A County Service of Thanksgiving for Her Late Majesty, the likes of which has not been seen in Lancashire for more than 70 years since the passing of King George VI in 1952, took place in Blackburn Cathedral earlier today.
A recording of the livestream from today’s service is here on YouTube.
The congregation gathered at the Cathedral was reminded of Her Late Majesty’s deep personal faith in a stirring and moving sermon from Acting Diocesan Bishop and Bishop of Burnley, Rt Rev. Philip North.
The service, including an interview with Bishop Philip, also featured alongside other services in a special edition of BBC North West Tonight this evening (this iPlayer link may only be available for 24 hours).
Bishop Philip attended the service alongside his episcopal colleague, Rt Rev. Dr Jill Duff, the Anglican Bishop of Lancaster and the Archdeacons of Blackburn and Lancaster, the Venerable Mark Ireland and the Venerable David Picken.
Bishop Philip said: “Again and again in Her Late Majesty’s Christmas messages and public statements she referred to a deep, undemonstrative but life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ. Her life was firmly and solidly built on Him. So, though she may have felt the effects of the winds and the storms, she was not destroyed by them. Though the floodwaters may have come and gone, she remained steadfast and undaunted.”
In the congregation to hear these words this afternoon were The Rt Hon The Lord Shuttleworth KG KCVO DL and Lady Shuttleworth; the High Sheriff of Lancashire, Mr Martin Ainscough DL; The Mayor and Mayoress of Blackburn with Darwen, Councillor Suleman Khonat JP and Mrs Sumaiya Khonat, plus many other Civic Leaders from across Lancashire. Other faith leaders present included Bishop Paul Swarbrick, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Lancaster.
As the service began, a hush fell on the Cathedral before those present were welcomed by the Dean of Blackburn, Very Rev. Peter Howell-Jones, who said: “We have gathered together today in gratitude for the life of our Sovereign Lady Queen Elizabeth the Second.
“For her grace, humanity and sympathy, for her courage in adversity, for the happiness she brought to so many, for her steadfast pilgrimage of faith, for her example of service, and for the duty which she rendered unflinchingly to her country, we thank and praise Almighty God.
“In this service we shall pray for the repose of her soul, for her family and loved ones in their grief, for our nation and government and our new King, Charles III.”
Alongside prayers, led by The Dean, hymns sung during the service included ‘Immortal, invisible, God only wise’ and ‘Lord, for the years your love has kept and guided’.
Isaiah 61.1-3 was read by the Lord Lieutenant and the Gospel Reading was Luke 6.43-end, read by the Vice Lord Lieutenant, Christine Kirk DL.
In his sermon, Bishop Philip marvelled at the astonishing change that has taken place during the reign of Her Late Majesty; throughout which she has remained a steadfast presence.
The Bishop said: “In 1952, to make a phone call you had to use a rotary dial attached to a large object wired into the wall. Today each of us holds in our hands a mobile device with more computing power than was used to put a man on the moon.
“The mines and mills of a heavily industrialised nation have disappeared, replaced with services, banking and retail distribution centres.
"The internet has transformed how we access information, shop and communicate. We have lived through nuclear crises, recessions, Brexit, terrorist attacks, a pandemic and a global banking crisis.
“The second Elizabethan era has been a period of breathtakingly accelerated change. Much of that change has been exciting, much has improved the quality of our lives. But some of it has alienated people, leaving them feeling insecure, fearful and cut adrift in a bewildering world.
“But through it all one thing has stayed constant. A woman called Elizabeth sitting on the throne. If I had to choose one single word to describe the reign of this remarkable woman it would be stability.”
Bishop Philip added: “Her Late Majesty’s life of faithfulness can help us to consider whether our own lives are built upon rock or sand. Where do you place your trust? Where do you look for refuge in a fast-changing and sometimes frightening world? What do you believe in?
“Her stability is now an eternal stability because it is rooted in the unchanging mercy of God. May she rest in peace.”
More prayers followed and then, as the service drew to a close the congregation sang the National Anthem and, for the first time in many generations, ‘God Save the King’ was sung in the Cathedral again.
After the service Bishop Jill reflected on the day saying: “Today has been a moment to pause and remember our Queen, a faithful servant of Christ who had a personal relationship with Him and fulfilled her pledge, made at just 21, to serve for as long or short as her life would be.
“That life turned out to be long and the length of her reign broke all records. At today’s service and at other Civic Services across Lancashire this weekend in Preston, Burnley, Blackpool and Lancaster the people of Lancashire have given thanks for Her Late Majesty.
“So, now we collectively turn our attention to the State Funeral in London tomorrow and the nation’s final farewell.”
Ronnie Semley, September 2022