by Libby Gilchrist
Prolonged conflict is exhausting. So is facing sustained prejudice. In the Australian Anglican Church, in the Diocese of Wangaratta, there were many clergy who saw women priests as totally unacceptable, even contaminating. And so Libby’s 20 year struggle to follow a call that she couldn’t deny, was therefore grindingly hard. Not because of anything she had done, but simply because of what she was, what she is – a woman.
Her story is built around church, faith, and the struggle for women’s ordination, but it is also about much more than this. It is a personal exploration of how she reacted to the difficulties of her journey, revealing and describing her innermost thoughts and feelings over a long and extremely testing period.
Half way through this journey she made a tapestry, a visual representation of grief, with images that reflected her experiences – the stone wall of seemingly insurmountable obstacles, the broken cross of the church in difficulty, as well as the butterfly of beauty and change. The tapestry is referred to throughout the book and gives life to the different aspects of her journey. It is a story of pain but also one of great joy.
Libby Gilchrist is a Priest in the Anglican Church of Australia. Originally a teacher, the majority of her working life in the Church was in Wangaratta Diocese, in parishes and in hospital chaplaincy, as both deacon and then as priest. However, due to the complex legal restrictions in Wangaratta Diocese her actual ordination to the priesthood in 2005 had to be outside the diocese, at St Paul’s Cathedral, in Melbourne. She and her husband Stuart, and dog Zack, now live on the Mornington Peninsula, where Libby assists in the local parish and works as a Spiritual Director. She has three children and six grandchildren.