Article provided by Dr Claire Renkin, Yarra Theological Union
On Sunday September 3, the feast day of St Phoebe the Deacon, several hundred people came together to celebrate Evensong at St Paul’s Cathedral, Melbourne.
The ecumenical commemoration of St Phoebe, whom St Paul commends to the Romans (Romans 16. 1-16), provided an opportunity to honour the ancient office of the diaconate in the early church. From the earliest times this office employed women, not merely as helpers but as leaders. The readings, prayers and music evoked the multiple roles that women leaders like Phoebe had exercised in biblical times and later.
This inspiring service culminated when Professor Emerita Mary Coloe pbvm ascended the pulpit to preach on St Paul’s homage to St Phoebe. This brilliant teacher and highly regarded scholar of John’s gospel delivered a sermon called ‘Lost in Translation.’ Prof. Coloe recounted how across the centuries a series of poor or misleading translations removed from biblical texts their emphasis on female deacons as leaders of their faith communities. Using the device of Call and Response, Prof Coloe summoned us all to remember all those women who have answered Christ’s call to ministry. On the basis of Scripture she affirmed the contemporary call for Catholic women to enter fully into the life of the Church, especially into the order of the diaconate.
The organisers of this event, Women’s Wisdom in the Church wish to express their thanks for the support and hospitality of the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral, Reverend Dr Andreas Loewe, together with the Cathedral staff.