Archbishop's visit to the Diocese of Blackburn
The Archbishop of York was welcomed to the Diocese of Blackburn by the Rt Revd Nicholas Reade, the Bishop of Blackburn.
Thursday 6 October 2011
The visit started in the north west of the Diocese at St Peter's Heysham. This church is situated on the southern shores of Morecambe Bay and the Revd David Tickner, Rector of Heysham, was keen that the Archbishop should appreciate the picturesque setting that the church enjoys. Alongside the monastery ruins and the rock cut graves at the site, there is a Viking burial stone dating back to the ninth century. St Peter's has been a spiritual centre since the Stone Age and the Barrows is an ancient burial area.
From the church, a short climb to the top of the hill offers a view of wind turbines and a nuclear power station which highlight the focus on renewable energy that goes on the bay. The Archbishop met with representatives of Heysham Power Station. Richard Bradfield, the plant manager, explained that with its 2 power stations and 4 reactors the plant employs around 1500 people and around 90% of this workforce live within 5-10 miles of the power station. There are close links between the church and the power station as the vicar of St Peter’s is also the industrial chaplain.
At the church, the Archbishop met and prayed with pupils from St Peter's CE School Heysham. They had brought along pictures of the work that they had been doing about the local area.
Leaving the bay, the Archbishop travelled to Lancaster Priory, a fifteenth century Priory and Parish Church of Lancaster built on the site of a former priory (founded in 1094) and now providing a ministry to local congregations and tourists. He was welcomed by the vicar, the Revd Chris Newlands, and launched the Priory's virtual tour using his iPhone. By scanning a special code onto his phone, the Archbishop was able to read about one of the objects on display. Andrew Kayll, who is responsible for designing the virtual tour hopes that people will be able to access around 30 objects using this technology as they tour the Priory.
Members of the Lancaster Priory Organ Project Team were at the Priory and they talked to the Archbishop about their project. In order for funding to be given, the project needs to provide community outreach by means of musical experience and members of team outlined the outreach work that they have been doing with schools and community groups.
Staying in the city of Lancaster, the Archbishop visited Christ Church and the Revd Phil Hudd invited him to join the over 60s club for lunch. Each month, this group meets for a quiz and lunch and the coordinator Ann Thorpe along with the other volunteers work hard to ensure that transport and a hearty lunch are available.
From the end of October until Easter, the church hall will again be opening as a Night Shelter for homeless people and Sue Fearnley, the coordinator spoke with Dr Sentamu about the project and the role that she plays. Sue says that there can be between 5-17 homeless people each night attending the centre and over the last year, she has been aware that the age range has changed. The centre is now accommodating more 18-19 year olds.
Sue, a student social worker says "I feel really privileged to meet the clients." She also says "the community at Christ Church is brilliant; the spirit is fantastic."
Night Shelter can accommodate up to 30 clients per night and teachers, students, doctors and nurses make up the volunteers. Sue would like to see the Night Shelter expand by establishing a summer night shelter.
Before leaving Christ Church, the Archbishop met the children who had won the Christ Church Primary Competition. The theme of the competition had been 'The Planets' and Dr Sentamu was shown the winning entries by the winners from Dallas Road Primary and Christ Church Primary.
The Archbishop got a flavour of Freshers' Fayre when he visited Lancaster University. Fighting his way through the crowds of students all eagerly signing up for clubs and activities, he was amazed at what was on offer. After meeting the President of the Student's Union and many of the students he went to the Chaplaincy Centre to take part in question and answer session. Following introductions from Mr Graham Rand, Chair of Management at the Chaplaincy Centre and Professor Paul Wellings, Vice Chancellor, the Archbishop answered questions relating to Atheism, the Arab Spring, the role of women in the church, and Zimbabwe.
Then it was off to Blackburn Cathedral where the Archbishop preached at a Diocesan Eucharist. The cathedral service was attended by over 1300 people and during his sermon which had the theme of ' overcoming' the Archbishop reminded the congregation that "Each one of you is a father's gift to Christ." He went on to say that "Because we share his life we are overcomers and we share his victory.” and "Joy gives us strength to overcome - deep and abiding joy which comes from transformation within.”
The Archbishop presented the 75th Child Friendly Church Award at the end of the Eucharist Service to Clitheroe St Paul Church. These awards are part of a scheme by the Diocese of Blackburn to recognise the work that is being done by churches to encourage and nurture children and families in the life of the church.
Day one ended after a visit to Street Pastors at Mill Hill. The Archbishop spent time meeting the volunteers and joining them in prayer before accompanying them around the streets of Mill Hill. This is one of the many Christian night time initiatives that operate in many parts of the UK and this project aims to meet and support young people who are out on the streets from 7:30-9:30 on a Friday night.
