On 25 January 1944 history was made when the Rev'd. Florence Li Tim-Oi was made a 'Priest in the Church of God'.
The Ordination in the Anglican Diocese of Hong Kong and South China took place in the Free China village of Shui Hing during the Sino-Japanese War. It was conducted by Bishop R O Hall in order that Anglican Christians in Tim-Oi's parish of Macao, the Portuguese island colony, could receive the sacrament of Holy Communion properly authorised.
Li Tim-Oi's Story
At her birth in Hong Kong on 5 May 1907, Li Tim-Oi's father called her "Much Beloved" because he valued her as a daughter even if others preferred sons.
When she was baptised as a student, Tim-Oi chose the name Florence after Florence Nightingale, the famous 19th century English nurse known as 'the Lady of the Lamp'. In 1931 at the ordination of a deaconess in Hong Kong Cathedral, she heard and responded to the call to ministry. She took a four-year course at theological college in Canton. She was made Deacon on Ascension Day 1941, and was given charge of the Anglican congregation in the Portuguese colony of Macao, thronged with refugees from war-torn China.
When a priest could no longer travel from Japanese-occupied territory to preside for her at the eucharist, for three years Tim-Oi was licensed to do so as a deacon. Bishop Hall of Hong Kong then asked her to meet him in Free China, where on 25 January 1944 he ordained her ''a priest in the Church of God''.
He knew that this was as momentous a step as when the Apostle Peter baptised the Gentile Cornelius. As St Peter recognised that God had already given Cornelius the Baptismal gift of the Spirit, so Bishop Hall was merely confirming that God had already given Tim-Oi the gift of priestly ministry, but he resisted the temptation to rename her Cornelia.
To defuse controversy, in 1946 Tim-Oi surrendered her priest's licence, but not her Holy Orders, the knowledge of which carried her through Maoist persecution.
She resumed the practice of her priesthood in the Church in China, and in Toronto when she retired in 1981. She was awarded Doctorates of Divinity by General Theological Seminary, New York, and Trinity College, Toronto.
Tim-Oi died on 26 February 1992 in Toronto and is buried there.
In 1994, on the Golden Jubilee of Li Tim-Oi's priesting, Archbishop Donald Coggan launched the Li Tim-Oi Foundation in St Martin-in-the-Fields Church, London. You can find out more by visiting the website.
On 24 January 2004 an icon of the Rev Dr Florence Li Tim-Oi was dedicated at St Martin-in-the-Fields, Church. It had been written by the Rev Dr Ellen Francis Poisson, Order of St Helena, New York. The icon can be visited in the Dick Sheppard Chapel in the undercroft of the recently re-ordered St Martin's building in Trafalgar Square.
Written by the Minister & Members