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Digital Subscriptions > Life and Work > May 2018 > The Journey

The Journey

Female ministers reflect on their journey after the historic decision to ordain women as ministers within the Church of Scotland.


The Rev Jean Montgomerie was the first woman convener of the Board of Ministry of the Church of Scotland.

“Aged 18, thanks to the courageous eff orts of Emily Pankhurst and others, I was entitled to vote. Aged 22, thanks to the courageous eff orts of Mary Lusk and others, the possibility of becoming an ordained minister in the Church of Scotland was open to me and, on January 11 1973, just a few days short of my 27th birthday, I was ordained and inducted as parish minister of Peterculter Kelman Memorial – a huge shock to the system not just for the congregation, but also for me. What was I doing? Well, the idea always had been that I would only ever be happy in life doing what God wanted me to do, and this was where he led.

Understandably, there were those who had issues with a ‘woman’ minister, but I had resolved to believe that this was no diff erent from folks having issues with other aspects of an individual’s character, personality or appearance. And so, with the immense goodwill of the majority of the congregation I established that there were lots of things in ministry I could do just as acceptably as a male, and others where the female perspective seemed to be appreciated.

“Throughout the 70s and 80s the Church of Scotland, both centrally and at Presbytery level, sought to ensure that there was a female perspective injected into Committees and I was involved in various roles until in 1988 I was appointed the first ‘Woman’ Convener of a General Assembly Board – in my case the Board of Ministry. This was a very rewarding time in my life, and, supported by my congregation, and the Rev Bill Nicholson, who became my ‘minister assisting’ at Peterculter, I served in that role for six years. During this period, I recall once going on a deputation to the Western Isles, when the Moderator of Presbytery announced that the Rev Alexander McDonald, General Secretary of the Board of Ministry would address Presbytery and Sandy replying: ‘actually, Moderator, it will be the Convener of the Board of Ministry, the Rev Jean Montgomerie who will address Presbytery this afternoon’. Communal sharp intake of breath; wry smile, and ‘get on with it, Montgomerie’ (she who, despite having to jump in and out of various small boats during that visit persevered with wearing a skirt!).

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About Life and Work

Inside this issue..... 50 YEARS OF WOMEN IN MINISTRY - The Rev Dr Margaret Forrester reflects on the historic decision. The experience of woman ministers. GENERAL ASSEMBLY 2018 - Meet the Moderator-Designate, the Rev Susan Brown - Reports preview, timetable and the Assembly Fringe - Heart & Soul 2018