At the Chrism Mass on 3 April he Tweeted “A joy to gather as a diocese, clergy and lay ministers together, to renew our ‘yes’ to God’s ‘yes’ for the ministry entrusted to us, and to ask God’s blessing on the Holy Oils at the Chrism Eucharist at Norwich Cathedral.” It was also time to bid a fond farewell to Bishop Alan & Pippa. “Like many others, I am grateful for his friendship and the way in which he welcomed me to the Diocese,” said Bishop Graham. “Bishop Alan and Pippa leave with our love and our thankfulness to God for all that they have given to our life together in Norfolk and Waveney.”
Holy Week continued with his prayers offered to the two local recipients of Maundy Money – the first distributed by King Charles III. “Prayers for Royal Maundy recipients from the Diocese of Norwich to York Minster. Martin Moore has been treasurer and churchwarden at Filby for 50 years and Judy Howard has rung in 2,800 church towers and is organist at Ashill where so many homes burnt down last summer.”
Closer to home, in the Bishop’s Garden, Bishop Graham undertook his “Good Friday tradition which is part of the yearly liturgy of my life: Duke of York and King Edward tatties laid and sealed in their earthen tombs in Bishop’s Garden. Hands earthed; a holy act.”
Following this environmental theme, on Easter Sunday: “Went to tell my bees about the Resurrection. All were very gentle, with the some doing a dance of joy at the entrances to the hives! All three colonies through the winter, and spotted two of the Queens.”
“A privilege to dedicate a new treble bell in Buxton to mark the Platinum Jubilee of The Late Queen. An incredible project by this Norfolk village – well done to all involved. “ Bishop Graham Tweeted at a visit to Buxton Parish Church on the evening of 19 April.
April 20 saw him giving a key note speech at the AGM of the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association. He shared: “Impressed with the work of the RNAA supporting farming communities across Norfolk. It was a joy to speak at their AGM about the Diocese of Norwich’s ministry and mission in rural parishes, and the use of our churchyards and glebe land for enhancing biodiversity and carbon capture.”
Two days later Bishop Graham marked Earth Day with the launch of a new video encouraging all churches across Norfolk and Waveney to register with the Eco Church scheme: “Care of the biodiversity and habitats with which we share our single island planet home is not an option for the life of the Church but an imperative for the mission of God’s Church.”
A Bishop’s Breakfast Briefing on wellbeing was held at Granary Court on 25 April. “Hearing about and from great projects that support a broad range of Norfolk’s people. Reinforced the need for hope amid the struggle of life and the part we each play in making sure people are seen,” reflected Revd Tracy Jessop from Fakenham. “I’m glad you found it helpful,” responded the Bishop. “It is always good to bring people together at these Bishop’s Breakfast Briefings, including from local authorities, businesses, education, charities and churches to explore a theme and build possible partnerships.”
Later the same day saw the dedication of a refurbished stained glass window of the parable of the sower, witnessed by local, enthusiastic school children, and the consecration of a burial ground at South Walsham. “A blackbird sang out as I said: ‘Consecrate the said piece of land for ever according to the rites and ceremonies of the Church of England and to separate the same from all profane and common uses whatsoever.’”
Then it was back to Bishop’s House Chapel in Norwich: “Pleased to be able to thank Canon Susanna Gunner KHC for her wonderful work as Diocesan Adviser in Spirituality & Discipleship, and license her as a Public Preacher in the Diocese. I have visions of her, Wesleyan style, riding a horse to distant villages in Norfolk to preach!”
Bishop Graham attended the Annual Celebration of Norwich Youth for Christ on 28 April. “An incredible evening celebrating the amazing work of Norwich YFC who are alongside and with young people in schools and youth groups. So thankful for their ministry of inviting encounter with Jesus. A joy to contribute a tiny bit as their Patron. Much of their work is in schools being with young people who are not school-shaped and who continually hear that they are naughty, don’t focus, lack attention, don’t conform, need to be excluded. YFC’s mentoring support is superb and is bringing positive change.
“76 per cent of adult Christians have made a commitment to follow Jesus by age 18, 83 per cent by age 24. A hundred years ago 80 per cent of young people were in contact with church, now less than three per cent. We have a huge missional challenge and Norwich YFC are playing their part.”
Sunday 30 April was “A very happy morning with the congregation at St Mark’s Oulton Broad celebrating their Silver Eco Church award and dedicating a new grand piano in memory of their former Vicar, and Archdeacon of Lynn, Ian Bentley.”
The first week of May was taken up with rehearsals for the Coronation at Westminster Abbey. “It was an immense surprise to be asked by Her Majesty The Queen to be one of her two Bishop Assistants at the Coronation. It will be such a privilege to support Her Majesty at such a spiritual moment where we ask for God’s blessing on her life of service and that of The King.” A whirlwind of media interviews and preparation culminated in a day of immense spiritual and historic significance, with the eyes of the world watching.
