The importance of discipleship and knowing the scriptures was front and centre at the last two of four ‘Primary Visitations’ held in Lancashire this week and led by Rt Rev Julian Henderson, the Bishop of Blackburn.
In his ‘charge’ to those attending, the Bishop delivered some key messages in the context of where we are as a Diocese currently in our Vision 2026 journey; as well as launching a new booklet for use across the Diocese – ‘Knowing The Scriptures Better’ – which has been written as part of the ongoing ‘Bishop’s Bible Challenge’.
The special services are where all Churchwardens are formally sworn in as officers to allow them to fulfil this vital role. The Bishop also commissioned or recommissioned, new and existing Parish ‘Vision Champions’.
First up this week were Accrington, Burnley, Pendle and Whalley Deaneries with their Primary Visitation being held at St John’s Church in Accrington on Monday night which also featured St Christopher’s CofE School choir. On Tuesday it was the turn of Blackpool, Kirkham, Poulton and Preston Deaneries, with their Primary Visitation being held at St Cuthbert’s Church in Lytham.
Primary Visitations replace, for this year only, the regular Visitations led annually by The Venerable Michael Everitt, Archdeacon of Lancaster and The Venerable Mark Ireland, Archdeacon of Blackburn; although both Archdeacons were present at all the Primary Visitations.
Also in attendance at each service were the local Area Deans, as well as Ruth Hassall and Carolyn Barton - our new(ish) Director of Discipleship and our new Vision Coordinator respectively. Carolyn starts officially next month.
The services were also ‘bittersweet’ for Archdeacon Michael, as they were his final Visitations before he leaves in the summer to become Canon Pastor of Durham Cathedral.
Around 300-400 people turned out to each service. They heard Bishop Julian say: “Discipleship is not an optional extra. It is why we have appointed a Director of Discipleship and it is what lies at the heart of making church healthy – a crucial part of our work as we move towards 2026.”
Referring to the new Diocesan booklet, Bishop Julian continued: “To be mature as disciples of Christ we need to know the scriptures better, rejoice in what God has revealed of Himself through them and be keen to encourage others to read the Bible for themselves.
“There needs to be care and there needs to be training in the reading and teaching of scripture; while knowing the scriptures better will mean we can put ourselves in a place where God will be able to use us more, to the blessing of others and the growth of His Kingdom.”
Copies of ‘Knowing the Scriptures Better’ were given to everyone who attended the Visitations and further multiple copies are also available to order from the diocesan website www.blackburn.anglican.org via the Bible Challenge page under ‘News and Events’.
Talking about the services being his final Visitations, and speaking after the service, Archdeacon Michael said: “My ninth set of visitations were bittersweet for me. It was sad to realise that this would be the last time I had the privilege to be with so many wonderful men and women as they took on the tremendous responsibility of serving God and their communities.
“Since 2011 I have literally witnessed thousands public declarations of personal sacrificial commitment. It was a privilege this year to be at the four ‘primary visitations’ covering the whole diocese and to be there with my fellow archdeacon, Mark and Bishop Julian.
“The Diocese has seven more years until our Vision 2026 will bring us to our centenary.
“Clergy, wardens, vision champions and PCCs are working hard to be ‘healthy churches transforming communities’ and the focus on discipleship and engagement with scripture at this year’s Visitations will be pivotal.”