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Living life to the full

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A bishop’s life is a full one! In an average week I can be in back-to-back meetings with individuals or groups, attending a variety of events and leading services at either end of our large Diocese of Norwich, or down in London, or Zoom calls with Anglicans around the world. I love the variety that serving in this way offers, but it can sometimes come at a cost in terms of tiredness or stress.

I make sure that I spend time each day in prayer and contemplation. This might be in my chapel, in Norwich Cathedral, in the garden, or when out walking the dogs on my day off. It gives me time to filter the busyness of the week, to reflect on conversations had and decisions to be made. Spending time with my bees – noticing things in God’s creation, helps to ground me. It’s so important to consider selfcare when caring for others.

Our mental health and wellbeing are affected by individual, family, social, and environmental circumstances. Good mental health means being able to cope with the everyday stresses of life, work fruitfully, and contribute to our community.

Norfolk statistics show that the prevalence of diagnosed mental illness in adults is similar to the national average. However, self-reported illness is higher, highlighting possible unmet need. Alongside this, there are certain sub-groups of the adult population that are at higher risk of mental illness, particularly those experiencing poverty or living in areas of greater deprivation.*

Overall, wellbeing scores among children and young people in Norfolk reflect scores for England, although there has been an increase in the prevalence of mental illness in this age group. Certain groups such as looked after children and those in the youth justice system have particularly high levels of mental illness.

So, how can appropriate interventions prevent mental ill-health? How do we find the people who most need help and work with them to support recovery and promote wellbeing? How do we best support the people of Norfolk and Waveney to live longer, healthier and happier lives?

These issues were discussed at a recent gathering I hosted. Leaders and practitioners from the public sector and charitable organisations, gathered so that I could share with them about the Church of England’s work within our local communities. You can read about those below.

This shared space for discovery and dialogue, enabled all to consider what contributes towards enabling better wellbeing for all in our communities.

For me, the following themes came through:

  • Collaborating rather than competing and/or duplicating, and building stronger local links between the private, public and voluntary sectors.
  • How volunteering benefits the wellbeing of volunteers as well as those receiving help from them.
  • The necessity of working across generations – bringing people together has such benefits.
  • How we need to “care for the carers”
  • The importance of identifying strategic need – asking people what would help their wellbeing.

One role of bishops is to contribute to building the warp and weft of our communities and I find myself frequently able to make links across Norfolk and Waveney so that good practice can be shared. I see that, in religious terms, as building communities of love, hope and peace which mirror something of the Kingdom of God. I’m inspired by how Jesus speaks about enabling people to have live life to the full. I’m privileged to keep hearing stories about where life in all its fullness is being discovered. I long to see those examples replicated even more.

*(Mental health and wellbeing in Norfolk and Waveney: briefing paper Date: March 2022 Author: Dr Ramya Ravindrane, Public Health Registrar)


Anna Chaplaincy – spiritual care for the elderly

Revd Madeline Light, Vicar of St Stephen’s, Norwich & Anna Chaplaincy Co-ordinator

In a world where social isolation is an issue in many of our communities, and at a time when the elderly have been some of the most affected by the COVID pandemic, the Church’s ministry to the elderly is more important than ever.

Anna Chaplaincy is a national ministry for supporting older people emotionally and spiritually. Anna Chaplains are named after the widow, Anna, who appears with Simeon in Luke’s gospel; both are good role models of faithful older people. The Anna Chaplains give and receive love, they sustain hope and encourage those sharing or seeking faith.

Anna Chaplaincy provides a means of training and equipping people who minister amongst the most vulnerable and needy in our communities. We are creating a Diocesan-wide network of Anna Chaplains who support, encourage and share good practice with one another. They are often older, retired people who gain as much as they give by volunteering in this way.


School Chaplaincy

Revd Keith Rengert, Reepham & Wensum Valley

I’m a Chaplain to four High Schools, two with sixth form colleges, that are part of the Synergy Multi-Academy Trust. I was already going into Reepham High School as their local vicar, but, inspired by a prayer by a pupil in the Prayer Space one day that simply said, “God help me, me and my best friend are lost”, I was keen to do more.

A three-year pilot project providing Chaplaincy to non-church affiliated schools followed, funded by various charities that support the wellbeing of school-aged children. It’s a natural “fit” with the Synergy Trust’s aspiration to “turn out balanced citizens of good character”. Chaplains are available as part of schools’ ‘wellbeing’ ethos for all pupils and staff regardless of any or no faith declaration. For me personally it follows the example of Jesus to seek out the lost and not to be served but to serve.


The parish church as hub of the community

Revd Christian Heycocks, Vicar of Sheringham

Whoever you are, whatever you believe, you are welcome and valued at St Peter’s, Sheringham. We are continuously engaged in working to provide support, help, encouragement and sustainable hope to everybody, whether that be spiritually, physically, mentally, emotionally or practically.

We are but one example of a local church engaged in supporting the ‘wellbeing’ of the people of North Norfolk and Waveney. Churches are not just about Sundays, they are everyday! We believe that as long-established historical partners, enablers and facilitators in our local communities we are in a trusted and privileged position to bring charities, businesses and those in positions of power and authority together with those who we meet on a daily basis, to make a sustained difference to everybody’s lives and improve the well-being of all.

I encourage you all to go on a life-enhancing journey with your local churches and support them in the ‘ministry of wellbeing’ they are quietly, but often very effectively, getting on with.