Graduating Pilgrim Theological College students welcomed the strong theme of female ministry and leadership that emerged as they collected their qualifications during a University of Divinity award service held at St Michael’s Uniting Church in central Melbourne.
Heather Hon and Fiona Bottcher were among the 19 Pilgrim students conferred awards during the 16 March service that featured a graduation address by author and journalist Julia Baird.
Dr Baird spoke on the harmful effects of the doctrine of male headship, a subject she has covered in depth.
Fiona, who received a Graduate Diploma in Theology, said the address was prophetic and honest.
“I am actually thrilled the University of Divinity secured her,” she said.
“I just thought that was such a wonderful reflection of where we are as a church, to be able to say yes ‘these are the kind of words we are looking for’.”
Heather, who also received a Graduate Diploma in Theology, said the contribution of moderator Sharon Hollis was equally inspiring.
“I loved the fact that Sharon Hollis did some of the liturgy and that was saying something about who we are as a church because obviously not every church has women in leadership,” Ms Hon said.
Both Heather and Fiona said there was a great collegiate feel among the Pilgrim people who attended the service, with both students and some who teach at the college receiving awards.
“I was actually struck by how many people, my fellow students and the staff, put time aside to congratulate us,” Fiona said.
“It took me by surprise how much of a lovely confirmation and celebration of community it was.”
Fiona, who attends Brunswick Uniting Church, is in the second year of formation to become a deacon, which is an outward-facing ministry.
She sees her calling as ministering to those with mental health issues or disability, the economically disadvantaged and especially women who often bear the brunt in those circumstances.
“I am very drawn towards marginalised communities; a lot of that has to do with being the mother of an intellectually disabled son, I think,” she said.
Heather, who attends Glen Waverley Uniting Church, is in the final year of her formation to be a minister of the word.
“I’m feeling really excited about it, aware that it’s a huge responsibility and more so than when I entered the formation process,” Heather said.