Giving a voice

As PART of our coverage for International Women’s Day, GC&M News reached out to some of our inspiring local women to share their thoughts and stories with us. 

We thought we’d begin our series by talking to Anglican Priest, Reverend Deborah Bird.

What called you to become an Anglican priest, and when did you first decide to enter the Church?

Being a priest is not something I would ever have thought to do on my own! It took a lot of people encouraging me before I enrolled in theology and found myself falling in love with the idea of ‘the Kingdom of God’ – which for me is associated with committing to love, justice, and compassion as guiding principles of my life, and building community around awareness of the sacred. That was something I knew I could dedicate myself to, so in 2017 I was made a deacon and the following year ordained a priest. I’m currently parish priest for Maleny, Montville, Palmwoods and Kenilworth.

Why should we celebrate International Women’s Day?

Because women transform communities! Wherever women’s voices are empowered we find better health outcomes, wider embrace of sustainable practices and improved application of justice.

What’s important to you as a woman and priest in today’s world?

Lifting up the voices of women in community but also in the church. Women have only been ordained in the Anglican Church of Australia for 30 years which means while there are now plenty of female priests around the hierarchy remains overwhelmingly male. And while I think very highly of many of the men up the ladder, they do not hold the lived perspective, experience and insight of women. We live better together when we know each other’s stories. That has to include women’s stories coming from the pulpit but also the stories of LGBTQ+ persons, the stories of refugees, and stories of wherever life can be made bigger with connection, understanding and compassion.

Recently you arranged to have a keynote speaker at the World Pride and Human Rights Conference come to Montville – why was this important to you?

I’ve ministered to far too many LGBTQ+ persons who have been hurt by the church so I think it’s vitally important for churches to be honest about where they stand on LGBTQ+ welcome. Wherever I can I try to say very clearly, there are safe and embracing church communities for LGBTQ+ people of faith and there are places where we don’t just welcome LGBTQ+ persons, we celebrate their gifts and leadership. It was a privilege for us to host Jayne Ozanne in Montville to hear about her experience as a gay evangelical Christian, and about her work across interfaith groups to safeguard LGBTQ+ people of faith.