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Norwich South Deanery welcomes and supports friends old and new

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The visit began with Bishop Graham being shown the craftsmanship of the enthusiastic people at St Michael’s Workshop, Bowthorpe – where many items for Godly Play are carefully hand made and finished. The team working there is mostly made up of people with learning difficulties or physical disadvantages; to give them the opportunity to flourish in their creative and technical giftings whilst building community and friendship with other members of the workshop team. Some paint, some draw the shapes for the pieces, and others are trained to use the machinery to cut out the figures – all pride themselves on high standards and the value of the work they do.

From Godly Play to keeping green, Bishop Graham then visited St Michael’s VA Church of England Junior School, Bowthorpe for an interview with their passionate school council. The Bishop sat with them and discussed the concerns they shared about our planet and some of the work the students have done to help – including a student-led protest march in their area to raise awareness of the Climate Crisis.

After the interview, Bishop Graham led an assembly with the whole school on what it is to be a Bishop.

Bishop Graham then left Bowthorpe to travel to Holy Trinity Church, Norwich, to meet some of the Iranian refugees they support and serve there. Accompanied by some aromatic spiced Iranian tea, Bishop Graham spoke with people who had fled from their home countries in search of safety and a better future. Holy Trinity has supported their new friends through Home Office hearings, job hunts, finding accommodation, and furnishing their homes. Through this they have witnessed the love of Christ to strangers and found new friends. They have Bibles and hymn sheets in a number of languages including Arabic and Farsi, and many of their new friends have found the love of God in this strange new land.

A walk around the corner took Bishop Graham to the Jenny Lind Park Community Project – where the lively members of the Holy Trinity after school club were dishing out hot chocolates and happily chatting to each other. The club is a space to play games, hang out with friends, and learn more about the Bible if they so choose. Bishop Graham was soon accepted into the group by the students – who were happy to talk with him, show him the best seats in the house, as well as their dance moves!

It was then on to another after school club, Plants & Pillars at St Elizabeth’s, Earlham. The need in the area is great, with 30 percent of the children in Earlham Parish on free school meals and 34 percent of parents in the area are single parents. It means that the work the church does is vital: providing food through foodbanks, seasonal projects and after school clubs, and organising community events to bring people together.

At the club, Bishop Graham sat down with the children and answered any questions they had, heard their stories, and prayed with them.

As the touring section of the visit drew to a close, Bishop Graham visited St Mary’s Earlham – a small church near the University of East Anglia grounds. The church has been facing closure due to a dwindling congregation, but those who believe the building’s work is not yet done have other ideas: rather than clinging on to the idea of St Mary’s as a traditional place of worship, the team have been working on a plan to transform it into an off-campus student hub. It is a brave thing to let go of the familiarity of the pews and tradition but the project hopes to breathe new life into the church and allow the space to be used by the Christian Union at the university, spark conversation, and get students to find God in a new way.

Bishop Graham and some of the clergy of the deanery then had a short break for dinner at St Thomas’ Church’s Mitre Public House. The pub was purchased by the church in 2017 and renovated to become a community space and location for fellowship to be fostered over good food in a friendly atmosphere. From the pub, Bishop Graham headed to St Andrew’s, Eaton.

At St Andrew’s, people from across the deanery gathered with their questions for Bishop Graham on everything from his bees to what he has discovered about life in Norfolk and Waveney.

The day closed with a communion service led by Bishop Graham.