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During his vibrant and colourful Installation Service at Blackburn Cathedral on saturday, June 24, Rt Rev Philip North lived out a pledge he made when initially announced as the tenth Bishop of Blackburn in January; to place children and young people at the heart of all we do as a Diocese.

From the very moment he arrived in the Cathedral, until the end of a service attended by more than 1000 people from across the County, including many civic, community and faith leaders, it was the voices of the young that were heard most loudly.

Most significantly, all children who were present were invited to a very special ‘Messy Installation’ downstairs in the Cathedral Crypt area.

It is thought to be the first time such an event specifically for children has been held at the same time as a main Installation Service in any Cathedral.

Organised by the Diocesan Board of Education, it was a fun variation of the well-known ‘Messy Church’ that has grown in popularity in recent years and it allowed the children present to learn about the Bible and Jesus through play and craft.

Meanwhile the main service itself (the Eucharist of the Holy Spirit) was sung by the Cathedral Choir alongside the Cathedral Youth Choir and, as guests first arrived, children from the following schools were also singing: 

  • Langho and Billington St. Leonard's, Church of England Primary School
  • Salesbury Church of England Primary School
  • St Aidan's Church of England Primary Academy, Blackburn
  • St. Christopher's Church of England High School, Accrington (Year 7)
  • St. John's Church of England Primary School, Cliviger

At 2pm precisely Bishop Philip, as is tradition for a new Diocesan Bishop, knocked loudly on the West Door of the Cathedral with an ancient Saxon hammer before being allowed to enter.

He was met by three young people from St Luke's Church in Blackburn (Ollie, Lacey and Kenzie) who offered greetings and led the moment of Welcome alongside with the entire congregation who had turned to face the West Door.

Later in the service the First Reading from the Bible was delivered by Maayana Cox and Oscar Newby from All Saints, New Longton. .

And children continued to be to the fore. Towards the end of the service Bishop Philip led a Messy Installation procession through the Cathedral and down the nave, with the youngsters all wearing colourful home-made mitres (Bishop’s hats). The Bishop also donned a stunning purple cloak made for him during the Messy Installation by the children.

Notable figures attending the service on Saturday included the Lord Lieutenant of Lancashire, Rt Hon. The Lord Shuttleworth KG KCVO and Lady Shuttleworth as well as Speaker of the House of Commons and MP for Chorley, the Rt Hon. Sir Lindsay Hoyle.

Other guests were the High Sheriff of Lancashire, Mr David Taylor CBE; The Venerable Joshua Skee and Rev. Martin Stützer (representing our Diocesan links from South Africa and Germany) alongside many Mayors and Mayoresses, council leaders, faith and community representatives.

From the Diocese, alongside Bishop Philip was Rt Rev. Dr Jill Duff, Anglican Bishop of Lancaster; the Dean of Blackburn, Very Rev. Peter Howell-Jones; the Venerable Mark Ireland, Archdeacon of Blackburn; the Venerable David Picken, Archdeacon of Lancaster; Dean of Women’s Ministry, Rev. Anne Beverley; the Bishop’s Adviser on UKME issues and Deacon for the Installation Service, Rev. Sarah Gill and many clergy and their parishioners from across Lancashire.

As well as clergy and civic processions; those in attendance and watching online via the livestream also witnessed the Oaths of Allegiance by Bishop Philip to His Majesty the King and to the Archbishop of York; the ‘Installation’ itself when the new Bishop takes his episcopal seat (the ‘Cathedra’) in the Cathedral and also the Presentation, when Bishop Philip was presented as the new Bishop of Blackburn to the congregation.

Speaking in his sermon about the importance placing children, young people and our schools at the ‘very heart of our common life’ Bishop Philip said: “The Church often engages in ministry to the young as a kind of insurance policy. We do it to make the adults feel a bit better about themselves because it suggests the church may have a future.

  • Click here for a more detailed report on the sermon content  

“But the desire for institutional survival is the wrong starting point. The right starting point is the Gospel song all ages can sing together.

“We want young people to be inspired by the person of Jesus. This wonderful current generation, so many of them in this cathedral today, is a searching one. They are asking profound and challenging questions about purpose, about relationships, about the future of the planet.

“Christians believe the goal of that searching is found in relationship with Jesus. So let’s create the spaces where we can have those conversations.”

