‘I’d love to see people who are ‘beacons’ for Jesus across Lancashire’
On the night of a tense England game that ended in hard-won victory, there was a further release of joy in Blackburn as the Installation Service for Rt Rev Dr Jill Duff, the new Bishop of Lancaster, took place.
There were light-hearted interludes alongside more formal moments; favourite hymns were sung and the new Bishop delivered her first sermon in the Diocese.
And what a sermon it was – with a theme, appropriate for a night when England were tussling with Columbia, calling on people to join God’s ‘winning team’ and based on Luke’s Gospel Chapter 24, v9-32.
Speaking passionately about her hopes for the County Bishop Jill said: “I love the ambition of the Diocesan Vision 2026 Healthy Churches Transforming Communities and I’m delighted to be taking up the specific brief of encouraging ‘confident witnesses’ for Jesus Christ.
“I want everyone to hear about the Risen Lord in their ‘own language’; in a way they can understand from people they can relate to as their own.”
Bishop Jill continued: “In the same way, as Lancashire has beacon sites across the hills, I’d love to see people who are beacons for Jesus across the County.
“People who are fully alive with the Spirit because they are in love with Jesus are therefore able to speak naturally about Him in their churches, schools, colleges, workplaces, football clubs … everywhere!
On women Bishops, the five guiding principles and the concept of ‘mutual flourishing’, Bishop Jill also had encouraging words for the Diocese. She is committed to the importance of ensuring those who don’t agree with women Bishops have an ‘honoured place’ in the church, now and in the future.
“I have loved working with Bishop Philip over the past 18 months and we are good friends who don’t agree on just one aspect of our ministry. But there is so much more that unites than divides us.”
Bishop Jill concluded her sermon by asking people to invite her to visit them so she can begin the process of finding out more about the Diocese.
“I’d particularly appreciate an invitation to come to the rural parts of the north of the Diocese. Once a month I’d love to walk through and pray for the different Deaneries with anyone who would like to join me.”
Hundreds of people from across the county attended the County’s Anglican Cathedral to watch and participate in the Installation Service, which is a chance for people of the Diocese, both lay and ordained, to welcome its new Bishop. It followed the Consecration Service last Friday in York Minster.
Bishop Jill was, until recently, the founding Director of St Mellitus College, North West. She is the eighth Anglican Bishop of Lancaster.
The Installation Service was led by the Bishop of Blackburn, Rt Rev Julian Henderson who was assisted by the Bishop of Burnley, Rt Rev Philip North.
The new Bishop of Lancaster grew up in Bolton, is married to Rev Prof Jeremy Duff, Principal of the St Padarn’s Institute in the Church in Wales and they have two sons - Robbie, aged 13 and Harry, 10.
Many clergy and parishioners from across the County were in attendance for the service at the Cathedral alongside civic dignitaries and Bishop Jill’s friends and family.
And, as with her service of Consecration last week at the Minster, there were a number of personal touches from Bishop Jill in the service.
These included a reading by a former student of St Mellitus, Rev Hannah Boyd, now serving as a curate at St Mark’s Layton and St Luke’s, Staining, in our Diocese; plus a fun interview with the Duff family led by Bishop Philip.
Meanwhile Danny Royle, a current St Mellitus student, was on hand to symbolically light the first of Bishop Jill’s ‘beacons’. He had brought slips of paper with words written by St Mellitus students describing Bishop Jill in glowing terms!
The words included ‘vibrant’, ‘exciting’, ‘powerful’, ‘inspirational and ‘energising’.
Once they were read out Danny placed them in a special container and set fire to them creating a momentary spectacular flash of fire – the first beacon.
There was also a contribution from the school choir of Salesbury Church of England School (left) who sang the popular song ‘My Lighthouse’ by the band Rend Collective.
And prayers were said by Diocesan Young Leaders Alex Critchley from Blackburn and Emily Hilton from the Fylde Coast.
Speaking after the service Bishop Jill said: “The evening has been wonderfully uplifting – a wonderful Lancashire welcome - and I am now looking forward to everything God has in store for me and for the Diocese. I would like to thank my family and friends for their support and everyone who has prayed me into this new role of Bishop of Lancaster.”
Bishop Julian said: “Jill brings lots of energy, faith and prayerfulness and will make a positive contribution to our mission in the Diocese.”
And Bishop Philip added: “I am so looking forward to working with Jill and she will make a fantastic Bishop of Lancaster. With our Vision 2026 firmly rooted in everything we do as a Diocese, Jill will now bring fresh impetus to our Vision work.”
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