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Worshipping communities across The Church of England in Lancashire (Blackburn Diocese) continue to adapt to their buildings currently being closed by using the latest technology available.

All this online activity in response to the coronavirus outbreak is a very tangible way of illustrating the deep appetite for faith, hope and indeed lament in our communities at this challenging time.

The technological boost reached a new peak during the recent Holy Week and Easter weekend.

Before the outbreak, the interactive map on the A Church Near You website showing those using livestreaming, recorded video or other technological solutions to broadcast their services featured 12 churches in Lancashire.

The map now shows 70 churches and the number continues to grow. (If you don’t go to church normally, or if your church is not online, why not find the church nearest to you via the map?)

Rt Rev Dr Jill Duff, Bishop of Lancaster, said today: “There’s been a real upsurge in matters of faith, and people wanting to explore the big questions of life and death. Before, during and after Holy Week our churches continue to report high levels of engagement with services, prayer meetings, video messages and exploring faith courses.”

“The amazing imagination and innovation shown by many parishes is a real blessing in these difficult times and has presented us with new opportunities to share the Gospel message with many who may be hearing it for the very first time.

“Online services and video messages featuring the Bishops and Archdeacons have been viewed more than 22,000 times in total and subscribers on the Diocesan YouTube channel have increased by more than 50% on the total before the lockdown. I spoke to a Christian conference, Spring Harvest Home, recently; they had made their resources free online. Viewing figures were 7500 live and ten times that over the course of the week.

Technology is being used in a huge variety of ways, with Bishop Jill even carrying out the ‘virtual licensing’ of a Priest shortly.

Rev Adrian Wolton was licensed on Sunday, April 19, via video conferencing technology as Pioneer Priest-in-Charge of Blackpool Christ Church with All Saints, while his wife Fran was commissioned as a Pioneer Lay Minister. Adrian’s full Institution and Induction as Vicar will take place when possible to do so. The licensing is still available to be viewed on Facebook

And from this week a new video is also available, ‘Stations of the Resurrection’, featuring Bishops and clergy from across the Diocese; 13 contributors in all.

  • Welcome – The Rt Rev Philip North, Bishop of Burnley
  • 1st Station – Rev Guy Jamieson, Vicar of Nelson Little Marsden
  • 2nd Station – Rev Lesley Hinchcliffe, Vicar of Fence-in-Pendle St Anne and Higham St John the Evangelist
  • 3rd Station – Rev Rebecca Feeney, Curate of Standish St Wilfrid
  • 4th Station – Rev Mary Ashton, Priest-in-Charge of Silverdale St John
  • 5th Station – Rev Mike Print, Vicar of Chorley St George
  • 6th Station – Rev Tracy Charnock, Vicar of Blackpool Holy Trinity South Shore (in plurality with) Blackpool St Peter South Shore
  • 7th Station – Fr David Stephenson, Vicar of Haslingden St James with Grane St Stephen and Stonefold St John (in plurality with) Musbury St Thomas
  • 8th Station – Rev Fleur Green, Vicar of Darwen St Peter
  • 9th Station – Rev Mark Pickett, Rector of Clitheroe St James
  • 10th Station – Rev Nancy Goodrich, Vicar of Bolton-le-Sands Holy Trinity
  • 11th Station – Fr Nicholas Davis, Priest-in-Charge of Darwen St Cuthbert with Tockholes St Stephen
  • 12th Station – Rt Rev Dr Jill Duff, Bishop of Lancaster

The video originates from St Laurence Church, Chorley and has been produced by Rev Neil Kelley with Justin Stretch, who is a member of the congregation and the worship group at St Laurence, and features art by Leeds-based artist Si Smith.

The video will be available for two weeks from 6pm on April 18 via the St Laurence YouTube channel.

A selection of other recent highlights/examples of how our churches are adapting …

  • Vicar, Rev Jane Atkinson and members of the congregation of St John’s Church, Little Thornton, launched their own YouTube channel three weeks ago and since then they have produced a variety of online services, including several across Holy Week, garnering hundreds of views along the way.
  • Rev Jon Scamman and team at St Thomas’ Lancaster are also active on YouTube with a ‘Virtual Service’ every Sunday. Also on the channel are testimonies, Holiday Club videos as well as online worship videos from St Thomas’ worship group.
  • Two special guests joined the United Benefice of Balderstone, Mellor and Samlesbury’s Palm Sunday ‘Zoom service’ which involved 75 households from the three parishes. Bobby and Barney, two perfectly behaved donkeys, quietly munched on hay throughout the proceedings. Before lockdown their owner, Bronwen Edge, had agreed to bring the donkeys to church to lead a procession. Rather than cancel, the decision was made to livestream the donkeys straight from their field much to the delight of the congregation!
  • Zoom technology is also proving useful for church meetings and other gatherings. At Christ Church Blackburn, their Parochial Church Council meeting (PCC – the body that runs the church) has met via Zoom and other meetings are also taking place using the same platform.  Meanwhile, at St John’s, Leyland, when recorded online services are over on YouTube (another new channel!) Rev Andy Meeson is inviting parishioners to a virtual ‘coffee after the service’ using Zoom.
  • And Rev Anne Beverley of Christ Church in Wesham is leading morning prayer each day on the church Facebook page.

Meanwhile, Blackburn Cathedral has a Sunday service available each week on the Cathedral YouTube channel.

And Sunday services with the Bishops and Archdeacons of the Diocese also continue every week on the Diocesan YouTube channel.

This Sunday’s service features Rt Rev. Dr Jill Duff, Bishop of Lancaster. It is available from 9am on April 26.




Ronnie Semley, April 2020