The new Bishop of Burnley has used his first sermon to issue a call to local churches to reach out to a world of “growing injustice”.
The Rt Rev. Philip North also reminded the congregation at his Installation Service in Blackburn Cathedral of the importance of working in partnership with each other to be as effective as possible.
He said: “Our purpose is to be bearers of a message of love.
“We can get so bogged down with insurance policies and gutters and rotas that we all too easily forget the dignity of the task that the Lord has laid before us. The local church is the hope of the world. Without you, there is no one left to speak the message of love. You are the hope of the world.
“We need to locate ourselves in those places where life is hardest. All the most significant renewal movements in the history of the Church have started with the poor.
“A complacent, solvent, middle class church that pays no more than lip-service to the poor is not a church at all. The books may balance but God has been forgotten.”
Bishop North was, until recently, Team Rector of the parish of Old St Pancras, a large inner city parish of four churches in the Camden area of north London.
The Bishop was consecrated two weeks ago at York Minster.
Clergy and parishioners attended the Installation Service and were joined by civic dignitaries including Vice Lord-Lieutenant of Lancashire, Colonel Alan Jolley.
Bishop North added: “We live in a nation crippled by growing injustice. Last week I was at a youth centre in Burnley where the volunteers were telling me about the sheer desperation of people forced to choose between fuel or food.
“They told me about children who will eat everything they are offered, whole loaves of bread, so desperate are they to fill their stomachs.
“This is where we must be as Christians. We need to serve the hungry and the debt-laden and the lonely and the young. We need to give voice to the anxious and the victimised and the abused.
“And we need to work in joyful partnership with people of other faiths who also long for the flourishing of human life.”
Speaking after the service Bishop Philip reflected on his new role saying: “To become the eleventh Bishop of Burnley and to follow in the footsteps of my predecessor, Rt Rev. John Goddard, is extremely humbling.
“As well as being Bishop of Burnley I will be a bishop working for the whole diocese, and it is with that in mind that I believe we need local Christian communities that are imaginative in service, bold in ministry and generous in reaching out to all with God’s love.
“I am looking forward to being part of East Lancashire. In 2013 Burnley was awarded the title City of Enterprise and I think that award can provide inspiration for us as a diocese, because we want just that spirit of enterprise and entrepreneurship as we seek to build healthy churches.”