THE Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, and 25 bishops from the north of England gathered in the diocese of Blackburn this weekend to take part in some of the 450 or more events organised for Crossroads Mission.
The annual festival was created by Dr Sentamu last year, and was first held in the diocese of Sheffield. It was hosted this year by the diocese of Blackburn, as part of its mission, Vision 2026: Healthy Churches Transforming Communities.
Parishes around Blackpool and Preston laid on hundreds of events, including youth groups, dances, barbecues, Bible studies, afternoon teas, prayer zones, and Q&A sessions with the bishops and the Archbishop — all in the name of outreach and evangelism. More than 30,000 people were in attendance across the weekend.
The Bishop of Blackburn, the Rt Revd Julian Henderson, said: “Crossroads Mission is about sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with people across Lancashire — and the Archbishop will be leading from the front.”
It began on Thursday of last week with a commissioning service at Blackburn Cathedral. Dr Sentamu told the young congregation: “We stand at the crossroads — encourage people to consider Christ. Be excited that you can turn the world upside down.” He later joined more than 500 teenagers for a music festival, “Light at the Crossroads”, at Bowley Scout Camp, in Whalley.
The Archbishop also visited an open prison at Kirkham, on Sunday, where he led a service and attended a coffee morning with staff and inmates. He said this week: “I hope that all who have been touched by Crossroads are transformed and renewed in faith. This has been a fabulous weekend of activities that show when God is with us, everything is possible.”
Other events during the weekend included pub quizzes, silent auctions, concerts, board games, litter picking, breakfasts, coffee mornings, Ceilidh, talent shows, and worship. The Bishop of Burnley, the Rt Revd Philip North, and the Bishop of Lancaster, the Rt Revd Geoff Pearson, led more than 4000 primary school children in a celebratory service at Ewood Park Stadium, the home of Blackburn Rovers FC, on Friday. The festivities ended with open-air celebrations in Preston on Sunday afternoon.
“We give thanks to God for those who have heard and responded to the call of Christ to come and follow him during the Crossroads Mission,” the host bishops said in a joint statement this week. The next Crossroads Mission will be in the diocese of Durham, in March.
The power of prayer: Jane Ryan and her son, Jake, who recovered from a swimming accident in the summer, at a Messy Church service at St Mary Magdalen’s, Accrington, on SaturdayCredit: BLACKBURN DIOCESE
The power of prayer: Jane Ryan and her son, Jake, who recovered from a swimming accident in the summer, at a Messy Church service at St Mary Magdalen’s, Accrington, on Saturday
Festival events reach out to thousands STORIES of renewed faith, prayer, healing, and community spirit have emerged in the wake of this year’s Crossroads Mission in the diocese of Blackburn. The four-day festival, involving more than 450 community, mission, and outreach events, took place across hundreds of parishes last weekend.
Jane Ryan attended a special Messy Church service at St Mary Magdalen’s, Accrington, with her sons Jake, aged three, and Finn, six. She praised the support and prayers that she received during the summer while Jake was in a medically induced coma, after a swimming-pool accident. He has since made a full recovery.
“People in the hospital, and my Christian friends at home, were praying for my family and for Jake that he would pull through,” Ms Ryan said. “I am an atheist, but it has really made me think about the power of prayer; so, when an invitation came from my friend to attend this special Messy Church, I decided to come along.
“My experience has made me more open to hear the Christian message, and the Church should definitely have more opportunities like this to find out more about Christianity in an informal setting.”
Meanwhile, a former “Gladiator” (from the 1990s television programme), Warren “Ace” Furman, joined the Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, on a visit to a prison at Kirkham, on Sunday. Mr Furman later attended the closing celebrations in Preston, where, he said, he met and prayed for a woman who had been visiting her boyfriend in the same prison.
“She couldn’t afford to stay at the hotel she was based at for very long,” he said. A priest in the crowd “offered to help find her accommodation, and also knew the pastor at the prison personally.
“I was amazed at the way in which the Spirit of God moved in this woman’s life as soon as she gave her life to Christ, immediately ensuring she was in a better place when she left the Crossroads celebration than she was when she arrived.”
And the Vicar of St James’s, Lower Darwen, the Revd Timothy Horobin, who had the idea to lead thousands of children in worship at Ewood Park football stadium, said that many of the parents and family members of the children had been encouraged to return to church as a result of the event.
Mary Bottomley and Ruth Edmondson, whose children attend St Oswald’s, Knuzden, in Blackburn, said: “I had no idea what to expect today, but it’s made me think I might go back to church. I think today has shown me what the Church could be for me. It’s lovely to see all the schools gathered together, and to see them so happy.”