CCS received word recently that Marjorie Powles died on July 12, 2016, just before her 102nd birthday. Marjorie and her life partner Cyril Powles, who died in July, 2013, were honoured as Companions of the Centre for Christian Studies in 2003.
Principal Maylanne Maybee remembers Marjorie…
Marjorie was a lifelong advocate of women in ministry, a champion of ecumenical justice work, and a steadfast friend of the Centre for Christian Studies. Born in Winnipeg and raised in the United Church, she moved to Toronto as a young woman to study at the United Church Training School, and subsequently to Montreal where she was active in the Student Christian Movement. There she met Cyril Powles, a young Anglican priest, whom she later married. Together they served side by side as missionaries in Japan, and upon return to Toronto decades afterward, as educators and activists.
During the 70s, back in Toronto, Marjorie served on Human Resources Committee and the Central Council of the Centre for Christian Studies, and was hired for a short time to work on a project with the Diocese of Toronto to encourage parishes to employ CCS graduates. How I would love to have her work in those roles today!
At the time, she also championed the ordination of women to the priesthood, and sought, less successfully, for the recognition by the Anglican Church of women as professional lay ministers. She felt this effort was foiled, in part, by the movement to restore the diaconate. Though we were on different sides of the issue, I never felt anything but supported and respected by Marjorie.
I visited her in Vancouver a few times in the last couple of years where she was living in a care home. She recalled her marriage to Cyril and how alarming it was for her parents that he was Anglican. She described her trip to Japan on a boat with a small baby, her arrival at her in-laws (in Hokkaido I believe) during a cold snap, being given a futon on the floor to sleep on while their baby was given a cot that was raised up from the floor. Marjorie and Cyril ended up taking their baby into bed with them but not saying anything to anyone. It was a touching and intimate story.
In a reflection she wrote on the history of the Centre for Christian Studies and its predecessor schools, Marjorie concluded that “the theological education of women has on the whole been more thorough than that offered by the theological colleges of the time. There have been many adaptations over the years, and I now believe the CCS program is unique. It would represent a valuable option for people in a variety of forms of ministry in both denominations, including priests and ordained ministers. Can we forget about diaconal titles and functions in favour of a commitment to the church in the world?”
Prophetic words to ponder as CCS faces into the future.
You can view Marjorie’s obituary here.