The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, has ordained his wife in the first service of its kind in Britain.
Mrs Sentamu was ordained alongside 11 others in York Minster on Sunday and said it felt right to explore her calling, ahead of her husband’s retirement next year
It is the first time an Archbishop has ordained his wife, although the ceremony has been performed in the past by Bishops.
Speaking to the Telegraph, a clearly overjoyed Mrs Sentamu said her path to ordination had been a 20-year journey.
“It’s about connecting the church and society and executing a public role in my own right, not just through the person I’m married to!” she said.
“With my husband retiring next summer, it felt right to explore a calling.
She delighted in the varied backgrounds of those joining her in Sunday’s service: “It’s the tapestry of life,” she said. “God calls from all walks.
“I know it’s not going to be all plain sailing – Jesus said life wasn’t going to be easy – but I know what I’m stepping into”.
The new deacons will serve in the Diocese of York, a grouping of 607 churches, and will assist in leading worship as well as working in the local community. They will also serve as assistant curates in one of the 470 parishes in the diocese.
The Sentamus’ roots are in Uganda, although they have lived and ministered in the UK for most of their adult lives.
Dr Sentamu, who was born in Kampala, is the most senior black and minority ethnic cleric in the church.
The sixth of thirteen children, he was educated by English missionaries and teachers in Uganda and practised Law in the country before being briefly imprisoned for speaking out against Idi Amin’s regime.
He fled to the UK in 1974 with Margaret, whom he had met at university in Kampala.
Mrs Sentamu worked for a number of years in the private, public and third sectors which included a period as Senior Selection Secretary, overseeing the team responsible for the recruitment of future clergy for the Church of England.
She has also acted as a Non-executive director of the Leeds & York Mental Health Trust and Lay Adjudicator for the Solicitors Regulatory Authority. She is currently a curate at St Chad’s in York.
She is trustee and patron of a number of charities mainly to do with education, health and poverty and domestic abuse.
From 1997 to 1999, Dr Sentamu was Adviser to the Stephen Lawrence Judicial Inquiry. He also chaired a review of the police investigation into the death of Damilola Taylor, a 10-year-old schoolboy who was stabbed to death in south London in 2000.
In 2007, he removed his clerical collar and cut it into pieces during an appearance on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show in protest at Robert Mugabe, saying he would not replace it until the Zimbabwean president was gone.
Ten years later he put a new collar round his neck in another appearance on the show, days after Mugabe was forced out.
Dr Sentamu has been Archbishop of York and a member of the House of Lords for 14 years. His departure from the number two position in the Church of England next year will leave a vacancy some have hoped would one day be filled by a woman.
When he announced his retirement last year, Dr Sentamu said: “I am deeply grateful to Her Majesty the Queen for graciously allowing me to continue as archbishop of York until June 2020 in order to enable me to complete the work to which I have been called.”