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Obituary: Shirley-Ann Williams

28 May 2021

Correspondents write:

SHIRLEY-ANN WILLIAMS was an enthusiastic member of the laity who played a key part in the campaign to allow the ordination of women. She was a woman of courage and commitment.

She sat on the General Synod from 1985 to 2010, and worked as part of the Central Council for the Movement for the Ordination of Women. She was overjoyed when women were ordained priest, and she continued to support many female deacons on their journey to the priesthood.

Later, she was a member of WATCH (Women and the Church), chaired the national working party for the Ecumenical Decade of Christians in Solidarity with Women (1988-98), and the Church’s Working for Women Group.

She also chaired the House of Laity for Exeter diocese, was a member of other committees and groups, including the Royal Board of Patronage and the diocesan board of patronage, and supported the Churches Together at the Devon County Show for more than 20 years. She served on the national Open Synod Group and edited its magazine.

Shirley-Ann was born in 1933, and grew up in Coventry. She went to Leeds University, and then worked as a buyer for Selfridges in London, before moving to Plymouth in the late 1950s. She was passionate about theatre and met her husband, Paul, when she was the director of a local theatre company and he was the stage manager. She went on to become a speech and drama teacher, teaching at schools in Exeter, and was an examiner for LAMDA. She later put her theatrical skills into use when tutoring clergy in preaching, communications, and public speaking.

In 2016, she was a recipient of the Queen’s Maundy Money at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, and, in 2019, she was one of the first winners of the Bishop of Exeter’s St Boniface Award. These are for Christians who have gone “gone above and beyond to serve the people of Devon with joy”. She was proud, “thrilled and very chuffed”, to have been nominated.

She will be much missed in all circles. She could be tough at times — she was not afraid to disagree with people wearing clerical collars, including bishops — but also personally warm, encouraging, and interested in others. She had a wicked sense of humour.

She was a great role model, kind, gracious, and wise. We miss such generous spirits in our midst.

Shirley-Ann Williams died on 12 March, aged 87.

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