The Rt Revd Graham James is the longest-serving bishop in the Church of England and recently described by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby as “one of the best bishops since the second world war. He oversaw an increase in numbers in a rural diocese and my admiration for him is endless.”
The tributes continued to flow at Norwich Cathedral last night at a final thanksgiving service for Bishop Graham’s ministry and that of his wife, Julie. Ecumenical and civic guests were present in abundance as were clergy and parishioners from right across the Diocese filling every available seat in the vast cathedral from end to end.
Processions headed into the nave from different directions and Bishop Graham made his own entrance into the Cathedral as the huge Great West Door was opened for him alone. He was welcomed by the Dean of Norwich, the Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk and the Lord Mayor of Norwich.
Dean of Norwich, the Very Revd Jane Hedges, said:
“Bishop Graham is the seventy-first Bishop of Norwich and the first of this millennium. We give thanks for the faithfulness of God’s calling of him and for all that Graham and Julie have brought to this diocese and to each one of us.”
Bishop Graham gave thanks for and received gifts from some of the more than 70 charities which he has supported whilst in his role:
“I thank God for all who have invited me to work with them these past years in this diocese as members of my staff team, as leaders of other Christian churches, as influencers, leaders, organisers and facilitators of the communities we serve together locally, nationally and at an international level.
“Together we have sought to bring a richness of life to those whose lives were poor in health or education, to those with few financial resources, to those whose opportunities the world too easily closes down and to those whose lives were coming to their close.”
In his final sermon as Bishop of Norwich, Bishop Graham said:
“I am deeply grateful for the partnership of the Gospel that I have shared with other Christian leaders throughout my 19 years here.
I am resolutely cheerful about the church, the Gospel and the world in which we live. The power of God in Jesus Christ does not depend on us but he does use us despite our limitations, our weaknesses and our shortcomings.”
Bishop Graham then led a procession to the High Altar of the Cathedral where, after giving a final blessing from the Ancient Throne, he symbolically laid down his bishop’s crozier, mitre and cloak on the Altar.
Bishop of Thetford, the Rt Revd Alan Winton, paid tribute to Bishop Graham:
“There is huge personal affection for Bishop Graham and Julie across the diocese. They demonstrated such a depth of knowledge about the diocese and its people.
“One of Bishop Graham lasting legacies will be the Norfolk Community Foundation, which he was instrumental in bringing into being and which has raised very significant sums of money to support people across the diocese. He has made huge contributions beyond that of his leadership of the church.
“I can’t begin to describe how privileged we feel and how much each of us owe you.
“I hope that as your ministry draws to a close as the Bishop of Norwich, you will have a true sense of the enormous love there is for you, the enormous respect and admiration and the enormous hope and prayer for God’s blessing upon you both for a very long and very happy retirement.”
The couple received a standing ovation and a leaving gift. They plan to move back to their native Cornwall on retirement.
Over 2,000 people attended the service and one earlier in the day, also at the cathedral.
This article comes courtesy of Network Norfolk.