Archbishop's Award for exceptional community service

The Archbishop of Canterbury has presented a community service award to Revd Elizabeth Baxter, for her work as Executive Director of Holy Rood House in Sowerby, Thirsk and who is someone with strong ties to the Diocese of Leeds.

Elizabeth is one of 18 people who received this year's Langton Award for Community Service, named after the 13th c Archbishop Stephen Langton, involved in the signing of the Magna Carta.

Holy Rood, a charity which Elizabeth set up in 1993 along with her husband Revd Stanley Baxter, describes itself as a centre for health and pastoral care.  

It has provided for many a place of refuge, refreshment, inspiration and encouragement.  It is home to a small residential community and offers accommodation for up to 17 guests.

Describing her time in Ripon and Leeds, Elizabeth said:

"Stanley was Curate at St Chad's, Headingly from 1980 to 1982 and we then moved to the Parish of St Margaret of Antioch and ministered there and soon also at All Hallows, during austere times when poverty and abuse issues were rife.

"I was made deaconess at Ripon Cathedral in 1984 and was Chaplain of Abbey Grange School for 8 years, whilst working also in the inner city parish, particularly among women and girls. I was also the Diocesan co-ordinator for The Movement for the Ordination of Women and on the National Executive.

"I was ordained deacon in 1987 again at Ripon Cathedral. Stanley was instrumental in setting up the Cardigan Centre, Cardigan Road, and the West Leeds Mediation Centre and The Centre for Urban Theological Studies, Leeds."

Archbishop Justin said Elizabeth is “a person of vision, energy and enthusiasm, empowering and believing in people's potential, she has inspired vocations in others, making connections between people with important gifts”.

According to the award citation, Elizabeth “established a safe place where those who are stressed or distressed - especially women who have suffered abuse - can find inner calm and peace, finding support from creative arts and therapies, counselling and spiritual accompaniment on their inner spiritual journey, and has awakened the churches to the needs of those who feel excluded or on its margins.  She has composed inclusive liturgies that foster healing and belonging, choreographing creative ideas and rites of passage for both formal and informal services.”

Archbishop Justin commended her for “developing the counselling, healing and inclusion of those marginalised by the Church and for theological study of feminist theology, sexual identity and of related abuse, using this to provide the Church with improved understanding and inclusive liturgies."

 “Alongside this, she and her late husband Stanley, developed The Centre for the Study of Theology and Health, with retreats, seminars, conferences, research days and accredited training for healthcare professionals within the wider context of justice and peace.”

The timing of the award is highly appropriate, as Holy Rood is in the midst of its 25th anniversary celebrations.   The year has already been marked by a lecture from its patron and former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, and two significant publications – Elizabeth’s own collection of prayers for the Holy Rood community, and an anthology of hymns for healing.

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