AUSTRALIA'S first female head of an Anglican Church diocese, Reverend Dr Sarah Macneil, will be touring the region this week as part of a pilgrimage across the North Coast.
Bishop Macneil was appointed the 11th Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Grafton, which covers Tweed Heads to Port Macquarie, on March 1 this year.
Bishop Macneil said the church was "breaking new ground" by appointing her to the position.
"I think the people who were doing the selection on behalf of the diocese felt that they needed a particular set of gifts," she said.
"Even though those gifts were in a woman, they had the courage to say, even though this hasn't been done before, we believe that she's the one that's supposed to be here."
Bishop Macneil said her appointment, and the appointment of the first female bishop in 2008, was an example of evolution in the church.
"Ideally we'd find that we'd be in a situation where the people in leadership represented the community as a whole, and the community is roughly half and half men and women and the gifts are not given on a gender basis," she said.
"I long to see the day when it's not a remarkable thing, whether someone is a man or a woman in this position."
Bishop Macneil is a former dean of Adelaide and archdeacon in the Diocese of Canberra-Goulburn.
As part of her service at St Andrew's church in Lismore yesterday, Bishop Macneil presented a $4000 cheque to the Lismore Base Hospital Auxiliary which will go towards the purchase of a
sophisticated high-low bed.
The gift was part of centenary celebrations for the Anglican diocese of Grafton.
Bishop Macneil's service focused on slavery and freedom, drawing on her own experiences in Jamaica.
"We are all enslaved in some way or other by other people's expectations, by our own expectations, by our fears, by our prejudices, by our attitudes," she said.
"(But) we're encouraged to enter into freedom and to embrace the gift of love and freedom."