ROCKLAND, Maine — Members of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church has invited the community to join them in a farewell celebration of the ministry of the Rev. Alison Cheek on Sunday, July 21.

In 1976, she was featured on the cover of Time Magazine as one of the Women of the Year. Rev. Cheek is one of the first 11 women ordained as Episcopal priests in 1974, and has been living in the midcoast and participating in the life of St. Peter’s since 1996.

Alison will be the featured preacher at the 10 a.m. worship service; a special coffee reception will be held after the service.

As one of the “Philadelphia Eleven” — female deacons who challenged the interpretations of church canons that prohibited women from ordination — Rev. Cheek was a pioneer in opening the way for the Episcopal Church’s reinterpretation and change in the canons in 1976 to allow for the ordination of women.

In 1974 at St. Stephen’s Church, Washington, she was the first ordained Episcopal woman to celebrate the Eucharist.

Rev. Cheek was born in Australia, but she and her family migrated to the United States in 1957 when her husband Bruce accepted a position with the World Bank. In 1963, she was one of the first two women admitted to Virginia Seminary, where she earned a Master of Divinity degree.

Following graduation she became a lay minister in charge of pastoral ministries at Christ Church, Alexandria, and the “first Episcopal woman deacon in the South.” Her work led her to study at the Washington Institute of Pastoral Psychotherapy and begin her own counseling practice.

After the unexpected death of her husband, Rev. Cheek became interested in working with women who were seeking their spiritual identities, and moved to Philadelphia to administer a Venture in Mission project for the Episcopal Church.

In 1982, she was awarded a Proctor Fellowship at Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass., where she earned a Doctorate and then served on the faculty and was director of Feminist Liberation Theology studies.

Rev. Cheek moved to Maine in 1996 to become part of the staff of the Greenfire Retreat Center, then active in Tenants Harbor. She also became affiliated with St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Rockland, and in recent years has served as spiritual counselor, pastoral minister, and supply priest for St. Peter’s.

This much beloved and respect woman and priest will be greatly missed by her many friends and companions in the midcoast.

Story contributed by St. Peter’s Episcopal Church.