Sitting under the soft light of 150-year-old stained glass windows at the parish of St. Peter and St. Paul, the only indication that Gail Rodger is now a member of the ministry is a small wooden cross around her neck and a clerical collar, poking out from above a moss green argyle sweater.
She wears jeans and brown boots and her eyes sparkle with an amicable kindness behind purple frames.
Rodger is the first woman appointed rector to the St. Peter and St. Paul Anglican Church since 1866, but she said being a woman isn’t what gave her pause when she journeyed into her new role.
“My practicality was the thing I saw as the big difference,” she said. “There’s an image of a parish priest that’s still held in our society. If you actually go to churches, particularly Anglican churches, I think that image is incorrect.
“I think that we are called to journey with one another. That’s what our calling is, to support and love and journey with each other – not tell each other how to live, not judge each other’s actions, but come alongside.”
Rodger explained her call to the church came later in life – in fact less than 10 years ago, she was working as an accountant. But then she felt a “nudge of dissatisfaction.”
“That started me on the journey to explore more deeply a call to ministry,” she said. “I grew up a Christian and so that was not new for me, but it was a slow process. I tried some things and talked to some people … It’s been a long journey for me.”
Rodger went to the Vancouver School of Theology and graduated with a master’s in divinity in the spring. She’s excited to be welcomed as a deacon at the Esquimalt church in what she hopes to be a journey to priesthood.
The St. Peter and St. Paul parish is a member of the Anglican Diocese of British Columbia, which has churches on Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands and Kingcome Inlet on the Sunshine Coast, all under Bishop Logan McMennamie.
As a newly-appointed rector, Rodger has her work cut out for her. She said she’ll be focusing on reconciliation and community engagement.
“We are called to reconciliation with First Nations people, we are on their land,” she said. “There have been terrible hurts. It’s going to take some time and we need to be working at that.”
Women have long been joining the ministry of Anglican churches, and Rodgers said she was surprised to learn that she would be the first female rector at the Esquimalt parish.
“I didn’t even know I was the first woman when I took the position, I found out after,” she said. “I guess I didn’t give it too much thought – about being the first woman. I don’t live in that kind of world. I live in a world where we love one another, however, that looks.”
Still, she pointed to plaques filled with names in the entranceway of the historic church. All of the 31 names belong to men, but there’s a space where, once she’s finished her term as rector, the first female name will be engraved.
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