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Bishop Graham’s travels in February and March

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February began with Bishop Graham hosting a supper at Bishop’s House for Norwich Rural Deans and Lay Chairs, to share news and views from across the three deaneries.

He was heartened to see evidence of parishes getting involved in his Lent Appeal too: “Lots of creativity happening across the Diocese of Norwich for this year’s Bishop’s Lent Appeal in aid of Priscilla Bacon Hospice in memory of Archdeacon Ian Bentley. First cross-shaped keyring from the Cawston production line to be sold in aid of the Appeal. Well done, Lyn!”

Candlemas saw Bishop Graham as one of the conference speakers for the Companions of Julian online conference, in this the 650th anniversary year of her revelations. The Bishop spoke about ‘What might Julian’s presence mean at a time of climate and biodiversity emergency?’

On Saturday 4 February he travelled over to King’s Lynn Minster to preach at the unveiling of a statue of Margery Kempe by sculptor Rosemary Goodenough. “May this woman in motion, so full of emotion, teach us that it is not where you go but who you become that makes you a pilgrim,” he said.

The following day saw a hospital visit. He Tweeted: “This morning held one of the best parts of this calling – visiting one of our clergy in hospital and anointing him. I will carry that moment of treasured grace into however this coming week unfolds.

Then it was off to London to attend General Synod for a few days. Bishop Graham Tweeted: “My prayer for the Synod Living in Love and Faith debate is that we will put away all judgemental language and speak with the language of grace. A Church of grace seeks to live deeply the life of God’s love. The Church of England has a distinctive call to serve all in our nation with a pastoral generosity.” The pastoral letter in response to this debate, from all three of our bishops can be read here.

The latter half of February found Bishop Graham attending the Anglican Consultative Council in Accra, Ghana as one of the three representatives of the Church of England. The conference theme was ‘The Five Marks of Mission – Today and Tomorrow’.

Delegates explored Mark 4 and considered the 5th Mark of Mission to ‘Treasure and safeguard the integrity of creation’, with a Bible Study lead by Bishop Graham.

A sobering visit saw members travel to Cape Coast Castle for what was a moving and disturbing day learning about the transatlantic slave trade.

“Words cannot express the darkness of the slave dungeons at Cape Coast. The floor is made of bricks from England, carried as ballast on slave ships, but in most of the dungeons they are caked in human waste, blood and sweat. We stand literally on unbelievable human misery.” Read Bishop Graham’s moving article about this experience in The Church Times here.

He summed up the conference: “I have had some incredible conversations this week at the Anglican Consultative Council. I’ve learnt so much from the warmth of other delegates and the breadth of our discussions. A remarkable sign of unity in our diversity within the Anglican Communion.

“It was a privilege to preside at the closing Eucharist today. People present from 41 different provinces/churches, representing so many more nationalities. Laity, clergy & bishops have together listened, reflected and spoken with the language of grace.”

While out in Ghana Bishop Graham joined in the #ShowtheLove social media climate crisis campaign with others from across the UK and around the world. Tweeting photos of himself and others at the conference holding a green heart, he said, “We need our governments to #ShowTheLove in combatting climate change – visible impacts of which can be seen here in Ghana. My is made from business waste by the wonderful Scrapbox-Norfolk.” Read the full story here.

There followed a few days in Kumasi and Mampong, where Bishop Graham spent his early childhood, seeing various church projects and time in retreat at Kristo Buase Monastery.

On his return to the UK, the Bishop relaunched his £1,000 award to find “inspirational” young apprentices and employees who are looking after Norfolk’s natural environment. “It was good to speak on BBC Radio Norfolk this morning about applications being open for the Bishop of Norwich Sustainable Environment Young Employee of the Year Award. Do you know anyone under the age of 21 who might qualify?”

More media coverage followed with a Saturday Essay in the Eastern Daily Press on his recent gathering of local leaders to consider how we might work together to enabling a flourishing economy for all in Norfolk and Waveney.

Saturday 4 March saw him hosting the Bishop’s Day for Licensed Lay Ministers in the Weston Room of Norwich Cathedral with Canon Mark Oakley speaking on poetry & the pastoral vocation. “What a gift Canon Oakley is to the life of the Church, and today to the Diocese of Norwich’s LLMs as we reflect on what it means to live pastorally.”

The following day he was preaching and presiding at St David’s, Thorpe End. “Good to attend to ‘the little things’ with the congregation of St David’s Thorpe End at their patronage festival Eucharist and parish lunch. Delighting in the sacrament of the present moment in Jesus’ continued call ‘come, follow me’.”

“Another rich Bishop’s Teaching Morning for Diocese of Norwich licensed clergy”, Bishop Graham Tweeted on 7 March. “Grateful to the Bishop of Worcester for his theological reflections about ‘faith in place’ as we care for and celebrate the 658 church buildings in this Diocese.”

That same day a special Evensong and supper was hosted by Bishop Graham for women clergy on the eve of International Women’s Day. “A glorious Festal Evensong of women’s voices and composers for Perpetua, Felicity and companions at Norwich Cathedral with many of our licensed women clergy present, marking the eve of #InternationalWomansDay,” he said. “I’m so grateful for the ministry of women colleagues.”

On Sunday 19 March a trip out to Gresham’s School at Holt. “A busy day Confirming those who are adding their ‘yes’ to God’s ‘yes’ in their lives. My car boot full of hazel saplings. In this Diocese every Confirmation candidate receives a tree, grown at Bishop’s Garden, to plant as a sign of our calling as disciples to care for creation. A very happy Mothering Sunday Confirmation at Greshams’ School with 30 pupils and family members. It was also good to celebrate with the Chapel Wardens their Eco Church silver award. Well done!”

The Bishop was back in Norwich in time to attend a special earthquake appeal event hosted by Syrian and Turkish people living in Norfolk, held at Blackfriars’ Hall in the city centre. An olive tree was donated as a “Tree of Hope” on which attendees tied small tags with personal messages.

“A great event organised by Syrian refugees to raise funds to support the survivors of the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria. Rich conversations with delicious food and fun entertainment.

“It was particularly moving to meet refugees helped by the Bishop of Norwich Refugee Fund. It was lovely to offer some reflections to this group about the symbol of the olive tree in the Abrahamic faiths. But also, as it turned out, to be the warmup act for Norfolk’s Olivia Colman! She gave a great message of support.”

The month ended with Bishop Graham leading a 10-day pilgrimage in the Holy Land for many of the curates, plus others who joined from the diocese and elsewhere. “I am grateful for a rich experience in the Holy Land, not only walking in the footsteps of Jesus, but also encountering the various communities that make up today’s Israel and Palestine. I was struck again by how the pages of the Bible came alive in the landscape and places we visited, with the pilgrims engaging deeply and being encouraged in their faith and ministry.”

After two months with a lot of travel, Bishop Graham is looking forward to being at home and spending more time around the diocese over the next few months.