The Rev. Ruth Pogson didn't live to see it, but her spouse thinks she would have been pleased that their "seven years in exile" from the church is now over.
Pogson's spouse is Rev. Beth Aime, also a priest. Last fall, the new rector of Aime's church in Sidney, B.C., asked if she would like to take part in a service. It felt like an invitation back into the church, she says.
For Pogson and Aime, life changed drastically in 2002, when they moved from Ontario to Vancouver Island. They thought the climate would be better for Aime's health. Both were in their 70s. Once settled, they visited the then bishop of the diocese of British Columbia, Barry Jenks, and told him they were a same-gender couple, something they themselves had only recognized in recent years.
Initially, the bishop thought they could continue to function as clergy. Shortly after that conversation, however, Pogson and Aime received a call from his office to let them know this was not the case. They went back to see the bishop.
"I said, 'Surely to goodness, I can preach,'" Aime recalls. But the answer was no. It was a shock to both women, who had spent their entire careers working for the church.
At the time, Aime says she wrote in her journal, "I have given everything to the church for as long as I can remember, and now the church is telling me I am not good enough." That hurt, she says.
Pogson died last December. But, seven years after they were first shut out of their work as clergy, Aime received a letter from Bishop James Cowan of the diocese of British Columbia offering his sympathies on the death of her partner. Bishop Cowan also told Aime that he had recently appointed a female priest with a same-gender partner as the incumbent of a parish in the diocese. The episcopal policy that prevented this in the past had changed, he wrote.
Then, the new rector of Holy Trinity church (where Aime and Pogson have been members) asked Aime if she would like to take part in the liturgy. At first, she said no. Upon further reflection, however, she decided to accept the invitation. "I thought ... I need to say 'yes' and to be a part of it, and the church needs to hear it."
Aime and Pogson's story is one of a friendship that became a marriage. The relationship endured throughout their working years as priests in various ministries and travels across the country. They met when Aime was a student at St. John's College in Winnipeg and Pogson came there to be the director of field education.
Aside from her position at St. John's College, Pogson, who had three master's degrees, worked as a Christian educator at a large church in Toronto, was ordained as deacon and priest in the diocese of Rupert's Land, served as an associate priest at St. Aidan's in Winnipeg, and then as the incumbent in the parish of Arthur in the diocese of Niagara. She retired early to focus on offering spiritual direction to many individuals, renovating her home to accommodate visitors and retreats.
Aime's first parish as a priest was at Easterville in northern Manitoba on Cedar Lake, where the community had had no regular priest for 30 years. She served there for three years, but while going through a divorce, she decided to return to school to get her B.A. at the University of Waterloo and then her master's at the Atlantic School of Theology in Halifax. …