Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

From the Pantry to the Pulpit: Anglican Clergywomen in the Diocese of Trinidad and Tobago

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

From the Pantry to the Pulpit: Anglican Clergywomen in the Diocese of Trinidad and Tobago

Article excerpt


This study had its genesis in a call for papers for this special issue of JENDA: A Journal of Culture and African Women Studies. This call indicated that submitted articles should focus on "both historical and contemporary views of African and African descended women serving as religious leaders." The call for papers inspired one of us (Joyanne) to contact the other (Shelley-Ann) via email and suggest to her that this was an opportunity to relate an untold story of the experiences of Anglican clergywomen in Trinidad and Tobago, most of whom are of African descent. We agreed that we should not pass up this chance. We met and discussed the project over breakfast one Friday morning and so this enquiry was born.

We are committed to this pioneering research project on clergywomen within the Anglican Church in the Diocese of Trinidad and Tobago. In our written proposal for this project, Joyanne declared:

   This paper presents an opportunity for me to realize my parish's
   motto 'to use God's gifts of time, talent and treasure to reconcile
   the Community of God.' I am currently a teacher educator who was
   educated at an Anglican high school for girls in Trinidad and who
   has spent over 15 years as a teacher at Anglican schools in
   Trinidad. I have always been fascinated by the intersection of
   narratives, Anglicanism and its role in promoting women leaders.
   Therefore, this study will provide an opportunity for me to
   intersect my personal, spiritual, and professional lives. I look
   forward to sharing the conversation with these Anglican leaders and
   enabling their voices to be heard.

Shelley-Ann pronounced:

   I have long hypothesized that lasting change in individuals and
   among communities is effected and sustained best through
   interdisciplinary enquiry and application. This paper offers me an
   opportunity to begin to test this hypothesis through application
   and further exploration of some of the theories and principles of
   both my Psychological and Theological training. Both my
   undergraduate and graduate studies facilitated opportunities for
   research. In the first instance, through simple research projects
   (more qualitative research), and then through independent study. I
   am a young female Anglican Priest in my fifth year of parish
   ministry. This study provides a unique opportunity for me to
   reflect on my formation and ministry experience up to this point.
   It will also be a privilege to participate in scholarly work that
   will begin to lay the foundation for future study in this area.

For this project, we explored and analyzed the narratives of nine clergywomen who now serve as pioneering female deacons and priests in 31 parishes of the Anglican Church in the Diocese of Trinidad and Tobago. These are the first women to have broken through the proverbial "stained-glass ceiling" (Adams 2007; de Gasquet 2010; Morgan 1994; Purvis 1995; Sullins 2000) in this diocese.

As we examined and made sense of the experiences these women had in their journey of becoming religious leaders in a patriarchal system, we were guided by the theme for this special issue Breaking the stained glass ceiling: Women as religious leaders. The questions we address in this paper are:

a. What are the key demographic characteristics of these pioneering clergywomen?

b. What paths did they take to become ordained clergy in the Anglican Church in the diocese of Trinidad and Tobago?

c. What challenges did they face along the way?

d. How did they overcome these challenges?

e. What lessons have they learned from their journeys?

The narratives from these nine "pioneering ordinands" (Sullins 2000, 244) were explored, interpreted, and analyzed through various theoretical lenses such as the concept of the stained-glass ceiling and the issues of gender, identity, position, power, authority and narrative inquiry. …

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