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Westminster Abbey hires its first woman canon

WESTMINSTER Abbey is to have its first female Canon. Downing Street announced on Monday the appointment of Canon Jane Hedges as Canon Steward, a position that carries responsibility for hospitality at the Abbey.

Canon Hedges, who is Team Rector of the Honiton Team Ministry and Rural Dean of Honiton, in the diocese of Exeter, is the first woman to be appointed to a Royal Peculiar, which comes under the jurisdiction of the Queen. A graduate of St John's College, Durham, and a former Canon Residentiary at Portsmouth Cathedral, Canon Hedges became a deaconess in 1980, was made deacon in 1987, and priested in 1994.

The Dean of Westminster, the Very Revd Dr Wesley Carr, who is retiring in February, said: "It's only natural that, since the ordination of women, we should now have women of such a high calibre and experience in the Church. We are very pleased to have Jane joining our team."

Canon Hedges, who is 50, is married to a primary-school teacher and has two sons, aged 12 and 14. She said this week: "I am both honoured and excited to be the first woman Canon at the Abbey, and have had a very positive reception from the Dean and Chapter.

"Many challenges lie ahead as I move from being a team rector in rural Devon to a very different style of ministry at the heart of the nation. I look forward to working with new colleagues at Westminster. I'm sure we will be able to learn a lot from each other, and I hope I can quickly make a contribution to the hard-working Abbey team."

Canon Hedges is scheduled to be Canon in Residence in February, when she will lead her first service. One of her first tasks will be to oversee a review of the visitor programme "Recovering the Calm". Other duties will include welcoming pilgrims and tourists, and sharing responsibility for the fabric of the building.

"I'm particularly looking forward to the opportunity to engage with the enormous number of visitors to the Abbey, hopefully helping them to experience the Abbey as a living Christian community as well as an inspiring building," she said.

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