THE roles of the church, state and judiciary were examined when representatives of all three gathered for a new style of service in Sherborne Abbey on Sunday.
It was initiated by the High Sheriff Jeremy Pope in the tradition of the Ceremonial Court Openings, which preceded the County Assizes in Dorchester, but with a new format which broadened its scope.
"For some years a ceremonial court opening, procession and service continued to be held in Dorchester, but I am following the practice of other Bailiwicks of holding the service in one of the principal churches of the county," Mr Pope said.
"The purpose is to celebrate the links between the Shrievalty, the Church, the State and, more particularly, the Judiciary and the Legal Profession and other organs of the law and law enforcement, all those who keep our community safe, and also those charged with managing our prisons and the process of punishment, restitution and redemption."
In his sometimes challenging address, the vicar of Sherborne, Canon Eric Woods, highlighted the debate on women bishops in the Church of England, saying he hoped everyone there would agree with him that the state and judiciary should not seek to rule on something which was primarily a theological issue.
But he emphasised the relationship between them, saying "the law cannot make people good" and the danger of "tyranny creeping in through the back door" through political correctness.
The Sung Mattins was preceded by a procession into the abbey led by the presidents of the Dorset and Bournemouth Law Societies, with representatives of police, fire service, coroner and magistrates association, district and circuit judges and local authority leaders, High Sheriffs from neighbouring counties and HM Lord Lieutenant of Dorset Mrs Valerie Pitt Rivers.
Participating in the service with Mr Pope were His Honour Judge Samuel Wiggs, Sir Philip Williams Bt JP DL who witnessed his declaration in March, and the Abbey Choir, directed by Paul Ellis, sang the Anthem 'O Clap Your Hands' (Vaughan Williams) and The Te Deum (Stanford in Bb).
The processional party were accompanied to their seats to a fanfare played by Matt Lush and Nick Smith of The Gryphon School, service organist was Peter Bray, trumpeter David Bertie, and there was a retiring collection for Sherborne Abbey Choir.
Following the service, guests enjoyed a reception and lunch at the Digby Memorial Hall which, at Mr Pope's invitation, was prepared and served by young members of the Sherborne Skate Park Project.
Mr Pope said: "I was keen to highlight the worthwhile project to renovate the skate park. The cash they earn serving food and drinks is being donated to the project."
Michael Graves, project chairman, said: "We are very close to meeting our target to raise £190,000, but we have £9,000 to go."
Report and pictures by Nicci Brown