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The Church of England in Lancashire is currently hosting a week-long visit by the Rt Rev. Joseph Aba from South Sudan; leader of a Diocese in exile but still full of hope.  

Bishop Joseph was invited to the Diocese by Rt Rev. Philip North, Bishop of Burnley, who first heard him speak at the recent Lambeth Conference in 2022 (the once-a-decade world gathering of Bishops of the Anglican Communion).  

As he arrived in Lancashire, Bishop Joseph was welcomed in a special video message from the Archbishop of York, The Most Rev and Rt Hon Stephen Cottrell, who said: “It’s wonderful to be welcoming Bishop Joseph to the north of England. It’s really good to hear that his friendship with Bishop Philip, kindled at the Lambeth Conference, is bearing fruit in this way.  

“May God richly bless his time among us and we pray that through his ministry and witness we will know more of what it means to be followers of Jesus Christ.” 

Watch the Archbishop's greeting: 

Bishop Joseph’s Diocese of Liwolo has been destroyed by years of civil war. He and his people now live in refugee camps in neighbouring northern Uganda.  

And yet his story, and the story of the people of his Diocese, is an uplifting one; a church full of evangelistic energy and still growing in the face of unimaginable adversity.  

Bishop Joseph has oversight of 117,000 refugees living in the bush and across several refugee camps. More than half attend his churches and he has confirmed an astonishing 2,000 people into the Anglican church in 2022 including, on one occasion, 600 young people at once. 

Bishop Philip said today: "Bishop Joseph is one of the most remarkable and courageous Christians I have ever met. He serves one of the poorest parts of one of the poorest nations on the planet.

"His Diocese has been destroyed and yet he has the most remarkable ministry as a reconciler and evangelist; with an unfailing trust in Jesus Christ.  

“The energy and growth of the church he leads is incredibly inspiring and, following Lambeth, I invited him to share with us the courageousness of the church in other parts of the world. I am delighted he has been able to spend this time with us in Lancashire over the past few days.” 

Media coverage

  • BBC Radio Lancashire, Sunday morning (listen from 1h 20m 11s). Available to April 23. 
  • 'In Your Area' news story
  • Bishop Joseph was also interviewed for Premier Christian Radio (link to come).  

The highlight of Bishop Joseph’s visit to the County was a 'World Mission Evening' at St Cuthbert’s Church, Preston at the weekend.   

In Preston he participated in a service and a special panel discussion on the global church and mission, alongside Bishop Saju Muthalaly of Loughborough (a former curate at St Thomas’ Lancaster) who was brought up in South India. 

Also on the panel was Bishop Philip himself and Rev Sarah Gill, Bishop’s Advisor on UKME/GMH Matters and Vicar of St Stephen’s and St James’ in Blackburn who brings experience of the Church in Pakistan.   

Rev Sarah added: “We welcome Bishop Joseph to the Diocese and rejoice in his presence with us. We have been able to learn about God’s work in South Sudan and we hope and pray Bishop Joseph has had a blessed time with us over the past few days.”  

Watch the livestream here: 

Bishop Joseph’s visit to Lancashire concludes later today (Wednesday) when he will give the keynote address to members of the Diocesan Synod at a meeting in Blackburn Cathedral.  

That event follows a packed week where, in addition to spending some private time in the company of the senior clergy of the Diocese including Bishop Philip of course and the Anglican Bishop of Lancaster, Rt Rev Dr Jill Duff, he has also …  

  • attended two of this year's clergy study mornings - one at Christ Church, Thornton-le-Fylde and the other at St Stephen's, Burnley;  
  • visited several schools in the Chorley area, including St Michael’s High School and St James’ CofE Primary; 
  • attended a Confirmation Service at Parbold and Appley Bridge 
  • visited St Luke’s in Blackburn, one of our resourcing churches and a key part of our ‘Lighting Up New Generations’ project to reach out in fresh ways to young people 
  • visited St Peter’s Parish Church in Burnley  
  • met the Diocesan Link Diocese Committee in Preston.   

Speaking at the World Mission Evening about how he and his people deal with their current situation in South Sudan, Bishop Joseph, who was consecrated just a few days before the Diocese was displaced, said: “A church is not a building but the people and God has given us the grace to build a strong church with our people. 

“Our pastors are strategically located to ensure each and every person is taken care of so we can provide prayer, counselling and hope, through the word of God. Hope in the midst of hopelessness. 

“The church has grown stronger than it was when we were in South Sudan. Whatever the enemy was intending for us, God has changed it for His own glory!” 

Bishop Joseph concluded with a series of prayer requests saying: “I have enjoyed my visit to Lancashire and I thank everyone for their hospitality. Please continue to pray for the people of the Diocese of Liwolo every day. Pray for me to have wisdom, courage and power to lead them.  

“Please also pray for the return of my people back to their homes in South Sudan. And please also pray for good crops and successful agriculture; so able to produce our own harvests and to be self-reliant.” 

Captions for the pictures above from top to bottom are …  

  • At the World Mission Evening in Preston the panel consisted of (l-r) Rev. Sarah Gill, Bishop’s Advisor on UKME/GMH Matters and Vicar of St Stephen’s and St James’ in Blackburn; Bishop Saju Muthalaly of Loughborough (a former curate at St Thomas’ Lancaster); Bishop Joseph and Bishop Philip.  
  • Bishop Joseph meets the Anglican Bishop of Lancaster, Rt Rev. Dr Jill Duff at an event during his week in the Diocese.  
  • Bishop Joseph with Rev. Michael Print of St George’s in Chorley during their visit to St Michael’s High School in the town.  
  • On his visit to St Luke’s in Blackburn, Bishop Joseph is joined by (l-r) Alan Gault, Curate; Rachel Gardner, Youth Resourcing Lead and Bishop Philip.  



Ronnie Semley, March 2023