On behalf of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, its bishops, clergy and people, I send our condolences and prayers to the family of the Revd Canon Nancy Charton, who died in Graaff Reinet yesterday at the age of 95.
Nancy was the first woman ordained as an Anglican priest in South Africa. She was one of three women ordained in September 1992 by the late Bishop David Russell.
On the day of the Ordination Service, Bishop Russell told those to be ordained:
"Yours has been a faithful, loyal waiting -- especially those who have been deacons for some time -- which you have borne in pain. We in this diocese have for some time been ready and have waited in obedience and unity for the Province to make its corporate decision... The way is opened, and we move in obedience and unity... It has been a creative pain that has deepened you and our church."
I remember Nancy fondly from when I served in St Mary’s Cathedral, Johannesburg. She was a pioneering woman, whose whole life was committed to serving God through his people.
The author of Matthew's Gospel reminds us “Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few, therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.'"
At the 20th anniversary celebrations of the ordination of women to the Priesthood, Nancy was the preacher. Her sermon outlined the long road she had travelled to fulfil her vocation to the priesthood, and gave thanks to God for the many people who had encouraged and supported her.