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Florence Li Tim-Oi anniversary marked

31 January 2014

Following on: Canon Edidah-Mary Mujinya preaches at St Martin-in-the-Fields at Dr Li Tim Oi's anniversary service on Saturday

Following on: Canon Edidah-Mary Mujinya preaches at St Martin-in-the-Fields at Dr Li Tim Oi's anniversary service on Saturday

IN 1944, a 35-year-old Chinese woman, Florence Li Tim-Oi, crossed Japanese lines to reach Shui Hing, a village that remained in Free China. There she met the Bishop of Victoria, Hong Kong, the Rt Revd Ronald Hall, who ordained her the first woman priest in an Anglican diocese.

In a letter written shortly after the event to friends in England, Bishop Hall described how he had made Dr Li Tim-Oi "a priest in the Church of God". Already in sole charge of a congregation in Macao, she had demonstrated "remarkable, successful pastoral work". He concluded: "If you are asked questions, the answer is that this was necessary in order that my people should have the sacraments regularly administered."

On Saturday, the 70th anniversary of Dr Li Tim-Oi's priesting was marked at St Martin-in-the-Fields, which has Chinese-speaking congregations.

In a foreword to the programme, the Archbishop of Canterbury gave thanks for her "courage and commitment, and for her concern that women should be fully valued by the Church and in society".

The address was given by Canon Edidah-Mary Mujinya, the Mothers' Union Provincial President of Uganda, and Acting Principal of Ankole Western Institute of Science and Technology. She described how the Li Tim-Oi Foundation, which provides grants to train women for Christian mission and ministry, had enabled her to undertake theological training.

Later during the service, Christina Rees, vice-chair of the foundation, described the challenges facing those who received grants: "Most have experienced poverty, hardship and the death of one or both of their parents while they were still young girls."

Even after receiving grants, "they often face prejudice, discrimination, and hostility from colleagues and other Christians."

After the eucharist, bowls of perfumed oil were passed around, and members of the congregation were invited to mark a neighbour's palm with the sign of the cross. "We look forward to the full inclusion of women in the episcopate, and remember the sense of exclusion in those parts of the Communion where the priestly ordination of women is not yet permitted," the programme read.

Dr Li Tim-Oi surrendered her priest's licence in 1946, but not her Orders. She resumed the practice of her priesthood in the Church in China, and in Toronto when she retired in 1981. She died in 1992. The Foundation has so far helped women from 124 dioceses in the Communion.

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