Beliefnet
SWINDON, England, Dec. 3 (AFP) - The Reverend Carol Stone returned to her parishioners on Sunday for the first time in three months, having last seen them as a man, the Reverend Peter Stone.

The 46-year-old Anglican vicar of Swindon's St. Philip's church and father of an 18-year-old daughter underwent a sex-change operation in September.

Some 100 parishioners greeted the priest warmly on her return Sunday with a standing ovation before Sunday worship began.

The only discordant note was provided by one elderly lady who let her disapproval of sex-change operations be known in no uncertain terms before being escorted discreetly to the church porch by her fellow worshippers.

The vicar told her flock: "This sermon hasn't been just three months in the making. If the truth be told, I've been waiting to write it for the best part of 46 years - never dreaming one day I might.

"After almost 23 years of preaching I felt like a young curate again preparing for one's first sermon," the divorced vicar said, thanking the faithful for their support.

After the service, parishioners spoke of their feelings towards Stone.

Michael Ennis, 71, said: "She has shown a great deal of courage. I remember how she was in the last few months before, and you could see the strain on her face.

"I don't think the people here will ever let her go. A person doesn't change - their abilities don't change. I thought the service went very well."

Greta Davies, 56, added: "It was a lovely service. Peter was an exceptional priest and Carol will be too.

The clergyman first announced in June he was going to have a sex-change operation. He obtained the support of Bishop Barry Rogerson of Bristol to continue as vicar of his parish.

The bishop let it be known in June that all the parishioners supported their vicar and that there was no prohibition, legal or ecclesiastical, to prevent Stone from continuing her pastoral duties.

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