Anglican Church honours Nanaimo senior, 100, who reformed role of women

Blanche Gates says her national award from the Anglican Church of Canada isn’t about her work with prayer books but is instead about the changing role of women in the church.

'Women had no voice. That was a problem for me right from the very start,' says Blanche Gates

Blanche Gates says her award indicates how times have changed for women in the Anglican Church. (anglican.ca)

A 100-year-old Nanaimo, B.C., woman says her national award from the Anglican Church of Canada isn't about her work with prayer books but, instead, is about the changing role of women in the church.

Blanche Gates, a parishioner of St. Paul's Anglican Church, received the Companion of the Worship Arts award in Victoria this week, the church said in a statement.

It credits her for helping to modernize the language of some church texts and leading a provincial women's group.

"Her contributions to worship and liturgy at the national level continue to influence the way Anglicans across the country interpret and practise their faith," the statement read.

Gates, in an interview with On The Island host Gregor Craigie, said she's most pleased to be recognized as an advocate for women in her faith.

When she joined the church as a young woman, she explained, women were largely sidelined.

"They were there to do the dishes for dinners and lunches, make socks for the children and things, do the cleaning and that kind of thing," Gates said.

"They had no voice. That was a problem for me right from the very start. I felt women should be able to say something."

'The door is open'

Gates said she gradually worked her way up various organizations within the church during the 1970s and '80s, eventually up to the national level.

There, she worked to revise the language of the Book of Alternative Services, which the church describes as "the primary worship text for Sunday services and other major liturgical celebrations."

"It was giving an opportunity for women coming into the church ... to speak in the language of the day," she said. "That's not in the old book. It's, 'thee,' 'thy,' those words that we don't use anymore."

Ultimately, Gates believes her work — alongside other women reformers — has made a lasting impact on the church.

Women, she says, have a voice. They can speak on issues. And she has high hopes greater equality for women will only help the church.

"The door is open and it won't shut anymore," she said.

Listen to the full story:

Blanche Gates says her national award from the Anglican Church of Canada isn't about her work with prayer books but is instead about the changing role of women in the church. 7:26

With files from CBC Radio One's On The Island

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