The Revd Canon Doris Staniford has just celebrated a momentous 40 years in ministry in the Church of England. A service of thanksgiving for her ministry took place at St John’s Church in Crawley last month and was attended by family, friends and colleagues who came to support and celebrate with her.
Bishop David Wilcox former Bishop of Dorking, who ordained the first women priests in Chichester Diocese, preached.
Doris was only 12 years old as a Kings Messenger (USPG) at Southwark Cathedral with the then Bishop of Borneo, when she first felt the calling to be a priest.
“My parish priest told me, women couldn't be priests,” said Doris, “but he was sure God had something special for me. My father also said I could not be a priest as woman were not permitted to be a priest, but he encouraged me to go into nursing, which I did.”
Doris was licensed as a Deaconess in 1979 in St Martin's Brighton by Bishop Eric, the then Diocesan Bishop of Chichester, after four years training. Because of her nursing background, in her last year she trained as a chaplain at St Bartholomew’s hospital in London.
Doris has worked in many parishes across the Diocese of Chichester and held key roles in her ministerial career. Her first parish was St Helen's Hangleton, where she played the organ and led Evensong as well. Three years later she was licensed to Durrington. It was while she was in Durrington that she was part of the first group of women to be ordained deacon by in 1994. Doris was one of the first women ordained priest 25 years ago on the 15th May at St Swithun’s church in East Grinstead by Bishop David Wilcox of Dorking.
While at Durrington Doris was appointed to the staff at Chichester Theological College. She held a number of key roles across the diocese including the appointment as Adviser for Lay Ministry which was then women's ministry. She held that role until 2004.
Doris played a key role in the governance of the diocese and was a member of General Synod for 15 years. She was appointed by General Synod as a Governor of St Stephens House Oxford. She was also on the Committee of Church House Westminster and an Advisory Board for Ministry Selector now known as BAP - Bishop’s Advisory Panel.
Not one to shy away from a challenge, it was no surprise that Doris took up flying and gained her pilot’s licence at Goodwood Airfield.
Doris has very fond memories of Bishop Eric, whom, she said, was very ‘encouraging and supportive.’
When asked about the legacy of her ministry to date Doris said she hoped she had been an inspiration to many. Bishop David had said to her: “This has been your philosophy throughout your 40 years in the church. It hasn't been easy for you but you have never faltered. Your vocation hasn't always been popular, but you have dealt with this with humility and love, never anger.”
Summing up her 40 years, Doris said: “It was amazing at Mass on my anniversary service. People were all talking about Bishop David's inspirational service.”
She had this to say for others following in her footsteps: “Though the Road may be long, the journey is worth the wait.”
Pictured: Doris with The Revd Steve Burston (Left) and Bishop David Wilcox