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Appointment of The Venerable Sheila Watson as Additional Chapter Member and Canon Non-Residentiary of St Paul’s Cathedral

St Paul’s Cathedral is delighted to announce the appointment of a senior women cleric as the first ordained additional member of its Chapter, the Cathedral’s governing body.

The Venerable Sheila Watson will be joining the Chapter at the end of January 2016 following installation at a service in St Paul’s by the Bishop of London. Her role will be to advise and support the work of the Chapter in its governance of the Cathedral, including its strategic direction and ongoing development.

Sheila has recently been appointed to the stipendiary post of Preacher at Lincoln’s Inn, a post held by John Donne before he became Dean of St Paul’s in 1621.  At St Paul’s she will be working alongside five full-time clergy (the Dean and four Residentiary Canons) and two other unpaid additional Chapter members, Lay Canon Gavin Ralston who is Head of Official Institutions at Schroders and Lay Canon Pim Baxter who is Deputy Director of the National Portrait Gallery.

The Dean of St Paul’s, the Very Reverend Dr David Ison, said: ‘We are delighted that Sheila is able to join the Chapter of St Paul's. She brings a wealth of skills and experience from different posts in the Church and in her consultancy work, including knowledge of two other cathedrals, as well as her new work as Preacher at Lincoln's Inn. She becomes the first ordained additional member of Chapter, and along with our Lay Canons she will bring different perspectives to the Chapter in its governance of the Cathedral and helping us to develop further our mission in London for the twenty-first century. 

The Venerable Sheila Watson said: ‘I have a great affection for St Paul's as the cathedral in which I was ordained as deacon and later priest. It is a great privilege to be invited to join Chapter as non-residentiary canon of a Cathedral with such a key role for the diocese, London and the wider world. I very much look forward to taking up this new appointment alongside that of Preacher at Lincoln’s Inn.'

Biographical notes:

Born in Ayr in Scotland, Sheila Watson was educated at Ayr Academy and the University of St Andrews where she gained an MA in Classics and subsequently. after a preparatory year of theology at Corpus Christi College Oxford,  an MPhil for research on Augustine of Hippo.

She retired in January 2016 from her role as Archdeacon of Canterbury, a post which she had held since 2007. As such she had a senior role within the Diocese and in the Cathedral as well as representing the Archbishop on ceremonial occasions, including installing the current Archbishop of Canterbury (in the diocesan throne) – the first woman to do so.  Prior to this, from 2002 to 2007, she was Archdeacon of Buckingham in the Diocese of Oxford.

She came to Canterbury via Scotland, the North East, London and Salisbury as well as Buckinghamshire. First ordained as a deaconess in 1979, when women were formally admitted to Holy Order, she became one of the first women to be ordained deacon in 1987 and priest in 1994 in historic services in St Paul’s Cathedral. Like many women in a traditionally masculine profession, she has seen a huge cultural change in the last 30 years, and has often been the first woman in particular posts. She has worked in three parishes (St Saviours Bridge of Allan and St John’s Alloa, diocese of St Andrews, Dunkeld and Dunblane; St Mary the Virgin, Monkseaton, diocese of Newcastle; and Chelsea St Luke and Christ Church, diocese of London). She has also been closely involved in the selection and training of clergy and laity, and in quality assurance – as Officer for Mission and Ministry in Kensington Episcopal Area of London; at the Advisory Board of Ministry in Westminster, as Senior Selection Secretary, and later as Director of Ministry in the diocese of Salisbury. She has also been a governor of the King’s School, Canterbury and Marlborough College as well as three almshouses in Canterbury. A few years’ freelance work in the 1980s as a consultant and trainer provided opportunity to engage with the charitable and public sector in Oxfam, in housing trusts and medical social work.

She was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Divinity by the University of Kent in 2013. She enjoys figure skating (her major sport when she was young), ballet, walking and recreational cycling on her Brompton.