Column: Ancient tradition we should all be so proud

Rt Rev Geoff Pearson, Bishop of Lancaster
Rt Rev Geoff Pearson, Bishop of Lancaster
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I have just attended my last service of Thanksgiving on the occasion of the Shield Hanging of the next High Sheriff of Lancashire.

It may sound a bit Downton Abbey and conformity to tradition but it works. It rejoices in the ‘Heritage of Lancaster’ and it makes more than a passing nod to both faith and service.

It is an annual event held at the Priory Church and the Castle which are just perfect for these ceremonies. It is easy to take these buildings for granted but just listen to what visitors say and you quickly see, with fresh eyes, these jewels on our doorstep. The Vicar of the Priory and the Keeper of the Castle are both important positions and they can either increase or diminish the installation of the High Sheriff. We are blessed with some key leaders.

“This day,” says the Vicar of Lancaster Rev Chris Newlands, “we meet to give thanks and pray for the High Sheriff of Lancaster. We thank God for the gift of community, celebrating all that is good in the life of this county. We pray for those who administer justice, and commit ourselves afresh to the service of God and our fellow citizens.”

The reading on this occasion in the Priory was the story of the Good Samaritan. This story is an example of acting in love without preference or partiality and which expects nothing in return. It is a clear radical story of the hated outsider stopping to do something the righteous God-fearers won’t or can’t.

High Sheriff is an ancient title dating back many centuries and this year’s is Robert Webb DL who lives in Arkholme. His responsibility is to uphold the dignity of Her Majesty’s judges and encourage responsible citizenship.

My experience of the last 11 years is of High Sheriffs who have invested time and attention in a variety of projects with people across all kinds of social divides.

They have fulfilled the highest and best intent of tradition by serving generously and graciously toward others. I have been privileged to see many of them in action and I will miss knowing such lovely people as I approach my retirement. The Duchy of Lancaster is unique in many ways. Long may it remain so.