First woman priest ordained in Cyprus and the Gulf diocese[Episcopal News Service] The Rev. Catherine Dawkins made history in early June when she became the first woman to be ordained a priest in the Episcopal Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East during a service at St. Christopher's Cathedral in Manama, Bahrain.
Dawkins, 34, will serve in the Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf, which in February this year was granted permission, by the vote of a provincial synod, to ordain and appoint women priests. The decision does not affect the other three dioceses in the province: Egypt, Iran and Jerusalem.
"It is wonderful that women are now able to be ordained in this diocese, and it was an immense privilege to be the first woman to be ordained here," Dawkins told ENS. "I feel hugely privileged that I ... can now embark on this new phase of my ministry."
Dawkins, a British citizen, has now moved to Dubai with her husband, the Rev. Nigel Dawkins, who will begin a new role on July 1 as senior port chaplain with Mission to Seafarers in Dubai.
Dawkins said that her ministry will evolve in the coming months "as I settle into Dubai and discern how best I can be used in this place. There are lots of activities at the churches here, and I am already involved with the weekly worship and the weddings ministry. The churches also have a thriving outreach ministry including: prison visiting, supporting migrant laborers, thrift shop and charity sales."
Dawkins said she has not experienced any opposition to her ordination. "In fact the response has been overwhelmingly supportive," she said, adding that the congregation at Holy Trinity in Dubai has warmly welcomed her into the church.
About 100 people attended the June 5 ordination service, including 14 clergy from 10 countries and the Rev. Sarah Buxton-Smith, an Episcopal priest from the Diocese of Western New York and a member of the Compass Rose Society. Bishop Michael Lewis of Cyprus and the Gulf led the service and preached.
Dawkins was ordained a deacon in January 2010 and has since been based in Yemen where she has served as assistant chaplain at Christ Church in Aden. Her husband was already serving in Aden when they married in October 2009.
A qualified chartered accountant, Dawkins was responsible for the finances and fundraising at a medical clinic, the main ministry at Christ Church.
"Nigel and I are passionate about empowering the local population and as such I have spent the past year training a local graduate as a bookkeeper," she said. "It has been very rewarding to be able to use my different skills for the various projects at Christ Church, and I have fond memories of our time in Aden. It is sad that we have been forced to leave earlier than expected due to the current uncertainties in the country. Our experience of the Yemeni people was of welcome and warm hospitality."
While Dawkins becomes the first woman to be ordained in the Middle East province, female priests who are canonically resident elsewhere in the Anglican Communion have from time to time served in the region.
The Very Rev. Christopher Butt, dean of St. Christopher's Cathedral in Bahrain, said, according to a Gulf Daily News article, that Dawkins' ordination is "a sign of recognition in the wider church that women have a final role in the ministry of the church and not a secondary one. It is also recognition of the gifts and special insights that women bring into the ministry in a powerful way."