Ludlow welcomes first female Archdeacon since Diocese of Hereford's inception in 676

Ludlow has welcomed its first female Archdeacon since the Diocese of Hereford's inception in 676.

The new Archdeacon of Ludlow, Revd Fiona Gibson
The new Archdeacon of Ludlow, Revd Fiona Gibson

Revd Fiona Gibson was installed as the Ludlow Archdeacon on Monday in a historic moment for Shropshire and the Diocese of Hereford.

Fiona said she doesn't feel the weight of her role as the first woman in a senior role in the diocese too heavily, but hopes to inspire other women into leadership roles in the church.

"I am the first female senior member of the clergy since the diocese was founded in 676," she said. "It is a significant moment for the church but at the same time I am just me.

"I am not coming into this feeling the weight of being the first woman, I am going into it as Fiona Gibson, and I want God to use me in this role with the skills and experiences and gifts he has given me."

Revd Fiona Gibson being installed as the Archdeacon of Ludlow

Trained initially as a primary school teacher before she was ordained as a vicar, Fiona hopes to utilise her background in education to work with church schools across the county.

There are around 400 churches across the whole diocese and the role of the Archdeacon is to act as a bridge between individual benefices – groups of parishes – and the Bishop.

Her role will mainly include maintaining church buildings and churchyards, overseeing clergy wellbeing and work on education – for all the parishes under the Ludlow Archdeaconry.

Beginning her role during the middle of a pandemic hasn't been easy, but Fiona said she hopes to use a hybrid method going forward of online and in person meetings.

The new Archdeacon of Ludlow, Revd Fiona Gibson

"Speaking personally I think the useful aspect of everything being online is being able to have more frequent meetings with people," she said.

"I can see myself having a hybrid way of doing things – part in person, part online. We have learnt how much more flexible and creative we can be and use the best of online and in person."

Fiona worked as a primary school teacher for around nine years and then went on to work for her local church in St Albans. She then became ordained in St Albans Diocese in 2011, and was the Vicar of Cople, Moggerhanger and Willington, three rural parishes to the East of Bedford, since 2014.

She said she was initially sceptical about training to be ordained, but after prayer and reflection she decided to go for it.

Revd Fiona Gibson, the new Archdeacon of Ludlow, her husband Dave and their two children

"One half of me was saying no I couldn't possibly do that, but the other half was intrigued," she said.

"I trained for four years full time and became ordained in the St Albans Diocese.

"So I've moved across urban to suburban to rural and now I've found myself here. I feel as if all the strains of my life have come together, I don't feel I looked for the job but it very much looked for me.

"I am excited to be starting and I have a lot to learn. It has been an interesting challenge to meet people in the area during lockdown.

"After we moved, which was before I started the role officially, I went out walking in the hills. It's stunningly beautiful here, and I really can't wait to discover more and more of it as restrictions ease."

The new Archdeacon of Ludlow, Revd Fiona Gibson

Fiona's appointment as Archdeacon of Ludlow is a historic one – as she becomes the first female senior member of the clergy since the Diocese of Hereford was founded in 676.

She said it was an "interesting and significant" moment, and she hopes to encourage other senior female clergy to move up the ladder.

"I want to do the role well and follow in the footsteps of those who came before me," Fiona said. "There is a large number of female clergy serving in the area already, especially in leadership roles.

"I want to try and encourage women who are already in leadership to carry on moving up, and have a role in them wanting to develop, as well as being a visibly senior woman in the diocese."

The Diocese of Hereford said Fiona's appointment marks a significant step forward for the Church of England in this rural area.

Fiona and her husband Dave have moved to Craven Arms and have two young adult children, both at university.

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