The licensing service for the new Director of Whalley Abbey, Rev Adam Thomas, took place this week at nearby Whalley Parish Church.
Due to pandemic restrictions attendance numbers at the service were limited.
The current plan is to have the Whalley Abbey site fully reopened by September of this year as a Centre for Christian Discipleship and Prayer, pandemic restrictions permitting at that time of course, but bookings enquiries can be made now by emailing email@example.com to start a conversation.
Alongside this fresh new purpose for the site, a new monastic community will also be re-established; the first in nearly five centuries.
Representing strong support from the whole Diocese for the plans, Adam’s licensing service was attended by all our Bishops and Archdeacons: Rt Rev Julian Henderson, Bishop of Blackburn; Rt Rev Philip North, Bishop of Burnley; Rt Rev Dr Jill Duff, Bishop of Lancaster; the Venerable David Picken, Archdeacon of Lancaster and the Venerable Mark Ireland, Archdeacon of Blackburn, who is also current Chair of the Whalley Abbey Steering Group.
Also attending were former Steering Group Chair, Rt Rev Cyril Ashton; Liverpool Archdeacon Mike McGurk; Vicar of Whalley, Rev Jonathan Carmyllie plus a few representatives from Whalley Abbey Steering Group, the Abbey praying community and the Friends of Whalley Abbey. Other Christian denominations in Whalley, including the Roman Catholic and Methodist Church sent their prayers and messages of goodwill.
Adam and his wife Cathy were also joined by a few family and friends and two representatives from Adam’s churches in Lytham where he was Curate immediately prior to becoming Abbey Director (St Cuthbert’s and St John’s).
After the service, held appropriately in the Abbey’s ancient misericords which are now to be found in the parish church, Bishop Julian blessed the Abbey site itself and the Abbey Chapel and said: “The licensing service this evening represents a new chapter in the history of an ancient Christian site. As we emerge from the pandemic in the coming months and years, our new Centre for Christian Discipleship and Prayer at Whalley will be a place of refreshment. We are all praying for Adam and Cathy and for the success of the project.
“The new Centre will serve our parishes of course, helping to create a new generation of disciples, witnesses and leaders for Christ; inspiring children and young people too.
“But, as has been the case for countless previous generations, a welcome to the Abbey retreat house is also extended to everyone from across the whole of the County of Lancashire and beyond.”
Archdeacon Mark commented: “Tonight’s service was a wonderful occasion. I am full of anticipation now for what the future holds; for what God has in store for us as we seek to develop and grow our new Centre for Discipleship and Prayer. As Chair of the Abbey Steering Group I am grateful to all who were able to attend this evening.
“It was a shame we had to limit attendance to just a few representatives of all the organisations and groups involved in getting us to this point. But we pray there will be brighter times ahead with many opportunities to come together again properly in great numbers to celebrate all God is doing at the Abbey!”
Adam added: “Thank you everyone who was able to come this evening and for the prayers and good wishes Cathy and I have received both tonight and on the run up to this day. I’m delighted we were able to have the event livestreamed due to limited numbers who could attend in person. We are both excited now for the coming years - full of anticipation to see how God will use this site to grow his Kingdom here in Lancashire and beyond in new ways.
“As we set out on our journey as part of the new Centre for Christian Discipleship and Prayer here at Whalley, we want to ensure it feels like a place where anyone can belong; where they can grow and be nurtured in their faith of course, but also that it is a place anyone feels they can escape to and find peace in and with God.”
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Pictures taken by Clive Lawrence for Blackburn Diocese
Ronnie Semley, March 2021