The Bishop of Blackburn, Rt Rev. Julian Henderson, and his wife Heather said farewell to The Church of England in Lancashire on Saturday during a service at Blackburn Cathedral which was, at turns, both moving and stirring.
It was also an opportunity to celebrate what God has done across Lancashire during Bishop Julian’s tenure; particularly since the inception of our Diocesan ‘Vision 2026 Healthy Churches Transforming Communities’.
Hundreds of clergy and laity from parishes across the County converged on the Cathedral to say goodbye and thank you … alongside Bishop’s Leadership Team members past and present; Lancashire faith and civic representatives (including the Mayor of Blackburn Cllr Suleman Khonat); Bishops from neighbouring Dioceses in the North West and many more.
All the hymns and songs were chosen specially for the service by Bishop Julian and Heather. Also present were the couple’s close family, including their three young grandchildren. A recording of the livestream (alongside the order of service) is available here.
Meanwhile, today a special ‘thank you video’ for Bishop Julian and Heather is also released on YouTube ...
The video features the senior clergy of the Diocese; excerpts from the Archbishop of York’s tribute to Bishop Julian at General Synod last week; many other clergy and laity from across the County and headteachers and pupils from schools in Brindle and Langho - two of our many wonderful Church of England schools; all interspersed with Bishop Julian's own words across the years; and a couple of video outtakes!
The video reflects Vision 2026 and Bishop Julian’s leadership of the Diocese; his own personal faith and his encouragement to others to find salvation in Jesus. It also reflects the Bishop’s work to enable ‘mutual flourishing’ and his refusal to accept a narrative of ‘declinism’; as well as Bishop Julian and Heather’s pastoral care for people across the Diocese.
These personal qualities of the couple are summed up in the video by the two suffragan Bishops of the Diocese.
In words reflective of his tribute in the retirement service itself, Rt Rev. Philip North, Bishop of Burnley, says: “We are going through odd times in many churches in Western Europe, with many losing nerve and planning for decline, assuming the future is a smaller church.
“I am massively grateful to Bishop Julian and to Heather, who has always supported him, because he has always defied that narrative; leading to the atmosphere of positivity that he has brought to this Diocese.
“Every decision clearly and demonstrably springs from his faith.
"It’s that trust in Jesus Christ that has allowed him to take risks with strategy and appointments and is the driving force behind all that he does.
“We have got a plan for growth; we are committed to maintaining clergy numbers; committed to resourcing the local church for growth and to reaching out into the community in service and proclamation.”
Rt Rev. Dr Jill Duff, Bishop of Lancaster adds: “Thank you that God called you both to Lancashire from the deepest south! "Thank you that you didn’t put up with the decline plan, but you came with hope.
“You came wanting to see people come to faith in Jesus; to take the scriptures seriously; to see the churches grow.
“I want to say a massive thank you for the sacrifices you’ve made, the faith that you have and the love that you have showed to the people of Lancashire.”
After celebrating his final Eucharist there was a moving moment when the retiring Bishop of Blackburn lay his crozier down on the altar of the Cathedral; symbolically bringing his tenure to a close.
Then, after a number of thankyou speeches, gifts were presented, including framed photos; a hamper packed with Lancashire-themed goodies; an album of pictures taken across the past nine years and much more.
As the service ended Bishop Julian said: “Thanks be to God for everything we achieved over the past nine years … ‘This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvellous in our eyes.’ (Psalm 118).
“I’m grateful for the team God has sent here to fulfil the work and I particularly want to thank Heather and my family for all their support.
“We are now a Vision-driven Diocese and not a churchmanship-driven Diocese; the different churchmanships within the Diocese all now work towards supporting and enabling that Vision.”
And speaking in the video released today, Bishop Julian adds: “My prayer has always been not for us to just to survive but for a revival of faith in our time and in our County. God’s spirit awakening spiritual life in hearts and minds all around the Diocese.
“(Meanwhile) I’ve tried to make the role of Bishop less distant; more accessible, relational and informal and with my door open to everybody. I’m just an ordinary human being who has found himself in this extraordinary role.”
- There has been a lot of media coverage leading up to Bishop Julian and Heather's departure. There will be more in the coming days and we will add it here:
- Listen to coverage of the service and an interview with Bishop Julian spread across the four hours of Joe Wilson's programme on BBC Radio Lancashire here at 1h 16m 10s, 1h 51m 50s, 2h 20m 10s, 2h 49m 25s and then at 3h 07m 15s extensive coverage of the retirement service itself.
- See a two page picture special in the Lancashire Post to mark Bishop Julian and Heather's retirement. Click here and also here.
- Read stories about the Archbishop's tribute here and the retirement service here; both from the Lancashire Telegraph.
Earlier media coverage leading up to retirement
A special ‘thank you video’ for Bishop Julian and Heather is also released on YouTube ...
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