Engage and Encounter: Women’s Ministry Network Morning with Bishop Sarah Mullally

Joining together virtually from across the diocese in June, the Women’s Ministry Network held a morning of engagement and encounter with Bishop Sarah Mullally. Jamie Ellis speaks to The Revd Canon Carolyn Cooke, Diocesan Adviser for Women’s Ministry, who reflects on her highlights of the call, exploring leadership, how can we disagree well and how can the church respond to Covid.

Bishop Sarah Mullally, Bishop of London, Lead Bishop for Living in Love and Faith and Chair of the Covid Recovery Group led the morning discussion, with a focus on encountering and engaging with Jesus during this time.

“We were deeply grateful to Bishop Sarah for carving out a whole morning to share with us with honesty, humour and down to earth stories. Thank you for naming the storm we have been in - but drawing us back to Christ who is with us in it,” says Carolyn.

Female clergy across the Diocese in Europe were invited to attend online - both licensed clergy and priests with Permission to Officiate. The morning focused on three key themes: Reflections on Leadership; Disagreeing Well; and Church Response to Covid.


In this section, Bishop Sarah reminded us of our relationship with God and took us back to who we are in Christ. Leaving the reassuring reminder that our biggest calling is to Jesus, Bishop Sarah said; “I have had two careers: becoming Chief Nursing Officer in the Department of Health in the UK, and as a Bishop. But I have one vocation to follow Jesus Christ”. Wrestling with life’s challenges, our biggest call is to Jesus Christ. “What do we boast in, we boast that God knows us and we need to remind ourselves that our name is written on God’s hands – this will help us weather the difficult times,” said Bishop Sarah.

Bishop Sarah reminded us of unity and togetherness, that we are all broken and vulnerable, but we are in this together. Carolyn Cooke said, “Bishop Sarah highlighted the need for women to amplify women’s voices in leadership, building alliances together with other women, creating a network of women. This builds in to the picture across the Diocese of the Women’s Ministry Network.” Moreover, Bishop Sarah highlighted the need for pastoral care for clergy.  

The aims of the Adviser to the Bishop for Women's Ministry in the Diocese are to Equip, Evaluate and Engage. You can read more about Diocesan Women’s Ministry here. Carolyn recognises “this can only be done fruitfully as women work together across the Diocese in Europe - thus the importance of building up and strengthening the network”.

Disagreeing Well

Bishop Sarah described the best image of the Body of Christ, being a radical community where we all have a part to play. She highlighted the Living in Love and Faith project and the Six Pastoral Principles for living well together. Encouraging to engage with the material in these projects, Bishop Sarah suggested creating safe groups where people can open up and share with each other.

Response to Covid

Bishop Sarah spoke about Matthew 8:23-27 and highlighted that storms are exhausting, and the need to recognise we are living with hope and exhaustion. There is a mix of human responses: some people are relieved and others are still anxious. We should take careful steps, but rather than concentrate on our fear of the storm, we should instead focus on Jesus, who is within the storm with us.  The pandemic has revealed once again the inequalities in society, with the vulnerable most affected. “Bishop Sarah encouraged us to be innovative and to proclaim afresh the gospel in this new generation,” says Carolyn adding that we need to "recognise the toll and have patience with ourselves."

Looking Ahead

“In the autumn we will continue to meet online to strengthen support and build alliances. We will also be aiming to resource one another through the wealth of female clergy and what they are able to share with one another. One example of this is "Spit-ball theology", and we will explore the theology of how we have responded to Covid, looking at the theology and ecclesiology behind our church practices during the pandemic. Do be in touch if you have ideas to share,” says Carolyn.

You can view the whole discussion on this video.  Following the call, network participants reflected on a range of key themes: leadership and facilitating complicated discussions; the voice of women across the diocese and looking to how we can bring about change in this; recognising the cultural shifts surrounding women in the diocese; creating intentional steps to help and enable women at all levels in the diocese; and exploring fostering relationships across the diocese.

The women due to be made deacon and priested in Petertide ordinations in the diocese were also held in prayer.  They are Annie Bolger, Dorienke de Vries, Sarah-Jane King and Roxana Teleman.  You can read profiles of all those due to be ordained in the diocese this summer in our forthcoming European Anglicans magazine.