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Bishop Graham’s Parish visits in March and April

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Two Palm Sunday donkeys and pilgrimage encounters across the diocese were just some of the joys of Bishop Graham’s work this spring.

Highlights included confirmations at Norwich Cathedral and St Edmund’s Costessey, commissioning new clergy, and walking, talking and praying with Christians across the diocese on pilgrimage days.

Visiting the people of the Repps Deanery on the north Norfolk coast, Bishop Graham walked with them between Gimingham and Southrepps church, then from Roughton Road railway station to Felbrigg church, set in the parkland of the National Trust estate. The pilgrimage continued to Aylmerton church, talking to people all along the way. Bishop Graham ate with local clergy, ending with Evening Prayer in West Runton before catching the train home.

Four days later orange tip, brimstone and small blue butterflies accompanied the bishop as he walked almost 12 miles, meeting people from the Ingworth and Sparham Deanery. The day included a visit to Eves Hill Farm, Booton, and the chance to walk part of the beautiful new Ten Towers Trail. “Like any good pilgrimage it included pub and farm ice cream visits too,” said Bishop Graham.

Cowslips and bluebells were in full flower in woodlands and churchyards as Bishop Graham enjoyed a pilgrimage day in the Norwich North deanery, with Sunday services at St Catherine’s, Mile Cross and Horsham St Faiths.

Celebration services during March and April included visiting Wymondham Abbey for Mothering Sunday, where the Bishop of Norwich spoke of its “warm and thriving congregation” and heard the new children’s choir from Robert Kett Primary School.

Exactly 30 years after the first women were ordained in Norwich Cathedral, the anniversary was celebrated at Evensong in the Cathedral, followed by a reception in the Bishop’s House, by scores of women priests from across the diocese, including four of the original 20 women priests from 1994. Others joined online. All the music was by women composers, the Bishop’s chaplain, the Revd Sally Theakston, herself ordained 30 years ago, was the preacher, and prayers and readings were given by women ranging from a bishop to someone discerning vocation.

A Palm Sunday procession at St Michael and All Angels, Barton Turf, included one bishop, two donkeys, 14 children and 75 adults. A week later Bishop Graham celebrated Easter at the Cathedral with a service including baptisms and confirmations.

Bishop Graham commissioned the Revd James Stewart as chaplain to the Mothers’ Union, Alan Cossey as Bishop’s Advisor for Licensed Lay Ministers, and Gwilym Davey as the new director of Norwich Youth for Christ at joyful services this spring. He also licensed Deborah Walton as team vicar designate at St Mary’s, Martham, saying: “See the lavish grace of God at work in and through the saints in your churches!”

He marked his own 10th anniversary as a bishop, beginning with five years as Bishop of Dudley before moving to Norwich five years ago. He is also Abbot of St Benet’s, said to be only religious house not closed down by Henry VIII but instead amalgamated with the bishopric of Norwich. As abbot of the isolated riverside ruins, Bishop Graham visited the Museum of the Broads to launch its exhibition Digging, Draining and Drenching – The Story of Peat in the Broads.

“Peat landscape is essential for carbon storage, biodiversity and the solace of landscapes of the soul,” he said.

Bishop Graham also visited the Ishan Mosque and Islamic Centre in Norwich for Iftar, the meal eaten at sunset to break Ramadan fasting, calling it “a privilege to join my Muslim neighbours in a meal and good conversations.”

Delia Smith came to breakfast with Bishop Graham and people from and local schools and churches involved in the Feeding the Gap project, plus representatives of the Trussell Trust, Norfolk Community Foundation and the University of East Anglia. Bishop Graham said moving stories were shared at the briefing on food poverty, adding: “It brought together people from charities, education and the wonderful Delia Smith.”

He was the keynote speaker and chair of a regional conference at the Norwich Forum, for Homes for Cathy, an alliance of housing associations and charities committed to ending homelessness.

In Dereham the Bishop opened the Good Shepherd Garden at the Dereham Church of England Junior Academy and said: “I hope it will be a place where pupils can sit in green pastures by quiet waters, or walk the different paths, and know that goodness and love are Jesus’ gift to them.”

He attended a diocesan schools day in Norwich Cathedral and joined more than 80 children in years three and four, from Hempnall Primary School, when they visited the cathedral. He also preached at St Alban’s church in the south of the city.

Further afield he took part in a seminar in Assisi, in Italy, hosted by the World Council of Churches and focusing on God the creator. His work in the House of Lords included debates on the regeneration of former industrial areas and the committee stage of the Oil and Petroleum Extraction Bill.