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.
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.
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.”