2 February 2023

Vale to a shining example of servant leadership 

Marjorie proudly wearing the McGregor tartan and brooch. Picture: supplied 

By Peta Sherlock 

7 December 2022

The Venerable Marjorie McGregor AM, 1931-2022. 

In our nursing homes and aged care facilities there are hidden saints of the church. Marj McGregor was one. She had lived with dementia in Kyneton for many years but overseen by her two feisty sisters Margaret and Helen who lived in the same facility and made sure Marj was not forgotten. She died on 17 September just short of her 91st birthday. Her funeral was led by the present rector, the previous rector and Bishop Kate Prowd who was deaconed alongside Marj in February 1986. Archbishop Kay Goldsworthy sent a greeting from Perth. 

I met Marj through the Movement for the Ordination of Women and celebrated when she became one of the first women in Australia to be made deacon by Archbishop David Penman at St Paul’s Cathedral Melbourne. He decided first to ordain deaconesses, although most of them believed they already were deacons. Many of these deacons went on to become priests, bishops, one even became the Archbishop of Perth. But Marj remained a deacon, despite pressure, because she believed that this was the distinctive Christian ministry. She was called to a vocation of servant leadership.  

And Marj was a shining example. She was no doormat. She truly led, but by the deep authority of serving others. I most remember her smile, not a papering over the cracks kind of smile, but a genuine peace and joy. She was made an archdeacon in 1988, in a creative move, because she embodied the diaconate: she was the epitome of a deacon, an arch-deacon. In 1990 Archdeacon Marjorie came to the place where I was being licensed as school chaplain to sign my papers and present me to the school. At the very last moment the Diocesan Registry sent a man, because the lawyers said, being a woman, Marj was not quite a real archdeacon! For one moment her smile faded as we both saw yet another injustice played out. She insisted on signing the document beside the man’s name and I valued that signature. And neither of us believed the lawyers. 

Marj had studied at Ridley College for her Licentate in Theology in 1959 and earned a rare Th.Schol in 1972, the equivalent of a masters degree. She was made a deaconess in 1961 and served at Bentleigh, London, Ringwood, The Hermitage and South Melbourne with many church agencies that eventually came under the umbrella of Anglicare, drawing the poor and marginalised into the centre of the church’s attention. As a deacon Marj led the parish of Northcote, because there are only a few moments in the week when being a priest actually comes into play. She was appointed Senior Minister for Women and regularly gathered together her female colleagues as we waited over six years for priesting to be possible. She pursued the future of the diaconate both internationally and ecumenically through the organisation Diakonia.  

In her last years in the nursing home Marj continued to say the words of the prayerbook as her local rector led Holy communion. She was a jewel. In our nursing homes and aged care facilities there are many hidden jewels of the church. Please search them out and serve them to the end as the beloved children of the living God. 

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