'Friendly' start for the new Bishop of Blackburn
TODAY Julian Henderson begins his new job as leader of Lancashire’s 50,000- plus practising Anglicans. Before his consecration as Bishop of Blackburn amid the splendour of York Minster, the 59-year-reflected on how his life is already changing since he came North and how his job as a Church of England priest remains the same
THE former Archdeacon of Dorking is finding doing his shopping involves more time since coming to the Red Rose county to start his new task.Sitting in his comfortable office in Bishop’s House on the outskirts of Ribchester, he said: “I am finding it takes me longer to get out of the supermarket than it used to.
“The people here are so much more friendly than where I lived before. They want to talk to you. I really enjoy it.”
The father-of-two confesses that when discussing his appointment with the Archbishop of York, his lack of experience outside the South of England worried him.
Ugandan-born John Sentamu leant towards him and said quietly: “Julian, I think you will find I have moved rather further North than you have.”
Inspired by the popular church leader’s example, Rt Reverend Henderson said: “I find people are the same wherever I go with the same feelings and needs.
“My first job as a curate in Islington in London was in a very ethnically-mixed area with a lot of problems.
“I was a vicar in Hastings, a seaside town with levels of poverty and deprivation similar to, or possible worse, than those in parts of East Lancashire.
“That is why I chose the Food Bank in Blackburn, where people of all faiths and communities can come together, to help those in need for my announcement in March.
“I am looking forward to the challenges and opportunities of my new job but I consider it a demotion. The important job in the Church is being a parish priest. They are the ones that matter and it is my job to support them.”
The new Bishop is keen to support the efforts of his predecessors in reaching out to other Christians denominations and other faiths, particularly the Muslim com- munity.
He is clear he has a duty to speak out on controversial issues such as the persecution of Christians in Islamic countries.
Rt Rev Henderson said: “We had the terrible massacre of Christians in Peshawar in Pakistan. It is important to speak to Imams and Muslim leaders about how I want to see Christians in Muslim countries accorded the same respect I feel we give Muslims in Britain. I feel they are the best people to talk to leaders in those countries.” An ‘evangelical’ in a post normally held by ‘High Churchmen’, he said the important thing was the Christian message.
He said: “I think we need to modernise the church to attract young people but not alienate our traditional worshippers. Vicars have to take their congregations with them.”
He remains a supporter of women Bishops but sticks to the current line against gay marriage and gay priests having sexual relationships with their partners
Rev Henderson found another worry about moving North groundless.
A former parishioner’s life in Islington had fallen apart and he visited his home when Archdeacon of Dorking.
Rt Rev Henderson said: “Rob came for two weeks and stayed for two years.
“He has now found himself a flat and got a job as a bus driver and is seeing his children regularly.
“Maybe my moving North gave him the push to strike out on his own.”
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