Messages of support and celebration for Bishop Graham’s part in the proceedings flooded in and many were particularly taken by the after-celebration with his good friend the Archbishop of Jerusalem and himself unwinding over “chips and fizz”!
Back in Norwich Cathedral the next day, the bishop preached at the Coronation thanksgiving service where he also gave a hazel tree to each of the different faith communities in Norfolk. In the afternoon it was “A joy to visit the Norwich Hebrew Congregation’s tea to plant their tree with the President of the synagogue and Baroness Scott, the Faith Minister.”
The following day the celebrations continued with the Coronation Big Help Out as Bishop Graham did some gardened: “Great atmosphere at #TheBigHelpOut at St Stephen’s Norwich as we tidy the churchyard garden, with local people joining in, plus two Norfolk Police officers too. Good to get my hands dirty. #rooted #grounded”, he Tweeted.
The following Sunday 14 May saw the first Bishop’s Open Garden of the summer season, rasiing funds for local charities. You can see the remainder planned here – do come and support them!
That same day, Bishop Graham was in Gaywood, King’s Lynn, first for a confirmation service: “Incredible Coronation display to Confirm under at St Faith’s Gaywood this morning. Go well on your Christian pilgrimage Mark, Tony and Jeanette.” And then to open their new community hub: “Born in response to the sadness of suicide, it is such a sign of hope and will make a positive contribution to mental health and dementia care in the local community.”
The following week, he penned a letter to Neil Rout from Eaton in recognition of his 60 faithful years of Licensed Lay Ministry in Eaton. “This is an incredible achievement. Whilst Neil sees the purpose of his life being to serve God and his community, and will not want any fuss, this is a time when we can join in thankfulness together for the ministry entrusted to him. Many congratulations to Neil on this significant anniversary.”
Another significant anniversary in May, was that of Julian of Norwich which was marked with a special blessing from the Vatican. “Bishop Peter, the Roman Catholic bishop of EastAnglia, and I are delighted that Pope Francis has sent a message and his blessing for all who participate in events connected with the 650th anniversary of the Revelations to Mother Julian of Norwich. Such an inspiring reflection.” You can read the full text of the Pope’s message here.
But amidst all the big events, sometimes it’s the quieter moments that can hold the most significance. On May 19 Bishop Graham Tweeted: “Best hour of this week – taking Holy Communion to one of our clergy spouses. What a gift they, and the time we spent, were to me.”
Sunday 21 May was back out into parishes. “Lovely morning with the congregation of All Saints Welborne to dedicate the restored organ and preach about being witnesses to Jesus. Through fundraising and grants this Norfolk hamlet of 150 homes has added a loo in its round tower and a kitchenette. A thriving small rural church.”
An afternoon visits followed to “A packed St Peter’s Haveringland, a rural church in the fields with less than 100 people living in the parish, as it is dedicated as a memorial church to the RAF 100 (Bomber Support) Group. We remembered and pledged to seek peace, then Spitfire flew past.” It also provided an opportunity to congratulate the church on achieving their bronze eco church award.
The consecration of a new section of the graveyard at St Mary’s church in Worstead took place on Tuesday 23 May, and then Bishop Graham travelled to Windsor Castle for a meeting of the Council of St George’s House and their annual lecture.
A gloriously sunny Saturday saw Bishop Graham join the launch of Pilgrims pioneered by curate James Shelton. “A great day on pilgrimage along the Via Beata from Ditchingham to Great Moulton. A great diversity of 80-plus people and inspiring conversations with Ukrainian refugee and Emmaus companions. Along the route from Lowestoft to St David’s are gospel art installations every 10 miles.”
On Sunday 28 May it was “To Bawburgh to bless St Walstan’s well. Walstan, patron saint of farm labourers, saw God in the ordinary and was known for his acts of kindness. At his death he instructed his oxen to pull his cart-hearse where God willed. Wood-carved tongues of flame atop the round tower at St Mary and St Walstan, Bawburgh. Today’s symbol of #Pentecost. Come Holy Spirit.”
The late Bank Holiday Monday was spent at Walsingham: “A happy day at the Walsingham Shrine for the National Pilgrimage to England’s Nazareth. Good to catch up with people from previous dioceses. Very grateful to Fr Kevin Smith and all who organised the day. Much enjoyed Father Kevin’s welcome to ‘the Bishop of Norwich as seen on TV by 400 million people’ and his quip that I ‘began May with an earthly Queen and end it with the Queen of Heaven’”.
The very last day in May marked a sad anniversary, but with some good news. “Today is the first anniversary of the death of our dear friend Ian Bentley. Thank you for all donations to my Bishop’s Lent Appeal in his memory. Almost £18,000 has been raised for the new Priscilla Bacon Hospice. Here’s a challenge: can we get to £20k?”
This is a regular round-up of Bishop Graham’s visits, in addition to the various meetings and one to one conversations he has each month.