Follow Us:

Parish and community life with Bishop Graham in June and July 2023

The first week of June saw Bishop Graham, in his lead bishop for the environment role, urging all to get involved with Great Big Green Week:  “I’m inspired by how Jesus connects with nature around him. Christian discipleship wonders at God’s creation & takes action to safeguard our planet. What inspires you to tackle climate change & care for nature?” 

This was swiftly followed on World Environment Day, 5 June, with a blog on the Church of England website  discussing why we should back the People’s Plan for Nature. Then it was off to London for the College of Bishops followed by meetings of the Church Commissioners, then to Cambridge to preach at the Name Day Feast at Corpus Christi College. 

Bishop Graham spent a happy, if warm day in the west and north of the Diocese on Sunday 11 June. Starting with a service of baptism and confirmation at St Laurence’s in Castle Rising, he Tweeted, “Cool medieval churches have the best air conditioning on a hot day like today.”  This was followed by “A stop off at lively church fete at St Peter’s in the Park near Melton Constable, including a sheep that needs a name (rather than a shepherd)!” before heading on for another confirmation service at All Saints’ in Briston. 

There was a full day on 14 June to announce and welcome Ian Bishop as the Bishop Designate for Thetford. They visited Ian’s old parish of Tasburgh, then onto Great Yarmouth, Oulton Broad and finishing with a service in Thetford. You can read the full story and see more photos and a video here. 

Sunday June 18 was another opportunity to be out and about in parishes with a visit to Somerleyton Benefice. Bishop Graham Tweeted, “It’s vacant at present if you know anyone who could be their vicar. St Margaret’s Herringfleet ticks loads of boxes in the I-Spy Book of Churches – round tower, thatched, assorted bishops squashed in continental glass.” 

Later the same day he joined “a gathering for Garden Church baptisms and confirmations at Great Melton – a different way of being Church, based on supporting our rural churches in the Diocese, making new disciples and growing leaders.” http://garden-church.org  

A day off will often find the Bishop doing a spot of gardening: “This spring we created a mini meadow at Bishop’s House Garden to commemorate the Coronation of King Charles III and Queen Camilla. On the longest day it is dancing with flowers. Elderberry bushes planted within it so that soon we can make our own elderflower fizz! Gardening with nature.” Or, you might find Bishop Graham out in the Broads, as he was in late June to watch swallowtail butterflies. 

Further intentional celebration of the importance of biodiversity came with The Bishop of Norwich Ecology Prize awarded this year to University of East Anglia postgraduate student Charlie Russell for the best MSc Applied Ecology & Conservation research dissertation in the academic year 2021-22 on the decline of Greater Spotted Eagles. You can read more here. 

Over 1,500 people were welcomed and thanked for their servant-heartedness by Bishop Graham and his wife, Rachel, at events during “Marquee Week” in late June: our Churchwardens, Mothers’ Union members, Parish Support Team, clergy and their families, retired clergy, school staff and students, and people from local charities and organisations.  

“It was an absolutely total joy to host people from across the Diocese’s schools to recognise my new ‘School Champions’ – people who make a particular contribution to our schools as governors, teachers, support staff and pupils. And it was simply wonderful to hear Millie Lamai speak to the gathering there too. Millie is the first recipient of my annual bursary to support a UKME student from Norfolk to do a PGCE at the UEA. What an amazing woman about to become a teacher in Norfolk.” 

“Today we held a lunch for charities of which I’m patron, or have supported through opening the garden, or with grants from the Anne French Memorial Trust. Moving testimonies shared about impact. Serendipitous that the Norfolk Deaf Society reps sat at the same table as the Norfolk Bellringers!” 

It was a feeding of the minds on 27 June with “A really engaging Bishop’s Teaching Morning with James Lawrence of the Church Pastoral Aid Society exploring growing a vocational culture. Thanks to St Peter Mancroft for hosting us so well.” 

The annual Royal Norfolk Show took up the next two days at the end of June. Bishop Graham visited many stands of organisations he has involvement with and spend time at the Chaplaincy tent, hosted by the Diocese of Norwich. He preached at the show service and was present at the Community Champions awards. 

The second day: “Delighted that HRH The Prince of Wales presented the Bishop of Norwich Sustainable Environment Young Employee of the Year Award to Robert Jackets. In its second year, the award aims to raise the profile of environmental jobs for young people in Norfolk.”  

This was followed by “Well that was a first – presenting the rosettes for the Horse of the Year Show supreme in hand champion at the Norfolk Show. The varied life of a bishop!” 

