Feminist Review

, Volume 97, Issue 1, pp 92–109 | Cite as

negotiating sacred roles: a sociological exploration of priests who are mothers

  • Sarah-Jane Page


In 1992, in a historic move, the Church of England voted to allow women's ordination to priesthood and in 1994 the first women priests started to be ordained. Despite much research interest, the experiences of priests who are mothers to dependent children have been minimally investigated. Based on in-depth interviews with seventeen mothers ordained in the Church, this paper will focus on how the sacred-profane boundary is managed. Priests who are mothers have a particular insight into the Church hierarchy as they symbolically straddle the competing discourses of sacred and profane. However, instead of reifying these binaries, the experiences of these women show how such dualisms are challenged and managed in everyday life. Indeed, in terms of experience, ritual, ministry and preaching, priests who are mothers are resisting, recasting and renegotiating sacred terrain in subtle and nuanced ways. Mothers thus not only negotiate the practical and sacramental demands placed on priests, but also illuminate how the sacred domain is regulated and constructed.


motherhood priesthood Church of England sacred roles 


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© Feminist Review 2011

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  • Sarah-Jane Page

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