The Diocese of the Free State in South Africa has had a link to the Diocese of Blackburn going back over 50 years – which is believed to be one of the oldest links in the Anglican Communion.
The 50th anniversary of the link was celebrated with a special service at Blackburn Cathedral in November 2014 and the year before that, in October 2013, the Diocesan Bishop of the Free State, Rt Rev. Stephen Dintoe, attended Bishop Julian’s inauguration service and accompanied him on a tour of the Diocese during the week beforehand.
Regular exchanges and visits take place with the Free State.
As recently as this summer a group of around 20 young people from the Diocese had the chance to experience living out their faith in another culture when they visited the South African Diocese as part of a group led by the Bishop of Lancaster, Rt Rev. Geoff Pearson and Kat Witham, the Diocesan Youth Officer.
Speaking today Bishop Julian said: “The purpose of this visit – my first – is to respond to the generosity of the Free State’s Bishop coming to UK for my consecration in 2013 and to explore the link with their diocese further, increasing my understanding of their context from first-hand experience.
“While in the Diocese of the Free State I am preaching in Johannesburg Cathedral this Sunday (September 25) and then at a special service marking the 150th anniversary of Bloemfontein Cathedral the following Sunday (October 2).”
Rev. Canon John Hall, Vicar of St Peter and St David, Fleetwood and Chair of the Free State Link Committee said: “Our dioceses have a proud connection going back many decades and mutually support each other in many ways.
“Opportunities like these to spend time together are important to the ongoing flourishing of both of our dioceses.
“While in the Free State I pray that Bishop Julian and Heather will be able to discover for themselves something of the Spirit of God which plays so a huge role in the lives of Africans.”