And Bishop Philip added: “Imagine every parish engaging in ministry to the young. Imagine a network of children and youth workers supporting that ministry across Lancashire. Imagine too, an even closer partnership between churches and our amazing family of church schools for the benefit of the young.

“But equally, we want young people to inspire the church. So, let’s create the places where young people can pray, worship, sing and lead.”

As well as an emphasis on children and young people at the heart of all we do, during the sermon Bishop Philip also placed the spotlight on social justice and the importance of proclaiming the Gospel to the whole County of Lancashire.

He previously declared all three as key aims to be ‘labouring tirelessly’ for in the years to come when he was first announced as the new Bishop in January this year.

After the service was over, clergy from across the diocese gathered for one of the largest ever group pictures of Lancashire clergy ever taken; while the entire congregation was invited to a community picnic in the Cathedral grounds.

  • Bishop Philip chose two charities as part of the celebration service; they are SportsReach and Ambassadors Football UK. Both charities seek to equip churches in sports ministry as well as engage directly in using sport as a tool to reach people for Christ. They work predominantly with children and young people but do have something for all ages and work in Lancashire as well as across the globe. Click here to make a donation.

Captions of pictures above, top to bottom:
Pictures by Clive Lawrence for Blackburn Diocese

  • A close up of the cloak made for Bishop Philip during the Messy Installation
  • Bishop Philip knocks five times on the West Door of the Cathedral as the Installation Service begins
  • Bishop Philip begins his walk down to the sanctuary area of the Cathedral behind (l-r) Ollie, Kenzie and Lacey from St Luke’s in Blackburn who officially welcomed him the Cathedral
  • Sarah Earnshaw, Diocesan Children’s Work Adviser helps Emily from Pendle put on her head gear as part of the ‘Messy Installation’ for children during the Installation Service
  • Mayors and Mayoresses from every part of the County attended the service
  • Maayana Cox and Oscar Newby from All Saints New Longton did the First Reading from the Bible during the Installation Service
  • Bishop Philip kneels to pray as he looks up at the art installation ‘Christ the Worker’ at the start of the Installation Service at Blackburn Cathedral
  • Bishop Philip wears a special cloak made during the ‘Messy Installation’ as he leads a procession of scores of Lancashire children around the CathedralClergy from every part of Lancashire take part in one of the largest group pictures of clergy ever taken in the Diocese, alongside Bishop Philip and Bishop Jill; other senior clergy of the Diocese; visiting Bishops and Honorary Bishops and members of the Cathedral Chapter. The picture was taken by the statue of Queen Victoria at the rear of the Cathedral
  • Bishop Philip and Bishop Jill are joined by clergy from every part of Lancashire to take part in one of the largest group pictures of clergy ever taken in the Diocese featuring other senior clergy of the Diocese; visiting Bishops and Honorary Bishops and members of the Cathedral Chapter. The picture was taken by the statue of Queen Victoria at the rear of the Cathedral

Rt Rev. Philip North; short biography

Bishop Philip was educated at the University of York and trained for ministry at St Stephen's House, Oxford.

He served his title at St Mary the Virgin in the Diocese of Durham and was ordained priest in 1993. In 1996 +Philip took up the role of Vicar at Holy Trinity and St Mark's Hartlepool and was also appointed Area Dean of Hartlepool in 2000.

In 2002 +Philip was appointed Priest Administrator of the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, in the Diocese of Norwich, before being appointed Team Rector of the Parish of Old St Pancras, in the Diocese of London, in 2008.

Immediately prior to becoming Bishop of Blackburn +Philip was Bishop of Burnley; a role he was appointed to in 2015.

Previous Bishops of Blackburn 

The Bishop of Blackburn is an episcopal title used by the Diocesan Bishop of The Church of England in Lancashire (Diocese of Blackburn) in the Province of York. 

Previous Bishops of Blackburn …

  • 1927-1942         Percy Herbert   
  • 1942-1954         Wilfred Askwith               
  • 1954-1960         Walter Baddeley             
  • 1960-1971         Charles Claxton              
  • 1972-1981         Robert Martineau  
  • 1982-1989         Stewart Cross
  • 1989-2003         Alan Chesters   
  • 2004-2012         Nicholas Reade               
  • 2013-2022         Julian Henderson 
  • 2023-                  Philip North