THE RETIRING Bishop of Burnley – the Right Rev John Goddard – urged worshippers to ‘take the moment, take the day’ as hundreds gave thanks for his near 14-year ministry in East Lancashire.

In the end it was standing room only at Blackburn Cathedral as everyone from bishops to clergy and members of congregations across Lancashire united to praise the 66-year-old on Saturday morning.

No fewer than three Bishops of Blackburn – present incumbent Julian Henderson and his predecessors Nicholas Reade and Alan Chesters – were in attendance for the thanksgiving service.

And the civic procession read like a county’s who’s who, with Mayor of Blackburn Coun Alan Cottam rubb-ing shoulders with Mayor of Burnley Coun Andy Tatchell, High Sheriff Dr Barry Johnson, Lancashire County Council vice-chairman and Burnley county councillor Margaret Brindle and Lord Shuttleworth, the Lord Lieutenant of Lancashire.

Dean of Blackburn, the Very Rev Christopher Armstrong, set the tone when he announced that the service would pay tribute to ‘the most colourful, courageous and intelligent ministry’.

Bishop John’s sermon evoked the outraged protests of Victor Meldrew and John McEnroe – but ended with an appeal for the faithful to never be afraid to celebrate their own convictions.

The farewell service was also a family affair, as his wife Vivienne gave a reading from the Letter to the Philippians and gifts from the collection, in support of Christian Aid, were presented by Michael and Gareth Goddard, his sons.

And in the presentations for his departure, there was a nod to one of his well-known passions, canal boating, as he was presented with a set of water wings.

Earlier this week the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, broke with tradition and gave a glowing tribute to Bishop John, recognising his fortitude in leading inter-faith relationships in the wake of Burnley’s 2001 riots, which saw him subsequently face death threats.

Bishop John, who began his ordained career as a parish priest in Middlesbrough, has bought a bright blue Morris Minor, ahead of his retirement, in which he plans to travel the county.