THE Archbishop of York joined in a colourful, musical, procession through Altham to celebrate the 500th anniversary of one of Lancashire’s smallest churches.
A donkey led 150 palm-branch-waving villagers 100 metres along Burnley Road from St James’ C of E Primary School to St James’ Church, as part of the Palm Sunday celebratory service.
Dr John Sentamu, wearing red, white and gold robes, was flanked by staff-carrying members of the church’s choir, who sang hymns during the procession.
They were followed by excited children from the primary school, who carried a school banner, and their parents.
The Rev John Tranter said the visit from Dr Sentamu was a “once in a lifetime experience” and a “huge honour” for the church, which was founded in 1512.
Rev Tranter said: “When I first heard the Archbishop’s offer to come on April 1, I thought one of my friends was planning an elaborate April Fool’s joke.
“But what better way could a church celebrate 500 years of history than in a festival of worship with its Archbishop? We are greatly honoured and joyously delighted”.
The Archbishop preached and presided at the Benefice Eucharist for Palm Sunday, to a packed-out congregation of 120.
It was also a special day for two-year-old birthday girl Sophie Haran, who was baptised by Archbishop Sentamu during the service.
A member of Sophie’s family said: “To have the Archbishop baptise the newest member of our family is a humbling experience for us, but one that will create treasured memories to be recounted for generations to come.”
After the service, Dr Sentamu met with members of the Altham community for a buffet lunch at the school.