Florence Li Tim-Oi

Florence Li Tim-Oi, by Liz Goodyear Jones

Collect: “Almighty God, who pours out your Spirit upon your sons and daughters: Grant that we, following the example of your servant Florence Li Tim-Oi, chosen priest in your church, may with faithfulness, patience, and tenacity proclaim thy holy gospel to all the nations, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting.” Amen

The black and white postcard was tucked on my desk some 36 years ago, its photograph a long-ago ordination of a lone Chinese woman.

 Born in Hong Kong in 1907, her name was Florence Li Tim-Oi. She was the first woman to be ordained to the priesthood in the Anglican Communion, on January 25, 1944. That’s right, 1944. Smack in the middle of the second Sino-Japanese war. Armed only with a theological degree and having been inspired by Deaconess Lucy Vincent to do so, she worked tirelessly in Kowloon and Macau, helping refugees escaping from mainland China. 

In the midst of all that, The Archbishop of Canterbury, William Temple ordained her. Publicly he did not support the ordination of women; privately he viewed her as called and capable.

And that, my friends is why she perched by my computer silently giving her assent and support to this lonely, young priest, sent to a small Mississippi town to build a new church. (I did, by the way build that church).

When I think of the “Li Tim-Oi’s” of my life, those sprigs of a spring flower, insistent on pushing through the dark earth to become a part of nature’s beauty, I am beyond thankful for their witness to Christ’s enduring message to us all. “Grow in me and I in you and we in God”.

It doesn’t matter who or where you are, (grass will come up through concrete you know), it simple matters that you answer, “Here I am, Send me”.

I am so thankful to The Reverend Florence Li Tim-Oi. So very thankful. 

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