Canterbury Cathedral Chapter member, Caroline Spencer, has been awarded The Canterbury Cross for Services to the Church of England in this year’s international Lambeth Awards, in recognition of her exceptional service to Canterbury Diocese and the wider Church of England for over 36 years.
The awards, which recognise outstanding contributions to the Church and wider society, have been given to over 30 individuals from across the world. They include scientists, musicians, academics, activists, peacemakers, doctors and clergy.
Caroline has given exceptional and unstinting service to the Diocese of Canterbury and Canterbury Cathedral in every level of synodical and cathedral governance for 36 years and more. She has passionately sought to develop mission and ministry so that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is able to change people’s lives in all areas, rural and urban, rich and poor.
The first woman ever on Canterbury Cathedral’s governing Chapter, Caroline has worked to enhance the Cathedral’s mission to the world as the Mother Church of the Anglican Communion, and has grown its safeguarding resource so that it is truly fit for purpose.
Caroline was the first female Lay Chair of Canterbury Diocesan Synod and served on the Canterbury Archbishop’s Council and General Synod. She is proud of her contribution to the legislative process enabling women to become bishops, and her work establishing the Licensed Ministries Framework in the Diocese. She is a former Governor of Canterbury Christ Church University. More locally, Caroline has served as Churchwarden and Deanery Lay Chair.
“It’s completely amazing; it never occurred to me that I would get this award” said Caroline, “I thought that only ‘important’ people received it. When you look at the other Award recipients – to find myself in the same list as the Most Revd Danial Deng Bul, and Bruce Kent – it’s unbelievable. I’m absolutely delighted, and particularly because it recognises the hard graft that so many volunteers like me put in to sustaining the ministry of the Church.”
Caroline is a truly exceptional person who has served her community, diocese and national church in so many rich and varied ways. Above all, though, she has sought to do this in all humility and with a desire to show the love of Jesus to those whom she encounters, regardless of their background.
Celebrating Caroline’s recognition, The Venerable Jo Kelly-Moore, Archdeacon of Canterbury and Residentiary Canon at the Cathedral, said “Caroline’s faith shines brightly from her. She is a very wise and gracious woman whose wide-reaching generosity of service is extraordinary. Having ministered alongside Caroline, both as fellow member of the Cathedral Chapter and as Archdeacon I have seen her ministry in action in many different ways and also know, quietly and unseen, it is known daily by so many. Caroline is a great gift to us all and this recognition is so well deserved.”
The Bishop of Dover, the Rt Revd Rose Hudson-Wilkin said: “Caroline is an exceptional gift to our diocesan life. She has been a true catalyst for change and her passion and determination to make all the lives better is extraordinary. She is a truly remarkable woman and the honour is richly deserved.”
With regards to her future plans, Caroline has largely stepped back from her previous areas of work as her husband, Jonathan – who received The Canterbury Cross in 2019 (they are the first couple both to hold the award) – has Parkinson’s Disease and she needs to care for him more. Caroline will continue working at the Cathedral however and has also recently become a Spiritual Director, a ministry which she greatly enjoys.
“I’ve had fun and met wonderful people” said Caroline. “I found that I loved chairing things, making sure that everyone contributes but that you steer things towards a mutually agreed goal.”
“The common thread is bringing people together, affirming them. Community building is so important. You’re given a group of people and a project, but that’s not enough; it doesn’t happen unless you can pull people together. ”
Further details of the 2021 Lambeth Awards, and the full list of citations, are available here.