The Petertide ordinations kicked of the month of July with eight new priests and six new deacons welcomed. “It was a great joy to have the Bishop of Luleå, Åsa Nyström, and her chaplain Maria Uppsala with us for the ordinations and visits to parishes. Luleå and the Diocese of Norwich share a partnership link under the Porvoo Agreement.” 

On July 5 Bishop Graham popped around the corner to St Julian’s to unveil the new ‘Julian of Norwich 650th anniversary of her Shewings’ bench containing Julian’s words “Our Soul tests in God’s true peace”. Good to meet the craftsman Martin Cook. Love the playful pun on the front “Shewn to an unlettered creature”. 

A trip out with the Bishop’s House Garden team followed, “to see the incredible garden at Elsing Hall, a 15th century Manor House with a working moat,” before heading off to York for five days of General Synod. 

A happy announcement of new cathedral canons appointments in mid-July: “Having consulted the Dean, I am delighted that parish clergy Karlene Kerr, Helen Jary, Damon Rogers and Richard James have agreed to serve as Honorary Canons of Norwich Cathedral and DBF Chair, Mark Jeffries, as a Lay Canon.” 

The Bishop launched a new nature prize the same week: “Delighted to offer this annual prize: Bishop of Norwich First Nature Award. I hope it will inspire children to delight in God’s creation and seek to protect nature.” 

From 15 – 24 July Bishop Graham led a group of young adults on a pilgrimage to the Taizé Community in Burgundy, France. Being at Taizé is a rich international experience with 2,000 young people there that week. Each day in the community includes biblical reflections, small international discussion groups, practical activities and three services of prayer with the whole community. As well as this, it offers a safe way for young people to experience a wide range of languages and cultures. 

Bishop Graham Tweeted: “Everyone has some work at Taizé. Some are making crêpes, others cleaning loos, serving meals or washing up thousands of plates. So what about the curates? Edwin is mashing tonnes of potato (no photo), whilst Ben and James have a prized job – being on the bar!” 

“Time under the gazebo at Taizé with Brother Paulo discussing vocation, calling, the religious life and living a rule of life. Deep questions and attentive listening.” 

One afternoon Bishop Graham delivered a workshop on the theme: “Watching nature, watching God”. He was one of four English Anglican Bishops present at Taizé that week with youth from their dioceses.  

“Tonight the icon of the cross is laid down. Young people come and lay their heads on it, placing their burdens before God. I’ll be in church listening with the Taizé brothers to young people who want to chat – an enormous privilege.” 

Back home, on 25 July it was “a joy to host a party in Bishop’s House Garden for 300 refugees who are making their home in Norwich. Moving stories amidst so much hope. Certificates for English qualifications presented and then the most massive picnic. Not every day do we have Royal Whippy outside Bishop’s House! The most wonderful thing is that many of our refugee guests have brought amazing food to share. So generous and kind.” 

Later the same day, “A happy summer evening at St Mary’s Snettisham for a fantastic Music in Country Churches concert by the English Chamber Orchestra in the presence of HM The King. So value His Majesty’s interest in Norfolk’s churches.” 

Norfolk Day was 27 July. “Happy Norfolk Day – what a wonderful county this is to live and minister in!” Tweeted Bishop Graham. At Bishop’s Staff meeting with Linda Shipp, the Warden of Licensed Lay Ministers, he learned “about the wonderful contribution that Licensed Lay Ministers make to our life together in the Diocese of Norwich. In 2022 they preached 1806 sermons, took 242 funerals, undertook chaplaincies, led home groups, visited the sick, ran Messy Church, and lots more.” 

Another tradition was played out on Sunday 30 July, with Bishop Graham arriving at St Benet’s Abbey on a traditional Norfolk Wherry having travelled up the river Bure before holding the annual open-air service. The Abbey was never formally dissolved when it passed to the Bishopric of Norwich at the Reformation. As a result, all subsequent bishops have inherited the status of Abbot. It was a windy day which made for some dramatic photos – one of which made it into the next day’s Daily Telegraph! 

The month ended with the launch of a much-anticipated report. “Good to be at St Michael’s, Flordon for the launch of the Diocese of Norwich Church Buildings Commission report, ‘Lifelines for Historic Churches and their Communities – Keeping Church Buildings Open’. Grateful to Laura McGillivray, the chair, and all the Commission members.” The venue had recently celebrated its tenth anniversary of its use as a community centre. 

Now the summer has arrived, and the Bishop’s diary has more space for reading, writing and holiday. 

This occasional roundup is a snapshot of some of the more outward facing elements of Bishop Graham’s diary.