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The wife of a leading member of the Anglican Church has spent a month in the kingdom observing the life and ministry of St Christopher’s Cathedral as part of her own journey of faith and service.
The recently ordained member of the Church of England (CoE) visited Bahrain during her curate training, giving talks to people of numerous cultures who live on the island.
Reverend Anne Futcher, the wife of the Archdeacon of Exeter, was the first woman in ministry to spend an extended time in the kingdom and was under the stewardship of The Very Rev Christopher Butt.
Anne, however, does not wish for her gender to define her work. She said: “Being a priest is very important to me. It’s something I’m sure that God has called me to be, even though it’s taken me a long time to realise it. I also happen to be a woman. That’s who I am, I don’t know how to be a priest in any other way. And, I hope, that wherever I’m serving, my gender isn’t a barrier for people to feel close to God. Should anyone find it is, I would want them to receive Holy Communion from a male priest instead but I would very much hope that we could pray together.”
The cathedral is already familiar with women sharing in lay ministry in different ways and the Very Rev Butt’s wife, Tricia, has conducted worship as a Lay Reader at the Cathedral for many years.”
Mother of two, Anne, lives just outside of Exeter in the English county of Devon with her husband, also called Christopher. The archdeacons in the CoE are senior Anglican clergy who serve under their dioceses’ bishops, usually with responsibility for the area’s church buildings and pastoral care for clergy.
Anne forged a career in education and children’s services in local government, taking on roles as a primary and secondary school teacher, educational psychologist, and for 10 years as an assistant director of children’s services.
In 2012, she began exploring the possibility of ordination in the church despite her being in her mid-fifties, and she was ultimately accepted for residential training.
She now spends her time working in a group of five, largely rural, churches in East Devon, known as the Holyford Mission Community, and is known as an Assistant Curate, a form of apprentice in church ministry. She chose to visit Bahrain to undertake the final stage of her curacy training.
Anne explained: “It’s been really wonderful discovering more about being a priest in Bahrain and being immersed within the church community here, even for a short time. I’ve been so grateful for the warmth with which my ministry has been welcomed.
“This all came about after I was ordained as a deacon in 2015 and priest in 2016. Being ordained priest meant that I could conduct weddings, and preside at Holy Communion, which is especially wonderful. Exeter Diocese offers all curates in their last year an opportunity to spend four weeks experiencing ministry in a different setting. As the diocese is linked with the Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf (and with Thika in Kenya), and as I’d previously met Christopher Butt, we began talking about the possibility of me furthering my training by experiencing ministry in the kingdom.
“I was especially attracted by the diversity of its communities - very different from Devon - and by the openness and welcome it extended to people of different faiths. And I certainly wasn’t disappointed by the welcome I received!”
During her time in Bahrain, Anne was privy to many new experiences. She visited Khalifa bin Salman Port in Hidd to learn about the Mission to Seafarers, the US Navy Base, the Migrant Workers Protection Society and visited the British Embassy in Manama.
She was involved generally in the life and worship of the cathedral and wider Christian community and shadowed the dean during his daily duties. She was invited to speak at a meeting of Christian ministers of different denominations, preached to both Urdu and Tamil-speaking congregations and spoke at the cathedral’s Living Room Dialogue session.
She said: “I’ve met and had meals with many different people, been shown around the kingdom and enjoyed its culture … and its weather! In all these activities, what has struck me most has been the hospitality and warmth that I’ve received.
“I’ve so enjoyed ministry at both the Cathedral and Awali Church. I’ve been so struck by the way in which Christians are drawn to them from such a variety of nationalities and backgrounds and the way in which they find a spiritual home and welcome there.
“It’s been wonderful, too, seeing how the cathedral compound is able to host the worship of so many different Christian communities, with all the richness and diversity of worship that they bring.
“I’ve so valued my visit to Bahrain and I’d love to come back some time in the future!”
The Very Rev Butt was also delighted at having the chance to welcome Anne to Bahrain. He said: “It was our utmost pleasure to host Anne on placement as part of her training. She really immersed herself into all sorts of experiences in Bahrain and met a mix of different people.
“She provided an excellent model of ordained ministry, and as a result her ministry as a priest was warmly received. As well as preaching and celebrating Holy Communion at all of the English-speaking cathedral services, she also preached at the Urdu-speaking congregation at the National Evangelical Church and the cathedral’s Tamil congregation.”