The Anglican Diocesan Bishop for the County of Lancashire, Rt Rev. Julian Henderson, has made his final speech in the House of Lords.
It comes as the countdown continues to Bishop Julian’s retirement in mid-July after nearly nine years as Bishop of Blackburn and just over two years since he was first welcomed to the Lords as one of the 26 ‘Lords Spiritual’ * in February 2020.
In his ‘valedictory speech’, Bishop Julian took the opportunity to reflect on his time in the ‘special Red Rose County of Lancashire’; on the work of his ‘great team’ striving together to achieve the aims of our Diocesan ‘Vision 2026: Healthy Churches Transforming Communities’ and also to thank their Lordships for their good wishes on his departure.
Bishop Julian said: "My nearly nine years as the Bishop of Blackburn are drawing to a close and I shall be moving from the special Red Rose County of Lancashire, where it has been a joy to live and serve and where we celebrate Her Majesty the Queen in our singing of the National anthem as the 'Duke of Lancaster'.
"The North has been more than welcoming to a complete Southerner and, as with all places where clergy serve, a bit of my heart will remain there.
Bishop Julian continued saying: “In our Diocesan Vision for 2026 (the 100th anniversary of the creation of the diocese) we have set out to make the church community a healthy influence in every situation.
“We are not cutting back but planting new gatherings in places where Christian worship and witness have been absent, most notably on urban estates.
“We have been blessed by generous grants from the national church and it has felt like a time of God's favour, as God has given us a great team and we have sought unashamedly to make the person of Jesus Christ more widely known and believed.”
In his speech, part of a debate on a report into the 'stresses upon the Union of the United Kingdom’, Bishop Julian also took the opportunity to emphasise the importance of the current ‘levelling up agenda’ saying: “Reducing the gaps in our society in terms of wealth and aspiration (is) something we in the North West are desperate to see taken forward.
“Government support for the Eden North project in Morecambe Bay is one example of what will bring massive transformation, in terms of jobs and the growth of the local economy in Lancashire.”
Bishop Julian also highlighted lack of reference in the Report to the ‘impact that the faith and charity sector might play in strengthening life and cooperation across the United Kingdom’.
The Bishop commented: “Obviously in the past the established church has played a key role in this nation with Lords Spiritual in this House, but over time the churches in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have become independent and new churches have emerged.
“What is more, the presence now of strong other faith communities in the UK challenges that Christian heritage, as we make this country a place in which all faiths can practice without fear or favour.
He continued: “But in spite of all that change, I do not want us to lose a formal and recognised place for faith in our national life. It provides a crucial underpinning of who we are in being fully human, body, mind and soul.”
Bishop Julian, pictured with other Lords Spiritual at the recent opening of the new Parliament by Prince Charles who stood in for Her Majesty, also took the opportunity to reflect on his short time in the House saying: “My time in your Lordships House has been limited… partly because it has been right for my female colleagues to take precedence in joining your Lordships House and partly constrained by the pandemic.
“There's been a lot to learn as well as admire in a place of such expertise and wisdom, but I regret I have not been able to become more involved in the serious business of your Lordships House.
“As this House carries out its vital role of scrutiny of legislation and comment on the complex issues of the day, the prayer at the start of each sitting for wisdom and right judgement will continue to be my prayer for your Lordships House; though I will no longer have the privilege to be present. I am grateful to you all for your good wishes.”
* The Lords Spiritual are made up of the Archbishops of Canterbury and of York, the Bishops of London, Durham and Winchester as well as specific bishops of the Church of England.
Ronnie Semley, June 2022