The Revd Jane Whitehead – The Winterton Group (October 1945 – October 2019)

Eighteen-or-so years ago I was appointed vicar in the Winterton Group… the first woman, and the whole idea was new, and perhaps not entirely welcome to some… But on arrival I found that Jane, by then, well established as a ministry team member and the first woman priest in Winterton, had been lovingly preparing the ground for a woman vicar… she had quietly and gently got on with the business of being a priest here and made it feel OK, even to the dubious, and people trusted her – after all she was a real local!

From the start, Jane was an indispensable member of the team, taking on her duties willingly, joyfully and thoughtfully. Sometimes in saying seemingly simple things she was able to get to the heart of the matter, making us all think. Many in our group of parishes will have memories of her ministry among us, baptising children, marrying couples and of course conducting funerals and also simply being there for people. But central to her ministry was the regular celebration of the Eucharist. It is for this reason that it was right that we celebrated Jane’s life and ministry among us in the context of this service, the Eucharist, which was such an important part of her spiritual life. Jane saw presiding at the Eucharist as both a duty and a joy.

And she overcame life threatening illness, including a liver transplant, back in 1994, all before she stepped up for selection and subsequent training in the ministry. Jane was ordained priest in Lincoln Cathedral in 1999 and continued to exercise her priestly vocation for many years, though sadly for the last couple of years this became increasingly limited. However, her love and concern for people always shone through and continued to do so, even as her health deteriorated. Jane always seemed to be calm and peaceful, making time for people and listening to them.

At Jane’s funeral on the 5th of November, I reminded people that we had just celebrated the festival of All Saints, and observed that saints, or friends of God, can be found everywhere. Not just pious figures in stained-glass windows or people who suffered gruesome martyrdoms, or who were around when Jesus trod this earth. But we all have the potential and calling to be saints. Jane responded to this call and not only studied and preached the Gospel, but lived it too. We may be certain that Jane is now in light and joy, with our loving Lord and God, on another shore.

I know Jane will be sadly missed by us all and our thoughts and prayers go to her family and friends at this sad time.

The Revd Alice Nunn, Vicar of the Winterton Group

Main image courtesy of the Church of England.