In Profile: Christine Hardman

22/09/2015

By the Revd Canon Wendy Robins, Director of Communications, Diocese of Southwark.

Roger and Christine HardmanI met Roger Hardman, Christine’s husband, first, before meeting Christine! He came into the Southwark Diocesan Office to bring a photograph for the press release just as she had been appointed as Archdeacon of Lewisham in 2001. I soon came to realise that this was typical of the way that they work together; they are always willing to help each other and this spills into how they relate to those with whom they come into contact. They always seem to go the extra mile.

Christine came to faith in her twenties having been brought up in a family that didn’t really do church although she had been baptised as a child – presumably much in the way that many people were in the fifties: because that was what you did!

Married, with two small daughters, she was living in Harpenden in a new area for her and she admits to being lonely and to beginning to question life. Christine met Roger when she was 16, ‘Which’, she says, ‘might explain why her ‘A’ levels were not all they might have been’. They married when she was 19 and had completed two years of her degree course.

This provided her first experience of South East London as she attended what was then Woolwich Polytechnic. Having gained her London external degree in economics, she and Roger were still living in Boreham Wood where Christine’s family had been re-housed when she was a year old.

She commuted to London to work as an Articled Clerk but left after a reasonably short time because she did not like the ethics involved in the work. She then worked for an estate agent until she and Roger had the girls.

The church of her childhood had literally been surrounded by a high, forbidding fence and so she says ‘that she was very fortunate that her local Anglican church’ – to which she went precisely because she had been baptised as a child – ‘was a vibrant, lively worshipping community’. The church started her on the path which has shaped the rest of her life and that of her family. It wasn’t all that long after she began to attend church that her faith began to deepen and she was confirmed. Christine says that ‘she wanted to find out more about the faith that she had come to profess’.

Attendance at the St Alban’s Diocese Ministerial Training Scheme quickly followed. This was a course which allowed people to explore their vocation once they were on it and Christine did not go to an ACCM selection conference (what is now a Bishop’s Advisory Panel) until the second term of her third year! She was accepted for ministry as a deaconess and in 1984 she began work as a part-time Deaconess in the village of Markyate in St Alban’s Diocese. In 1987 the church began to allow women to be Deacons and Christine was ordained.
Soon after this she saw the advert for the job as Course Director on the St Alban’s Diocese Ministerial Training Scheme and felt compelled to apply although she did not think that she had a chance of being appointed.

I couldn’t help but think, as she said this, that this characterised Christine as I have come to know her, she has never quite seen how good she is at what she does!

During her time as Course Director, because she did, of course, get the job, the course merged with the Oxford Ministry Course and she became Director of Mission Studies.

Along with other women who were Deacons she was ordained Priest in 1994 – one of the first women to be so ordained. She was appointed to Holy Trinity, Stevenage in 1996 and became Rural Dean in 1999 before becoming Archdeacon of Lewisham in 2001. In 2008 the title changed to Lewisham and Greenwich to better reflect the area covered. The vibrancy of the multiethnic culture in South East London surprised her when she came to South East London; Stevenage was much more monochrome then. She describes her greatest achievement or best moment as Archdeacon as the opening of St George, Perry Hill. This was a new church building and community health centre which stood on the site of the original St George’s which had been demolished for safety reasons some years before. The struggle for funding and planning battles lasted many years but it was a marvellous moment to see it open for worship in time for Christmas services.

Her worst moment was when she and Roger returned from their first holiday after she was in post to find that there was green mould growing all over their clothes and belongings in their bedroom because the new house into which they had moved was so damp. Christine says that ‘this taught me a lot about the importance of the right housing for the clergy’ and that this influenced how she worked as an Archdeacon.

Christine served on General Synod for about 15 years. She was first elected from St Albans Diocese in 1995 and then re-elected in a bye-election in Southwark in 2003. She has just finished her term on Synod representing Southwark where for the last five years she has been Prolocutor of the Canterbury Province: that is Chair of the House of Clergy for the Province.

This role has seen her take her place on Archbishops’ Council and she has been much involved in the drafting of the legislation to allow women to be Bishops. She describes the day that the vote which enabled this to happen going through Synod as the best of her moments on Synod and the worst being the day in November 2012 when the vote did not go through.

She says, ‘We are in a better place now, but it was devastating at the time’. She goes on to say that she thinks that ‘that moment stopped the church in its tracks and helped it to realise how others see us’ she goes on to say ‘we knew that something had to happen to make women’s ordination to the episcopate work’.

She looks forward to the seeing how the shared Episcopal ministry of men and women will change the churches mission and to being involved in the church in a new way.

It is fitting taken her involvement in the process to enable women to become bishop that Christine is now preparing to become the next Bishop of Newcastle. Those of us who have travelled any part of this journey with her are not surprised to hear Christine say that she remains humbled and surprised that she has been chosen for this role.

She says that she ‘is very, very excited and looking forward to it immensely and very much wants to lead the people of Newcastle Diocese in God’s mission’. We wish her well.

 

Article first published in the October 2015 issue of The Bridge,
the newspaper of the Diocese of Southwark, and reproduced with permission.

 

 

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