‘Peacemaker’ Bishop John’s farewell

BOTH TOGETHER: The congrgation applauds The Bishop and his wife Vivienne.
BOTH TOGETHER: The congrgation applauds The Bishop and his wife Vivienne.

More than 1,000 people said farewell to The Bishop of Burnley, The Rt Rev. John Goddard, at a special service at Blackburn Cathedral to mark his retirement.

The service to acknowledge Bishop John’s 43 years of ministry – nearly 14 as Bishop – followed a unique tribute from the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, who acknowledged his significant role in inter-faith relations in the aftermath of the Burnley riots of 2001, when he received death threats while helping set up Building Bridges Burnley.

It was the first time any Suffragan Bishop had been given a farewell address by an Archbishop at General Synod.

At the Blackburn Cathedral service, the congregation heard Bishop John speak about the need for the Church in Lancashire to move forward under new Diocesan Bishop, the Rt Rev. Julian Henderson, and reach out to local communities everywhere in the county.

He said: “If we saw a child in danger crossing the road, we would do anything we could to save it. So we must have the same attitude to people in our communities when it comes to the message of eternal life.

“We should change up a gear and be less bashful and quiet about our faith.”

Despite the “peacemaker” reputation he gained for his Burnley community work, Bishop John had been criticised as divisive by women in the Anglican church for his consistent opposition to the appointment of women bishops.

Watching the Bishop make his final sermon were Lord Shuttleworth, Lord Lieutenant of Lancashire, and dignitaries of Lancashire County Council and Lancashire’s boroughs including Blackburn, Burnley, Wyre, South Ribble and Hyndburn.

Clergy of other denominations also came to celebrate a final Eucharist with the Bishop.

Senior Anglican Bishops attending included Bishop Julian, Bishop of Blackburn, together with his two immediate predecessors, the Rt Rev Alan Chesters and Rt Rev. Nicholas Reade.

Bishop John spent just over a year as Acting Bishop of Blackburn following the retirement of Bishop Nicolas in October 2012.

The new Bishop of Blackburn, Bishop Julian, thanked Bishop John for his support. He said: “John has been a fount of knowledge and has been very gracious with his guidance, direction and encouragement.”

Gifts were presented to Bishop John, including money collected from around the Diocese to go towards a cruise, vouchers for a day at Silverstone, and a carved wooden candleholder. He also got a lifebelt and armbands, following an anecdote recalled by Bishop Julian about when Bishop John fell off his beloved boat into a canal!

With his wife Vivienne at his side, Bishop John spoke about why he had decided to retire to Tarleton, near Preston.

He said: “Lancashire is such a special place. We came as strangers and were welcomed and have become part of the Lancashire family.

“We love the straight-talking people of Lancashire. They have always made us feel welcome. We feel at home here, so this is where we will be staying.”

After the service, he sent a thank-you message, saying: “I hope that you will accept this note as a thank you for your wonderful encouraging, yet humbling, farewell service. It was wonderful to see so many of you there.

“I also want to thank you all for the presentation gift, which takes my breath away. Vivienne and I will be making plans for our future travelling.

“Many thanks and may God continue to guide the Diocese forward to His glory and the service of all.”

Burnley Council held a special civic ‘thank you’ lunch in honour of Bishop John, hosted by the Mayor of Burnley, Coun. Andy Tatchell.