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During a visit to a Lancashire foodbank today, The Bishop of Blackburn, Rt Rev. Julian Henderson, commented on the effects of changes to public worship across Lancashire and the rest of the country.

His comments were in response to a letter sent to all clergy of The Church of England from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York yesterday announcing that, while public worship was to be put on hold, this was a ‘defining moment’ for The Church of England and we were all urged to become ‘a different sort of church’.

Bishop Julian also wrote to all Anglican clergy across Lancashire commending the letter and saying: “The Archbishops’ letter is not a letter about how we are to simply shut everything down, but is instead about how we are to carry on as the Church of God in these testing times; it is about a different way of continuing and I commend it as such.

“Our way of gathering may need to change for a season and that is right because it is done with the most vulnerable in mind. But this should not force us into a season of inaction, quite the opposite."

“My advice to you is to move instead into a season of prayer and of service. This is not a time to withdraw from society, but to be obedient to those who have been given rule over us, practice impeccable personal hygiene and most of all lead the way in prayer and in service; remembering always the most in need in our communities."

“Look at your communities, identify the most vulnerable and isolated, and consider how you can safely and effectively continue to serve them. Foodbanks, financial support service, clothing exchanges – these sorts of enterprises have my full support to continue, making changes to ensure best practice along with government guidelines.”

The Bishop went on to add that a Coronavirus Task Group has been set up for the Diocese under the direction of the Bishop of Burnley, Rt Rev. Philip North, while parishes are being kept up to date regularly. The Diocesan website is being kept updated each day currently, alongside messages on other Diocesan communications channels including ebulletins and on social media.

Meanwhile, the whole of the Church of England, including this Diocese and many parishes across the County are also beginning to explore ways to meet and to worship during the Coronavirus using digital platforms.

These initiatives include everything from using Zoom for prayer and house group meetings to the live streaming of services. For some churches the use of technology is part of their regular approach, while for others it will be new.

Support and guidance will be available, including from the national Church of England digital team.

The Bishop was speaking while visiting Blackburn Foodbank to show support for their work as donations to foodbanks across the region are falling – thought to be largely due to panic buyers stripping the shelves of the kind of goods people normally give.

“When I refer to ways in which we can continue to serve, continuing our donations to foodbanks are a simple and effective way we can actively demonstrate God’s love in these trying times,” said Bishop Julian.

“People who panic buy are depriving foodbanks of much-needed supplies and there is no need to do so; the Government has told us there will be enough to go around."

“So, I would encourage people to think again and panic-GIVE out of fear that someone much more in need than them may run out of food for their very next meal.”

  • Blackburn Foodbank particularly needs tinned tomatoes and long-life milk at this time (in common with other foodbanks) but you don’t have access to these, they do not want to encourage people to buy goods if they are in short supply in particular shops and so money can be donated for purchase directly by the Foodbank. More information and giving links on their website, or give directly to your own local Foodbank where you live. 

Picture captions:

1. Operations Manager Ros Duerden shows Rt Rev. Julian Henderson, Bishop of Blackburn, how low the supply of tinned tomatoes is at their Foodbank.

2. Cllr Jackie Floyd Foodbank Trustee (centre) chats to the Right Rev Julian Henderson, Bishop of Blackburn, and Ros Duerden, Operations Manager, during the Bishop’s visit to the Blackburn Foodbank.



Ronnie Semley 

18 March 2020