Anne Kerrison: One of Norfolk’s first 20 women priests

Countrywoman and vicar Anne Kerrison, who has died peacefully aged 87, was one of the first women to be ordained in Norfolk.

She had been a volunteer and lay worker in the Church of England for about 25 years before the General Synod approved the ordination of women in 1992.

After reading theology at Cranmer Hall, Durham, in 1969, she returned to Norfolk and became a vital member of the team at Hellesdon, near Norwich. The Ven Michael Handley, who has since retired as archdeacon but was at Hellesdon from 1972, recalled her enthusiasm and determination to get things done over the following four years.

'She had a loving and caring side in her work which made her incredibly effective,' he said.

She was ordained at Norwich Cathedral in late April 1994 by the then bishop, the Rt Rev Peter Nott, who had initially resisted women priests. But the impact of this first group of 20 women priests was soon appreciated across the Diocese of Norwich.

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In the hunting field, the Rev Kerrison, was recognised as a determined rider, who would tackle her fences without fear of the consequences. Her tendency to apply this approach to her ministry in the church did not always win her friends.

She was also chairman of the North Norfolk Harriers and lived at Sloley Lodge, near North Walsham, in the heart of the hunt's country for many years.

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Born in Rhodesia on June 29, 1923, she was the younger sister of Sir Stephen Hastings, who was a long-serving Mid-Bedfordshire MP and former joint Master of the Fitzwilliam Foxhounds. At a very young age, she was brought home to England to be raised by her grandmother.

She joined the Wrens in the second world war and was involved in the top secret code-breaking work at Bletchley Park. She met and married Roger Kerrison, who was a Fleet Air Arm pilot, flying Swordfish, the slow-flying torpedo carrying planes.

Always independent, she combined her church and countrywoman role with gusto. And in her ministry, her determination to make a difference was felt in parishes across North Norfolk after she became a deaconess in 1977 and joined the diocese's industrial mission.

She took Holy Orders initially as deacon when allowed by Synod in 1987 and became minister to the parishes of Hevingham with Hainford and Stratton Strawless, near Aylsham, in 1994.

She was granted permission to officiate from 1996 when she retired from active ministry.

She was married for more than 50 years and her husband died about 15 years ago.

She leaves two daughters.

A funeral was held at St Mary's, Burgh-next-Aylsham on December 8.

Michael Pollitt

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