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King’s Lynn Minster Canon retires

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The current pandemic lockdown means there can be no leaving service for the foreseeable future.

“I’m very busy trying to get everything in order for others to find what they need and to be able to carry on without too much disruption, but there won’t be any opportunity to thank people for the privilege of being part of the life of the town and many aspects of the life of the wider community,” he said.

“Not just the congregation I have served, but many people across the community have been welcoming and supportive of me as they are generous in their commitment to Lynn and its people.”

While the imposing Minster, which dates back to the 12th century, has been closed for prayer and services since the lockdown, both clergy and congregation have been doing their best to support the community.

“What has been really encouraging about this time is people taking care of one another,” said Revd Canon Ivory.

“One example of that has been doing shopping for people, but beyond that people have kept in contact by phone, especially with the most vulnerable, people living on their own, or those with no family close by.

“Not just among church members, but across the community, we have all tried to make sure that no one is lonely, isolated or in need.

“I hope that sense of neighbourliness and common concern will be a lasting legacy of this time and the benefits of seeking the best for everyone will not be lost.”

Looking back over his time ministering to King’s Lynn, the Revd Canon Ivory said,

“It’s difficult to think of highlights – there have been many. A theme that has gone right through has been developing our presence and mission in North Lynn – the estate where most of the population of the parish lives and which makes ours the most deprived parish in the diocese. Working with the Methodist congregation there, we now have Vicarage with a part-time Team Vicar, a growing congregation and plans well on the way for a refurbishment and extension of the church building with a formal sharing agreement in place with the Methodists.

“It was great to be made a Minster church in 2011. Not only as a recognition of the role that St Margaret’s had always played as the civic church for West Norfolk, but it also marked the historic significance of the priory church and of the outstanding historic town of King’s Lynn. It has made a difference in terms of the increasing use of the Minster as a focus for the western part of the diocese, and in the increased interest among tourists as part of the general development of tourism within the town.

“We have done quite a lot of work on the building – but that never stops for a huge mediaeval building! There have been various restoration campaigns in recent decades, but with the most recent we were determined that this time we would make things better for those who use the building. So we have just completed a £950,000 project which included a substantial amount of urgent repair work, but this time it also included installation of toilets, office, meeting room, and storage space within the envelope of the building. The building work was only just completed when we got to lockdown, but the project hasn’t ended because developing engagement with the heritage is an important part of it. When we can function again, work to develop the understanding of the building, its story and the stories of some of the characters involved with it, focusing especially on schools and tourists, will get underway in earnest.

“It was a great day when we were originally awarded an HLF grant of £240,000 for the project. This was primarily for the restoration and heritage engagement aspects of the project, and it was a relatively small proportion of what was needed, but it was the foundation on which the rest could be built.

“I’ve really enjoyed the music, not just the liturgical music provided by our excellent church musicians, but also the organ recitals and the variety of concerts that we are able to host. At the end of the day, it is the people who stand out, memories of whom I will treasure. So many loving and hardworking members of the congregation, but also the lives touched in tragedy and joyful times. Weddings might be grand or low key, but the real joy comes from the obvious sense of love and wholehearted commitment, which has often had to overcome obstacles on the way, but which makes the world a better place and gives grounds for optimism.

Elements of this article were first published in the EDP. Photo by Denise Bradley.