Patricia Joyce Betts (nee Bennett)
My Roots in St Faith's
I may be one of the first women priests with my roots in St Faith's. I began coming to St Faith's with my parents and baby brother just after the Second World War ended. I must have been about 3 years old and my Sunday School teacher was called Mona. I had been baptised in the United Reformed Church church during the war because Mersey Road Methodist Church had been bombed, this was where my grandparents worshipped. My father Gordon Bennett taught bible study groups at St Faith's and was a server. When my brother was about 7 he was asked to be a boat boy to hold the incense container. There was a problem finding a small surplice for him. Father William Hassall was the dynamic and encouraging priest at that time.
I asked to be confirmed when I was about
11 and this preparation was brought forward because my
grandfather was terminally ill and wanted to see me
confirmed. I had classes with the young curate and
with Miss Henderson, a retired missionary. At my
confirmation I felt I was being called to do something
connected with the church in the future. I read books
about women being called to the religious life in
convents but eventually decided to apply for a Church
Teacher Training College called St Katharine’s in
Tottenham. I worked in church primary schools and was
married at St Faith's in 1965.
Many years later I felt called again, this time to serve in the church as a priest. As women priests did not yet exist in the church I prayed about this for some years, did a small amount of lay reader training in the parish of Widcombe in Bath and went to a vocations conference. Then everything moved swiftly: I went to the selection conference and to Salisbury Theological College on the distance learning course as I was working part time in Further Education. I had retrained to teach Literacy Skills to adults in the Bath College and in the community. I was ordained in 1996 as a Deacon and in 1997 as a Priest. I was asked to take full responsibility for the parish of Widcombe in 1998 as a non-stipendiary Priest, with two churches and several schools. It was a low church parish with one church having traditional services and the other contemporary services. I could not be licensed properly until arrangements had been put in place for the medical retirement of the sick incumbent. Our house became the vicarage with an allowance from the church commissioners whilst the long process of selling an old vicarage and buying a new one took place. There were several unusual factors, I didn't have the usual period as a curate and I served in the parish where I had been an active church member for 20 years. I was formally licensed in 2000 and retired in 2005. Two non-stipendiary priests followed me but very unusually the parish now has a full time priest again. One of the church buildings has always been shared with a German speaking Lutheran congregation. We did community events in my time with the local Orthodox church and some quiet days together, they now rent one of the churches in the morning and there is a Anglican Contemporary service in the evening.
I now work in retirement at St Michael’s in Bath city centre which is open seven days a week and am a chaplain at Bath Abbey. I belong to a number of Art groups and Craft groups where I have a pastoral ministry and have even done a wedding and a funeral from this area of activity outside the church.