HUNDREDS of people gathered at Dorchester Abbey to celebrate the role of women in the Church of England for a special service.

The service on Sunday was arranged in response to the controversial vote on women bishops in November.

More than 500 people attended the event, double the number expected and well above the abbey’s most popular Christmas service, which attracted about 300 people.

The Rector of Dorchester Abbey, the Rev Canon Sue Booys, said: “It was fantastic.

“The point was really one of encouragement and affirmation for women who are in ministry.

“One of the experiences I have had after the vote in November is colleagues saying to me we feel as if we are a problem for the church.”

Mrs Booys celebrated the service while the Ven Karen Gorham, Archdeacon of Buckingham, preached the homily.

Three of the Diocese of Oxford’s bishops were also in attendance.

It was planned for the service to be followed by an ‘open mic’ session where people could share stories and experiences about women in the church – but the event proved so busy that everyone ended up sharing their stories with each other informally.