The Reverend Alison Cheek was a significant figure in the early days of the Movement for the Ordination of Women in Australia. She made a number of visits in the 1980s and early 1990s, particularly at crucial times such as General Synod meetings. She was a tower of strength to MOW as a community and to individuals within it. A pioneering women of stature and faith, she manifested the reality of women priests in the Anglican communion to us and to Anglican Church authorities in Australia. Janet Scarfe
|RIP: The Rev. Alison Cheek, first female Episcopal priest to celebrate Eucharist, dies at 92
By Egan Millard
Posted Sep 3, 2019
The Rev. Alison Cheek celebrates the Eucharist with the Rev. William A. Wendt, rector of St. Stephen and the Incarnation, in November 1974 in Washington, D.C. Photo: Harry Naltchayan/The Washington Post via Getty Images
[Episcopal News Service] The Rev. Alison Cheek, one of the first female priests in The Episcopal Church and the first to publicly celebrate the Eucharist, died on Sept. 1 at her home in Brevard, North Carolina, according to friends. She was 92.
Cheek was one of the Philadelphia Eleven, the first women to be ordained to the priesthood in The Episcopal Church. She and 10 other women were ordained at the Church of the Advocate in Philadelphia on July 29, 1974, two years before the ordination of women was officially authorized by General Convention. The highly controversial ordinations were later affirmed as valid.
“I sort of risked everything to do it,” she recalled on the 40th anniversary of her ordination. “I would do it again.”
Cheek was no stranger to bold moves. Born near Adelaide, Australia, in 1927, she was raised Methodist and graduated from the University of Adelaide, according to one of her former parishes. In 1957, she and her husband, Bruce, moved to the Washington, D.C., area, where she became a lay minister at several Episcopal churches while raising four children. In 1963, she became one of the first two women admitted to the Master of Divinity program at Virginia Theological Seminary, from which she graduated in 1969. With encouragement from her rector, she pursued ordination to the diaconate and became the first female deacon in the South in 1972.
During a retreat, she experienced a powerful spiritual calling to do something that had never been done before. She heard the voice of God telling her, “I want you to be my priest,” she later told the Chicago Tribune.
“It was a powerful experience. It’s why I never thought of giving up,” Cheek said.