A Reflection: Blackburn Cathedral

Blackburn Cathedral TreveX – Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0



Official Cathedral logo

Blackburn Cathedral

The former parish church of St Mary the Virgin became Blackburn Cathedral in 1926. William Temple, Bishop of Manchester was involved in the selection of Blackburn Parish Church as the suitable site for the Cathedral of this new diocese.

As a town, Blackburn is mentioned in the Doomsday Book and tradition has that with in the reign of King Edward the Confessor (1042 – 1066) the church was already dedicated to St Mary which was known as the ‘Inn of the Lord’.

Simon Jenkins mentions a possible Roman connection. There was a Roman settlement about 7 miles away at Ribchester. It seems there was a Christian presence in the homestead of Blackburn in the 6th century if not earlier.

Blackburn claims documentary evidence of Christian activity since 596, implying possibly continuity from a Roman-British settlement. The later medieval church of St Mary was rebuilt in 1826 by Manchester architect, John Palmer, guttered by fire in 1831 and then restored. The style is Regency gothic, with a substantial tower and a nave interior with a ribbed vault. The decision to make Blackburn a new diocese in 1926 spurred a plan for a large central tower. … This was barely started when war and expense brought a halt. (Simon Jenkins – England’s Cathedrals page 13)

The move from Parish Church to Cathedral was not a straightforward project. The original plans, drawn up in 1933, were for a modern gothic cathedral, giving it a simpler and more modern style. The second world war and inflation meant that these plans had to be radically changed and work was not to begin until the 1950’s. The appointment of Laurence King as cathedral architect in 1961 brought about a significant change in plans and the creation of the Lantern Tower depicting the Holy Spirit.

During this period the Corona representing both the crown of suffering and the crown of glory was designed and installed. Wherever you sit in for the liturgy you cannot escape
the drama of the crown of thorns hanging from think steel cables above the altar. Also, as you look up there is the Dove hovering over the celebration of the liturgy.

The artist John Hayward designed the Worker Christ which was installed at the rear of the nave.

Christ the Worker

Immanuel Giel

Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0


In the mid 2010’s an ambitious regeneration of what is now called the Cathedral Quarter was completed

The work, spanning 14 years and costing £33 million, in partnership with the local authority and others, involved the creation of hospitality and business premises. For the cathedral itself there were facilities for a Library, Refectory, teaching and meeting rooms and offices. There is also accommodation for clergy and lay staff.

These years of regeneration prove the point that Cathedrals are ever changing and evolving. There was very much the spirit of the wishes and influence of Archbishop William Temple to create a cathedral that met the needs of local people and was the ‘heartbeat of Blackburn town centre’.


Crown of Thorns

Michael BeckwithCreative Commons Attribution 2.0

For more information follow the cathedral link, select about us and then History and stroll down the page

Blackburn Cathedral



Blackburn Cathedral taken from Cathedral Web page



East end of Blackburn Cathedral

Richard Vince – Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0

Pause and Reflect
3rd week of Advent

Slow down, breath calmly
and relax.

Opening Prayer

A prayer for Blackburn Cathedral and the Diocese of Blackburn, its people and those who service the cathedral.

Loving God, draw us on the journey
to the places of holiness, the places of peace,
the places of encounter, the places of beauty,
the places where faith has been lived, your love made known,
your hope held out in the past, for the present, into your future. Amen

The traditional Advent hymn On Jordans Bank


Collect for third week of Advent

God for whom we watch and wait,
you sent John the Baptist to prepare the way of your Son:
give us courage to speak the truth,
to hunger for justice,
and to suffer for the cause of right,
with Jesus Christ our Lord.

Words from John’s Gospel 1.6-8, 19-23
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.

This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, ‘I am not the Messiah.’ And they asked him, ‘What then? Are you Elijah?’ He said, ‘I am not.’ ‘Are you the prophet?’ He answered, ‘No.’ Then they said to him, ‘Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?’ He said,
‘I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness,
“Make straight the way of the Lord” ’, as the prophet Isaiah said.

Pause and reflect on the words from the Gospel and ponder these closing words again:
‘I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness,
“Make straight the way of the Lord” ’, as the prophet Isaiah said.


Let us draw into our circle of prayer our:
Family and Friends
Local church and its leaders
wider community
widening our circle to include:
those in government and positions of authority
those who are oppressed, those who are hungry and homeless
those who are ill, those facing death
Merciful Father, accept these prayers
for the sake of your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen

When asked about how to pray Jesus gave these simple but profound words, so let them be our prayer:

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be Thy name;
Thy kingdom come;
Thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil. Amen


Closing Prayer

Adapted from Bury Mission Community Prayer (Diocese of Manchester)

Loving God,
Jesus called his disciples to seek your kingdom and follow him.
You summon us to share work of our Pilgrim Community
Open our hearts to hear his invitation to be his disciples in this generation.
Grant us courage.
Strengthen us by your Holy Spirit.
Give us compassion, wisdom and resilience.
Pour on us your endless grace that we may flourish, and our parishes grow in faith and love, service and compassion,
Through Christ our Lord. Amen


+ In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

You may wish the finish this time of reflective prayer sitting silently and enjoying a peaceful moment or two. You may also think about listening to some music that has touched you or a favourite hymn or song. Enjoy these moments! God bless!


Fr. Derek Akker

(Derek is a retired Anglican Parish Priest and a member of the congregations of All Saints & St James. Prior to his ordination he was accredited as a Methodist Preacher in 1968 and served within the Methodist Church until returning to the Anglican Church in the mid 1980’s)
Parish of Kirklees Valley, Bury, (All Saints, Elton & St James, Woolfold) – In the Diocese of Manchester


Opening prayer from the Association of English Cathedrals
Collect -The Archbishops Council 2004
Candle Image – Liesel Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0