PM receives 'Living Stone' at Labour Party Conference opening service

 Living Stones' was the theme of an ecumenical service held at St John's Parish Church, Blackpool, to celebrate the start of the 2002 Labour Party Conference. The Prime Minister, Rt Hon Tony Blair MP, was among worshippers who went forward to receive a white stone, which symbolised the change from a heart of stone to a heart of flesh. The Chief Whip, the Rt Hon Hilary Armstrong MP, the Mayor of Blackpool, and the two local Blackpool MPs, Joan Humble and Gordon Marsden joined a dozen other Labour MPs and delegates at Labour's Conference Service on Sunday. The theme of the service incorporated scripture passages on the temptation to throw stones [the woman taken in adultery]; the struggle with stony ground [parable of the sower]; the building of living stones [from the first letter of St Peter]; and the prophet Ezekiel's vision about changing a heart of stone to a heart of flesh. The sermon by Fr Denis Blackledge SJ, Parish Priest of Sacred Heart Church, spoke from Revelation 2:17 on 'a white stone with a new name written on it'. The congregation, led by the Prime Minister, was invited to come to receive their own white stone as a touchstone and invitation to know God better and be part of God's people. The Prime Minister later took five additional stones for his wife and children. Labour Party members from all over Britain attended, as did members of the local Blackpool Central Churches Together. The Prime Minister was met by CSM's Chair, the Revd David Haslam, and the vicar of St John's, the Rev Michael Manley. Music was provided by the St John's Music Group, and by Mike Gannon, Chairman of Catholic Stage Guild [North], and his choir. The readers were Joan Humble MP, Major Derek Tyrell from the local Salvation Army Citadel, Rev Ruth Charlesworth from Raikes Parade Methodist Church, and the Prime Minister himself. Also in attendance were our sisters and brothers from Muslim, Jewish and Hindu communities in Lancashire. Following the service, the Prime Minister officially opened the 'Faith in Action' exhibition in the church, and spoke of the vital importance of working together and mutual understanding across the faith communities. The Exhibition showed the work of eleven different faith based organisations in Lancashire representing four major faith traditions. The projects work in areas including youth work, elderly care, drugs education and homelessness. The Chair of the Labour Party, Charles Clarke MP, also visited the exhibition to acknowledge and thank the projects for their work. Graham Dale, Director of the Christian Socialist Movement said: "I'm delighted that the Prime Minister took the time on behalf of the Labour Party to come to worship and the "Faith in Action" exhibition. I'm particularly pleased that he has also acknowledged the work of faith-based projects in Lancashire." source: Diocese of Lancaster

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