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Celebrating the Ordination of Constance Coltman

A Century of Women’s Ordination

On September 17th 1917, at the height of the First World War, Constance Todd was ordained to the congregational ministry at the then King’s Weigh House in London. She was ordained alongside her fiancé, Claud Coltman, and they were married the following day. Together, they took up the ministry of a mission in the East End of London, serving a very needy community.

She applied to study theology at Mansfield in 1913. It was an entirely male institution at the time, and there was no provision for a woman to study there, nor any expectation that a woman could be ordained and enter ministry, though the issue was under discussion in the Congregational Union.

However, then as now, the call to ministry, in congregational churches, was entirely in the hands of the local church meeting, seeking, then as now, to discern the mind of Christ in the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, so the principal at the time, W.B. Selbie accepted her for training, so that it would be open to a church to call her to its ministry. And four years later, on completion of her theological training, that is what happened.

Constance and Claud served a number of churches together, during a long ministry. The way was not always smooth, and Constance retained her radical edge, as a pacifist, supporter of women’s suffrage, and with a passionate care for the poorest and most disadvantaged of her church members.

Lots of events are planned and resources are available. If you are planning an event, please let us know. And please send reports of events as they take place.

  • A short film showing the period leading up to her ordination is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PpFfb8QhpgI&feature=youtu.be.
  • And there is an interview with Janet Wootton and Francis Brienen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ibe4db1S6ZA&feature=youtu.be.
  • The September issue of Feminist Theology Journal has been dedicated to the stories of women in Christian leadership and service globally. This includes contributions by our own Joy Langford (on women in the Pentecostal tradition) as well as the first woman bishop in the Church of South India, and the first woman President of the United Theological College of the West Indies, and others. You can find out more about this at http://journals.sagepub.com/home/fth, and copies will be available at a series of major events leading up to the centenary in September. These include:
  • an International Conference bringing together global pioneers in women’s ministry, to take place in London from 14-16 September, funded by CWM
  • a Public Lecture at Dr Williams’s Library, Gordon Square, London W1H 0AR on Saturday 16th September at 1 p.m.. For details or to register an interest, contact eve.parker@urc.org.uk.
  • a Service of Celebration at the former Whitfield’s Tabernacle, now the American International Church, on Tottenham Court Road, London W1T 4TD, on Sunday 17th September, at 3 p.m. For more details, or to attend the service, contact tracey.hardingham@urc.org.uk