Monday, January 24, 2011

Day 7: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity / Ordination of Florence Li Tim-Oi (1907-1992)

God, you raised your Son Jesus to give hope for humanity and renewal to the earth. Continue to strengthen and unify your Church in its struggles that obscure the hope of the new life you offer. This we pray in the name of the Risen Lord, in the power of his Spirit. Amen.

"The first Christians' devotion to the apostles' teaching, fellowship, breaking of the bread and the prayers was made possible, above all, by the living power of the Risen Jesus. This power is still living and today's Christians witness to this. The light and hope of the Resurrection changes everything...

...The central Christian experience is that of passing from death to life. This is the abiding sign of God's steadfast love. It is the defining reality of all baptism...we have died with Christ, and live to share his risen life..." (Week of Prayer Daily Scripture and Prayer Guide)

If ever there was a witness to the power of the living Risen Christ at work in a baptized Christian, it was Florence Li Tim-Oi! Named Tim Oi = Much-beloved Daughter by her father, Florence later chose her first name in honor of Florence Nightingale. At age 21, she wanted "to be a selfless lady like her", to serve. And serve she did in a lay capacity for the next 13 years. She really hadn't set out to be a deacon or a priest, but God led her, by successive steps, and through the tremendous upheavals of war, poverty, and uncertainty in her native land of China. She was ordained deacon in 1941, and in 1944, under unusual circumstances and with the concurrence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, she was ordained the first woman priest in the Anglican Communion.

At the conclusion of World War II, because her ordination was a matter of great controversy, she made the personal decision not to exercise her priesthood until it was acknowledged by the Anglican Communion. That took some 36 years, during which she was also persecuted by the Communist Red Guard in China! Nevertheless, she continued to labor as a servant of the Gospel in Macao, China, and in the Diocese of Montreal, Canada, where she eventually settled. Florence Li Tim-Oi lived firsthand in the spirit of Paul's words and in the spirit of all her forebears in the Communion of Saints, from the Church in Jerusalem onward: "For the love of God urges us on...So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us..."

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