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Bishop Graham’s visit to Barnham Broom

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The first port of call was to the local Barnham Broom Church of England VA Primary School. Sir Richard’s four children had attended here and there are now 127 pupils on roll. Headteacher Heather Benson gave the Bishop had a tour of the school and talked of some of the particular challenges caused by Covid and more recently, the children’s responses to the invasion of Ukraine. Bishop was quizzed by some of the pupils and in turn he asked them what their favourite thing about the school was. The overwhelming majority mentioned how brilliant the school meals were!

So, it was off to the kitchen to meet the amazing cook, Mrs Loveina Harris. She prepares all the meals from scratch every day – including fresh bread, all made on the premises, and using local suppliers. Rasperry shortcake crumble was sampled by the visitors and pronounced delicious!

That provided some energy for the next visit to the Barnham Broom Fuel Allotment Charity, which was originally established in 1812 at the Enclosure Act – although the land has been in use since 1715 to provide peat and timber for those living in economic hardship.

The fenland is now leased and is being developed as a nature reserve. The income is still used to provide help to local people who may need some financial assistance. Bishop Graham remarked: “In an age of fuel poverty, it’s fascinating to see this becoming so relevant again now.”

The sun shone as we picked our way across the very wet fenland and Bishop Graham had much to  to discuss with enthusiasm with fellow ecologist Andy Hind, an Environmental Scientist from the UEA. Lessees of and supporters for the charity Steve Davidson, Rebecca and Sam Hill, (the latter also neighbouring farmers) accompanied us on the tour. It’s a wonderful story of an ancient charity becoming a project that unites the village.

Bishop Graham then popped into the village shop, which provides such a vital lifeline to the local community, along with post office, where he stocked up on some local produce.

Early afternoon saw a confirmation of Jane Jewson, Annika Richardson, Pamela and Stuart Simpson in the packed parish church of St Peter and St Paul. The bell ringers sounded the recently restored bells. Each confirmand received a hazel sapling This is as a symbol that being a disciple of Jesus means that our faith grows over time and part of living Jesus’ life is to be stewards of creation. Also, because Mother Julian of Norwich, the fourteenth century mystic, held a hazel nut in the palm of her hand and three truths were revealed to her about all that God has made: “The first is that God made it; The second is that God loves it; The third is that God looks after it.”

The day was rounded-off with a visit to the youth café at the village hall, run by volunteers from the church in partnership with North Breckland Youth for Christ and with some start-up funding from the Anne French Trust. Bishop Graham joined in the fun of pancake tossing and other games, and chatted with the young people and volunteers.

Nicola Ford, an ordinand in training who lives in Barnham Broom and supports the café explains:

“We started the youth café in Barnham Broom with Breckland YFC after members of the congregation and team were getting to know some of the young people in the village. A lot of the young people would hang out after school at the local park, but with little do and no guidance, they were often keen to engage in conversation and ask for advice.

“It seemed God was opening doors for the café to reopen after closing several years earlier, the team felt this was where God wanted the church to serve. We have always said it’s up to God to do the building, we simply show up and pray and see what unfolds. We are witnessing what often will seem like a chaotic, loud, messy evening is also a place of safety, comfort and belonging for these young people.

“It’s been a wonderful experience seeing older generations from the local church engaging with young teenagers in the village.  Our hopes as we continue is that God will continue to build, whilst as a team being watchful for opportunities, for example one of the young people asked if we could pray for Ukraine, so this week we’re going to do just that!”