Celebrating the life and ministry of Constance Coltman!

Constance Coltman at Wolverton ChurchThe centenary of the first woman to be ordained in a British mainstream Christian denomination is being celebrated this week – with the United Reformed Church and the Congregational Federation gearing up to mark Constance Coltman’s historic achievement.

Constance Coltman was ordained into the ministry of the Congregational Union of England and Wales on 17 September 1917. Now, 100 years on, final touches are being made to the commemorations. 

From Thursday (14 September) to Saturday (16 September), a Women of the Way: Global Pioneers’ Gathering will bring together delegates from around the world, all of whom are leaders in women’s ministry. Meeting at Church House, they will discuss many issues, including ‘Celebrating Women’s Leadership’, ‘Catalysts for change: issued faced by women in the Church today’, and ‘Resistance and Protest’.

Two public events have been organised: a lecture at the Dr Williams Library, Gordon Square, Bloomsbury, London, on Saturday (16 September, 1pm) and a special thanksgiving service on Sunday (17 September, 3pm) at the American International Church, Tottenham Court Road, London. Led by the Revd Dr Susan Durber, the service will feature international guests from the wider family of the Council for World Mission. To attend either event please contact Tracey Hardingham.

If you can’t get to London but would like to hear more about Constance and her legacy to women’s ministry, tune in to:

  • The Revd Dr Janet Wootton, from the Congregational Federation, who will be focusing on the centenary when presenting BBC Radio 4 Longwave Daily Service at 9.45am tomorrow (13 September). The theme is The Way of the Cross (Luke 9: 21-27) and will feature music by Leoni (‘With Miriam we will dance’), Bevan (‘There's a wideness in God's mercy’) and Breslau (‘Take up thy cross’).
  • The Revd Dr Kirsty Thorpe, former Moderator of General Assembly and Minister of Wilmslow United Reformed Church, will be presenting BBC R4 Sunday Worship live from 8.10 to 8.48am on Sunday (17 September) but most other elements will be pre-recorded, including material from Mansfield College and the East End as one of the places where Constance ministered. Kirsty will highlight both the centenary and the Global Pioneers’ conference. The Revd Rose Hudson-Wilkin, Anglican priest and chaplain both to the Speaker of the House of Commons and Her Majesty the Queen, is preaching.

Janet, Kirsty and others have been busy promoting the Coltman centenary in the run-up to this special time. Janet has been interviewed by BBC Radio Ulster; Kirsty has been interviewed by BBC Essex, BBC R4 Woman’s Hour and BBC Radio Derby. The Revd Jenny Mills, of Newport Pagnell United Reformed Church and West End United Church Wolverton, was also interviewed by United Christian Broadcasters.

  • To continue your celebrations throughout the coming year, why not invest in several Constance Coltman products in the URC online store, including pens (£1), mugs (£5), t-shirts (£8), and bags (£4). Some of the items feature the following thought provoking quote from Constance: ‘The only right that no branch of the Church has ever denied to women has been the right of confessing the faith by martyrdom.’