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A new ‘Centre of Christian Discipleship’ is to be created by 2020 on the site of Whalley Abbey – the Retreat Centre for The Church of England in Lancashire.

The new Centre will be based in the existing Retreat House (pictured right). It will sit at the heart of our ongoing ‘focus on discipleship’ across the Diocese as part of the ‘Making Disciples for Jesus Christ’ strand of our Vision 2026 Healthy Churches Transforming Communities.

The new Director of Discipleship for the Diocese, to be announced soon, will oversee the work to develop the new Centre.

The Bishops and Archdeacons wrote to all clergy across the Diocese this week informing them of the plans in more detail. 

They wrote as follows ... 

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

As part of our ongoing plans for Vision 2026 we are looking to secure the long-term future of Whalley Abbey by developing a Centre for Christian Discipleship based on-site in the existing Retreat House.

As you know, ‘Making Disciples for Jesus Christ’ is a key aim of our Vision for Healthy Churches Transforming Communities.

Now and in the coming years we want to encourage better knowledge of the Bible; praying with greater depth and urgency for the Kingdom of God to come and giving more generously of our time, talents and money to the cause of Christ.

Put simply, we aim to equip church members to live confidently for Christ in the whole of their lives from Monday – Saturday, as well as Sunday, whether they are at work, with their family or living and working in the community.

The Centre for Christian Discipleship will include a small Christian community who will live in the Abbey grounds under a common rule of life, praying for the diocese and the world and sharing in the offering of hospitality to visitors.

A new post of Director of Discipleship, reporting to the Archdeacon of Blackburn, will be a key role in making it all happen, including the expansion of the Abbey’s existing Spirituality Programme of retreats, quiet days and discipleship training.

The Director will also lead our diocesan-wide ‘focus on discipleship’ over the next few years. The Abbey transformation will sit at the heart of this work. He or she will work alongside and support the existing staff of the Abbey who have been briefed on the plans.

The plans for the Centre of Christian Discipleship will make the Abbey a hub of prayer, hospitality and mission for parishes of the diocese fit for the 21st century; all the time drawing on the rich history of the former Cistercian abbey.

This vision also fulfils one of the original hopes for Whalley Abbey when, in the early part of the 20th century, it was purchased back from private ownership to become a centre for lay training and adult education within the (then) new Diocese of Blackburn.

Our plans for the Abbey are the result of an extensive process of consultation and a decision by Bishop’s Council in October. We are excited by the potential it offers and invite your prayers for those who are tasked with turning a decision into a reality for the start of 2020.

In addition, there are several key initiatives to look forward to in the coming months as part of our ongoing focus on discipleship …

  • The launch and promotion of Bishop Julian’s Bible Challenge, beginning in spring 2019
  • Continuing engagement with the annual ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ prayer initiative, which is led nationally by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York
  • ‘Pathways to Prayer’ workshops around the County offering guidance on, and the opportunity to experience, various styles of prayer
  • Clergy Study Days, in early 2019, on the theme of stewardship are also designed to help us teach whole-life discipleship. (See below for dates, venues, times and booking details for all the study days.)

Our focus on discipleship will also link with the Church of England’s work on ‘Setting God’s People Free’, which is about equipping church members to live out their faith confidently in daily life.

Please join us in praying for all these plans, for the staff of the Abbey and for God’s guidance in appointing the right person for the exciting new role of Director of Discipleship. 

Bishop Julian, Bishop Philip, Bishop Jill, Archdeacon Michael and Archdeacon Mark


Clergy Study Days.

Booking details (all take place from 9am – 2pm)

If you need help in booking, please contact Siobhan Trickett, Administrator of the Making Disciples Team on 01254 503272