Friday 7 October 2011
Mission, church schools and central services were under discussion over breakfast when the Archbishop met with the Bishop's staff before heading to Buckshaw Village and Trinity School (a joint CE/Methodist Primary School).
Buckshaw Village is a new residential and industrial area between the towns of Chorley and Leyland in Lancashire. It is one of the largest urban development sites in the North West of England and it is built on the former Royal Ordnance Factory site. There are many amenities but the community centre is at the heart of the village and it is here that the vicar the Revd David Gibb works with other Pioneer and Fresh Expressions Ministers to grow the church and support the developing community. Having got a feel for the village in the first year and seen at first hand the number of families that live in the community, they have now introduced a family friendly church in the Community Centre. There is also a focus on encouraging dads to join in the activities and services that are on offer. There have seen steady growth in the numbers attending the services and usually there are around 50-60 people in the congregation.
There was just time for the Archbishop to pop into the nearby Trinity School. The joint Church of England/Methodist School has been opened for just over a year and Dr Sentamu and Bishop Nicholas joined the pupils at assembly time and delighted the children and staff by taking part in their action song ‘May you find peace’. The Archbishop was taken on a short tour by the Headteacher, Jill Wright and three of the pupils. They showed the Archbishop the school’s weather station and told him about the ways in which the school is using renewable energy.
BAE Systems at Samlesbury was the next stop on the visit. The company has recently announced that there would be significant job losses not just at Samlesbury but at neighbouring Warton. In addition to a tour of the tour of the Eurofighter Typhoon major parts unit, the Archbishop met with management and Trade Union representatives and listened to the problems facing the company and its workforce.
Then it was back to a packed Blackburn Cathedral where a ’Praise Party’ to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the National Society and Church Schools was in full flow. In addition to presenting long service awards to staff from local church schools, the Archbishop blessed the Blackburn Diocese banner that is to be used in the national anniversary service at Westminster Abbey later in the year. The Archbishop encouraged the Civic Dignitaries and school children to act out part of his talk and the audience were then treated to impersonations of dolphins, crabs and a whale.
The Bishop of Burnley, the Rt Revd John Goddard welcomed the Archbishop to the Faith Centre for a series of meetings. After listening to presentations from faith leaders, the Archbishop discussed with them the issues they face and how they can work together. He summed up the meeting by saying “As a Christian, I believe that Jesus Christ is for everyone” and “I give thanks for all I have heard about deep faith in God being the springboard from which we approach other people.”
Presence and Engagement were on the agenda when the Archbishop met with Clergy and Head teachers. He listened to discussions about the importance of schools in relationships between the religious communities and spoke of his own experience in Birmingham diocese in which Christian schools provided a focus for unity in the community. He also encouraged those present “not to be wishy-washy about your faith”.
The visit was nearing an end when the Archbishop visited County Hall at Preston. Councillor Geoffrey Roper and Councillor John Shedwick met the Archbishop on arrival and formally welcomed him to Preston. Following an Ecumenical Meeting of Churches Together in Lancashire led by the Bishop of Lancaster, the Rt Revd Geoffrey Pearson, the Archbishop listened to presentations from Lancashire, Preston and Blackburn County Councils.
Each councillor spoke about how the recession has impacted on their area. Dr Sentamu urged each of them to protect the services that focus on helping children, young people and the vulnerable and not to lose sight of these groups when it came to planning budgets and cuts. This was a message he was to repeat as his time in the Blackburn Diocese drew to a close.
A supper with civic dignitaries brought the Archbishop’s visit to an end.
The Bishop of Blackburn summed up the Archbishop’s visit when he spoke to BBC Radio Lancashire. He said “The Archbishop has given the Diocese so much encouragement. I think we've given him a good time as well!”He went onto say that the visit was “two really good days for the Diocese.”
“One thing I will never forget is the glorious Eucharist in the cathedral which was absolutely packed to the gunnels. There was a lovely feeling of praise and joy. I really was proud to be Bishop of Blackburn that night!”
The Archbishop said “Thank you for the very warm welcome that I received during my time in the Diocese of Blackburn. It was good to see how the churches here are reaching out and supporting their communities.
“The cathedral services were wonderful. To see the cathedral packed, to hear the fabulous singing and to experience such vibrancy and spirit of worship was so uplifting, so joyful.
“I pray that the good relationships already established between the religious communities continue to grow and that local industries get the backing that they need.”
For further photographs of this visit see the gallery.