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Coronavirus, coronations and a place-name-pronunciation learning curve; a bishop’s first five years.

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The Rt Revd Graham Usher takes a look back over the five years since he became Bishop of Norwich, including the death of a Queen, a pandemic – and trees planted and people cared for across the diocese.

Five highlights of the first five years

  1. Planting lots of trees on school visits – I love to see children get their hand in the soil and experience planting something that will hopefully live a long time.
  2. Driving a Lotus car on the test track (“You can go faster.” “I’m already going at 100!” “That’s kilometres per hour not miles per hour!”) and going out on the Caister lifeboat.
  3. The enthronement service with nearly 2,000 people in the cathedral, incredible music and one child, Teddy, asking me to promise to serve the people of Norfolk and Waveney as bishop.
  4. Beginning to serve as a Lord Spiritual in the House of Lords.
  5. Sitting holding the hand of someone who was coming to the end of their life and seeing God’s grace and peace descend on them.

Five things I have learned about the diocese

  1. That we have incredible clergy and volunteers who look after our 658 churches and are salt and light in their communities.
  2. How to pronounce Happisburgh, Wymondham and Costessey.
  3. What it means to be on the huh.
  4. We have some amazing charities making a huge difference in peoples’ lives. It’s a privilege to be a patron of about 25 of them.
  5. We are twinned with Papua New Guinea – which I hope to visit next year.

Five key covid memories

  1. Giving the blessing in Norwich Cathedral the night before lockdown began and including the words: “Until we meet again may God hold you in the palm of his hand.
  2. Navigating the unknown unknowns as best I could within the Government’s advice. This included the grim task of dedicating the county’s facility for the mass storage of dead bodies.
  3. Being in floods of tears as I blessed the memorial of hundreds of little wooden crosses in the Cathedral, each cross representing someone who had died of covid in Norfolk and Waveney.
  4. Hearing the word ‘zoom’ for the first time and learning how to meet online (“You’re muted!”) and stream worship – connecting with so many people in a new way.
  5. Hanging around in the gardens of Sandringham for a covid test result to come back negative so I could have lunch with the late Queen.

Five favourite coronation memories

  1. The sense of prayerfulness around The King and Queen.
  2. The oak leaves and acorns embroidered on the back of The King’s shirt collar.
  3. The Queen’s wink.
  4. The relief when it was all over – and all had gone so well.
  5. Having fish’n’chips with a bottle of fizz with the Archbishop of Jerusalem while watching the highlights.

Five hopes for the future

  1. That the war in Gaza will stop and the Israeli hostages be freed. I’ve followed it closely from having been in Israel on October 7, and in Gaza just days earlier.
  2. That I can play a small part in enabling more people to flourish – especially those who are struggling at present in all kinds of ways.
  3. That our church communities will grow as we share the Gospel of Jesus’ love and peace.
  4. That my bees will produce a good honey harvest.
  5. That Mother Julian’s words, “All shall be well, all shall be well,” will be true for you.