Grand-daughter of Ex-Hindu-cum-Indian Presbyterian Minister becomes UK’s first Pakistani woman Priest


London: (By Hannah Chowdhry and Juliet Chowdhry) On Saturday 11th February, At St James Church in Alperton, Reverend Amelia Jacob launched the release of her book ‘The Priest from Pakistan,’ an account of her journey of faith.

The event was presided over by Rev’d Ali Taylor who introduced each speaker and shared her own thoughts on the relationship she has with Rev’d Amelia throughout the evening.

Rev’d Ali Taylor and her husband themselves are history makers as one of the first and very rare married ordained couples in the clergy of the Church of England.  Read more (here).

Atiq Chowdhry one of the original founders of British Asian Christian Association, was asked to read an opening Bible passage for the event taken from Philippians 3: 12-14

Atiq Chowdhry one of the original founders of British Asian Christian Association reading Bible passage from Ephesians.

Guest speakers included David Shaw Chair of St James’ Alperton World Church Committee, who helped Rev’d Amelia with the writing and editing of the book. He described the great efforts to ensure this book had the right content and that the message that emanated from the book was one of hope and devotion to God.  He described anecdotal pleasure in eating ‘Amelia Rice’ a reference to the talent Amelia has in cooking sumptuous cuisine.  But also reflected on the very serious commitment to God and passion to share the Gospel that was the driving force behind  Rev’d Amelia’s life:

IMAGE: David Shaw who helped write and edit ‘The Priest from Pakistan’

Rev’d John Root a former Vicar of St James Alperton, said:

“This book is a great gift to the church.

“It  reminds us that we all should press forward to serve Jesus Christ.”

Rev’d John Root former Vicar of St James Alperton

Rev’d Alison Christian who was ordained  with Rev’d Amelia and is her spiritual director, said:

“I come from a very literary family [detailing how many were writers or involved in publishing].

“It takes courage to write a book.

“What [Revd Amelia] has produced is not only an interesting read but also an historic account.

She was the first Pakistani Christian minister and I’m glad the CofE had the courage to work with her.

“It was always clear to see the extraordinary faith which she’s had right from the beginning”

IMAGE: Rev’d Alison Christian

Rev Julia  Jagannath, who was recently Priested and was a member of St James Church, said:

“I was moved by her work especially how she has persisted with her faith.

“What a story what a journey it is.

“Thank you Amelia for sharing your life with us.”

IMAGE: Rev’d Julia Jagannath

IMAGE; Lay reader Lorna Dyer, Rev’d Amelia Jacob and lay reader Joyce Holiday at the  licensing of Rev’d Amelia (before ordination) when she began to serve at St James Church. obtained from powerpoint at launch event.

Rev’d Stephen Taylor quizzed Amelia on her life and introduced some pleasant anecdotes. He helped those attending understand the struggles that Amelia faced as a Pakistani woman who had to strengthen her grasp of the English language to reach her goal and destiny fulfilling her calling to the ministry. He thanked Rev’d Amelia for blessing St James Church with her faith and duty.

IMAGE: Rev’d Stephen during Q&A with Rev’d Amelia Jacob

After the Q&A session Rev’d Amelia spoke about verse read by Atiq Chowdhry. She described Apostle Paul’s journey of faith how ‘On the way to Damascas, after Christ touched him he never stopped serving God and maintained his hope in Christ’.

“I press toward the goal.

“In simplicity he tells his story of how he was spat on, beaten but never gave up.

“I want to say I ran the race.

“God told us that He’ll be with us till the end of the Age and this should give us strength.”

Rev’d Amelia added:

“We have a past and we have to deal with it.

“We bring it to the Saviour

“Our sins are forgiven when we seek repentance”

“So we can all look to our futures with peace, with joy, with faith.”

The book details her life from childhood and the defining example of her grandfather, who converted from Hinduism and became a Presbyterian Vicar in Sheikhupura for 7 years before being reassigned to Lyallppur now known as Faisalabad. You can sense the pain he felt in losing his family when quitting Hinduism, and the tragedy of the split of India from Pakistan that meant in later life he could never visit that family again. A revealing account of the tumult of the time.

It explores Rev’d Amelia’s childhood and strict Christian upbringing that led to a deep devotion to God and the practice of daily prayer.  The account moves on to her arranged marriage with a man she had never seen, resulting in a move to England where she became the first Pakistani woman ordained in the Anglican Church.

IMAGE: Article confirming date Brent’s firsts women Priests served in the Borough’s churches, Rev’d Amelia is aprominent figure in the article as she led her first Holy Communion.

When you consider that there was only around 7.5k  Pak-Christians in the UK in 2001 and probably less than 3000 in 1994 when Rev’d Amelia Jacob was ordained, it begins to look like a remarkable achievement. I will add at this juncture, that the precedent she set is huge.  Revd Amelia was ordained in only the second ordination ceremony for women after the Church of England permitted women priests.

Angela Berner-Williams became the first woman priest in March 1994 ordained with 31 others at Bristol cathedral (click here). Our own history-maker Rev’d Amelia Jacob was ordained with 73 others in the first batch of women priests ordained in the London Diocese at St Paul’s Cathedral on 4th June 1994 (click here).

Rev’d Amelia’s account of her life and ministry is stripped back and succinct but contains extremely important historical events which help piece together, some of the development of the Church in India/Pakistan, and of course Asian Christian diaspora churches in the UK. She kindly alludes to the ‘three brothers’ [Majeeb, Najeeb and Waheeb Chowdhry] who first united Asian Christians and sowed the seed for the first Asian Christian Church (click here), which was later led by Rev’d Daniel Singh.

In my opinion the book is a must read for South Asian Christians, it provides examples of cultural adaptation  that can help many with new lives in the UK, while also laying a rich pattern of context and example for those born in the freedoms of the west deriving from the South Asian Christian diaspora.

The book is also a wonderfully, enriching and entertaining read for those with no Christian or South Asian bias.

Hannah Chowdhry, said:

“Rev’d Amelia’s work in the ministry is a matter of pride for the Asian Christian community.

“She has reached a phenomenal milestone and broken glass ceilings.”

Juliet Chowdhry, Trustee for the British Asian Christian Association, said:

“My earliest memory of Aunty Amelia, is when she spoke at my mother-in-laws funeral.

“She recounted how Helen Chowdhry had asked Amelia to check what her fiancé looked like at her engagement, having not even seen a picture.

“Amelia returned buoyant and told Helen not to worry, that he was ‘very handsome with beautiful eyes, ‘which made Helen happy'”.

“In her book Amelia retells similar experiences with her arranged marriage.

“Though the manner in which Pak-Christian marriages are arranged have changed somewhat, and have reduced in favour of ‘love marriages’ in the modern age – her account is one of historical relevance.”

Juliet added:

“We honour the work of Rev’d Amelia Jacob  a pioneer for women and Pakistani Christians.

“She has set an example for Christian women to follow, as a fellow migrant to the UK, I am inspired by what she has achieved.

“She has overcome great hurdles in language and culture to fulfill her calling to God’s ministry – a true disciple of God.

“Her work is not complete yet and I encourage others to purchase her book, so that a special life can still inspire many more.”

You can obtain a copy of Rev’d Amelia Jacob’s book (here)

Amelia Jacob takes her place amongst the most inspiring of Pakistani Christian women alongside the likes of Esther John

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