - 4th from the right.

Page last updated: 4th November 2019 8:59 AM