It is with great sadness that we learn that Rev Dr Jenny Gage, a former trustee of CWC, has died. CWC trustees would like to send their deep condolences to Jenny’s family.
By coincidence, I have a personal connection in that Jenny and I attended the same Baptist Church in Great Missenden, Bucks some 40 plus years ago, where the minister, Rev John Rackley, introduced me to the then “Worker Priest” movement.
Jenny, who has been serving as self-supporting Minister for Social Justice at Ely Cathedral, had a long career in teaching and was called to self-supporting ministry in her mid-50s in Ely Diocese in parallel to her work in education. Needing to make sense of being a priest while still working in a secular capacity she embarked on a professional doctorate at Anglia Ruskin University and later wrote “Priests in Secular Work: Participating in the “MIssio Dei”, published by Sacristy Press.
Jenny became a trustee of CWC because of her keen interest in the role of ministry in the secular workplace, being parallel to, but different from, chaplaincy in the workplace, and we greatly valued her input.
In her book she argued that in the twenty-first century, priests in secular work (PSW) are not a new phenomenon, and they have a specific vocation, not to be subsumed under any church-based model of ordained ministry. She made the case for understanding priestly ministry in secular work as a distinct vocation, which is necessary to the life of the institutional Church at a time when secular society is rapidly changing.
Both the sacramental nature of this vocation and the work that PSW ministers do are key, she argued, to the vocational identity of priests in secular work. Beginning with her experience of reflecting on her vocation as a maths educator and as a priest, Jenny explored priestly ministry in secular work through a number of theological lenses including the narrative formation of identity, theology of work and theology of place.
Those of us supporting chaplaincy in the workplace valued her input and whilst recognising the distinction between the role of a PSW and a workplace chaplain, we saw the parallels of experience particularly concerning the chaplain in relation to church structures in terms of recognition, support and integration.
Jenny challenged our thinking and has, we want to honour, advanced the understanding within the church and secular workplaces of the productive and vocational role of priests in secular work.
We would welcome views of chaplains on the vital issues that Jenny explored.
The funeral of Rev Dr Jenny Gage will be held in the Lady Chapel of Ely Cathedral
at 2pm on 7th October 2022.
Clive Morton, Vice Chair, CWC