Above: Lydia Emilie Gruchy and the Ministers who Ordained Her, 1936
Image in the Public Domain
LYDIA EMILIE GRUCHY (SEPTEMBER 5, 1894-APRIL 9, 1992)
First Female Minister in the United Church of Canada
In 1936 Lydia Emilie Gruchy became the first woman ordained as a minister in the United Church of Canada.
Gruchy’s journey toward that recognized vocation started at Asnieres, France, where she debuted on September 5, 1894. Our saint was the eighth of ten children. Gruchy lost her mother to death when she was eight years old. From then until 1913 our saint moved from one side of the Atlantic Ocean to the other in the company of various members of her immediate family. She and two brothers (Arthur and Victor) were in Saskatchewan together before she and her sisters attended a boarding school in Seaford, England, starting in 1905. Our saint took a business course in London and worked as a civil servant for a year before she and sisters Florence, Hilda, and Elsie moved to Saskatchewan in 1913. There Gruchy completed high school, worked as a housekeeper for a year, and trained to become a teacher. From 1915 to 1923 she taught recent immigrants in one-room schools. Along the way Gruchy earned her B.A. degree (University of Saskatchewan, 1920), received the Governor-General’s Gold Medal for academic excellence and leadership (1920), and studied theology at Presbyterian College (later St. Andrew’s College), Saskatoon (1920-1923).
Meanwhile, World War I affected Gruchy. Brothers Arthur and Bert died in the war. Another brother, Stanley, suffered injuries.
Our saint perceived a vocation to become an ordained minister. In 1923 she applied to become a Presbyterian minister; the synod turned her down. For more than a decade Gruchy worked as a lay missionary. From 1923 to 1927 she served as a missionary to the Doukhobors at Veregin, Saskatchewan. Meanwhile, in 1926, the Kamsack Presbytery and the Saskatchewan Conference of the new United Church of Canda (created via a merger the previous year) petitioned the denomination to ordain her. The question of ordaining women was a matter of official study from 1927 to 1931, however. As the United Church studied Grouchy worked as a lay missionary in Wakaw, Saskatchewan. Our saint took a sabbatical to Long Beach, California, in 1931-1932; she visited relatives there. Then she served as a lay missionary to Kelvington, Saskatchewan, from 1932 to 1936.
The United Church of Canada was finally ready to ordain women in 1936. So, on November 4, 1936, at St. Andrew’s United Church, Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Grouchy became a reverend. At first she assisted the senior minister at St. Andrew’s Church, Moose Jaw (1936-1938). From 1938 to 1943 she was the secretary for the Committee on the Deaconess Order and Women Workers, Toronto. Then our saint served as pastor at Simpson (1948-1952), Cupar (1952-1957), and Neville-Vanguard (1957-1962), all in Saskatchewan. She also received her Doctor of Divinity degree from St. Andrew’s College, Saskatoon, in 1953.
Gruchy retired in 1962. She and a sister relocated to White Rock, British Columbia, where our saint died, aged 97 years, on April 9, 1992.
Pioneers such as Lydia Emilie Gruchy have enriched the life of the institutional church and paved the way for other women to pursue their vocations from God.
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
MARCH 24, 2017 COMMON ERA
THE FEAST OF BLESSED OSCAR ROMERO AND THE MARTYRS OF EL SALVADOR
THE FEAST OF SAINT DIDACUS JOSEPH OF CADIZ, CAPUCHIN FRIAR
THE FEAST OF PAUL COUTURIER, APOSTLE OF CHRISTIAN UNITY
THE FEAST OF THOMAS ATTWOOD, FATHER OF MODERN CHURCH MUSIC
Almighty God, we praise you for your servant Lydia Emilie Gruchy,
through whom you have called the church to its tasks and renewed its life.
Raise up in our own day teachers and prophets inspired by your Spirit,
whose voices will give strength to your church and proclaim the reality of your reign,
through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns
with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
1 Corinthians 3:11-23
–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60