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Parish and community life with Bishop Graham in September and October

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September started with Education Sunday on 10 September with Bishop Graham sending ‘thankful prayers’ to all working or learning in Diocese of Norwich schools, followed with a visit to Mundford Primary School on 11 September, to open the Orchard Nursery, which will provide vital early years provision.

Bishop Graham said: “I was delighted to open the new Orchard for nursery and reception age children at Mundford Church of England Primary Academy. It is a fabulous facility and I hope it will set up this next generation to find life in all its fulness. An Orchard by name, and, I pray, an orchard where young lives can blossom so as to lead to much fruitfulness.”

This September also saw the launch of the Lambeth Call on the Environment and Sustainability and Bishop Graham encouraged all to get involved, saying ‘I believe that our Christian faith inspires spiritual transformation. A calling to live gently on the earth, to repent of our ecological sins, and to be bearers of Christ’s light for all creation, should all be part of our Christian witness to the world’.

With 24 visitors from the Diocese of Gotland in Sweden visiting our Diocese, he hosted a dinner for the group, using some produce from the Bishop’s House garden, and the group returned the following day for tea and conversation about rural ministry with the Bishop’s staff. On 14 September he attended the Royal British Legion’s annual reception with Norfolk veterans, alongside his chaplain, the Revd Sally Theakston, who is also the Legion’s chaplain.

Two days later he presided and preached at the service at Norwich Cathedral to welcome new Licensed Lay Ministers –Weiwei, Judith, Lee, Jane, Victoria, Steve, Princess and Fiona – and license Sr Elizabeth Pio as a Lay Worker. Other sermons at the Cathedral included the annual education service and the Mothers’ Union Diocesan festival. The next day he visited the Sandringham group of churches for a service celebrating vocation and ministry, at which he presented Canon Paul Williams with his badge on becoming a Domestic Chaplain to The King.

Four days were spent at the College of Bishops in Oxford, and there were an additional 45 other meetings in the diary.

On 22 September he attended the opening of the ‘brilliantly refurbished’ new Samaritans in Norwich. The following week he hosted a breakfast meeting with local charities, organisations and local authority staff supporting asylum seekers and refugees calling it: “A joy … Remarkable people, moving stories from refugees present, powerful conversations and new linkages made”.

On 28 September Bishop Graham visited RAF Marham, saying: “Always moved by the Evening Hymn being played as I think of military personnel I know serving tonight in Germany and Afghanistan”.

Finally, September concluded with the joyous consecration of the new Bishop of Thetford, the Rt Revd Ian Bishop, in Westminster Abbey, followed by a service of welcome the following day back in Norwich Cathedral.

October started with a service of dedication for the fabric repairs at St Michael and All Angels, Geldeston, with Bishop Graham reminding us that ‘Like angels, we can be prayerful watchers, pastoral caters and prophetic witnesses’.

On 4 October Bishop Graham travelled to Jerusalem, for the International Commission for Anglican Orthodox Theological Dialogue. In advance of the meeting, he visited the Diocese of Jerusalem’s Ahli Arab Hospital, where he met with Suhaila, the Director and one of only 1,000 Christians left in Gaza. The following day he visited rewilding projects in the Jordan valley as part of his role as the UK patron of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel.

Bishop Graham was still Jerusalem during the horrendous terrorist attacks on Israel on 7 October, and said: “From Jerusalem, I condemn the attacks by Hamas on Israel, and having met Palestinians in Gaza as well as Jewish Israelis this week, I pray for all in these lands – the injured & bereaved, the peace seekers and voices of restraint, and those who long for peace, security and justice”. His time there included completing an agreed statement with the Orthodox about organ donation whilst taking shelter from Hamas rockets. With flights cancelled, he left via Amman, with thanks given to the Jordanian Anglican parishioner who assisted with his return journey, much to the relief of people at home.

Upon his return from Jerusalem, Bishop Graham was honoured to attend the Shabbat service with the Norwich Jewish community on 14 October. Sadly the cancer treatment centre at Ahli hospital, was hit by Israeli rocket fire that evening injuring four staff, and then by a failed Hamas rocket days later killing nearly 500 people. Bishop Graham called for the violence to stop and asked: “Please pray for the incredible staff who are continuing to care for their patients”. He also reminded us that “amidst claim and counterclaim about responsibility for the death and injury of many innocent civilians at the Anglican-run Al Ahli hospital in Gaza, we forget that those people were powerless to do anything and were seeking sanctuary. Violence brings no winners, just more of its evil.’”

You can donate to Bishop Graham’s Ahli Hospital appeal here

Following his return he attended St Mary’s Whissonsett benefice service in the morning to dedicate the new facilities, and the Honorary Canons Installation at Norwich Cathedral in the afternoon.

On 18 October, for St Luke’s Day, Bishop Graham, alongside Licensed Lay Minister Carolyn Sexton, undertook a formal Visitation to the Society of St Luke in Sheringham. He said: “Good to hear about their ministry of care for the ill and dying, and link with the deaf schools in the Lebanon and Jordan.” The following day he was invited to Buckingham Palace for a reception given by The King and The Queen for those who participated in the Coronation.

On 26 October Bishop Graham had the honour of being welcomed, alongside the Bishop of Newcastle, into the House of Lords as one of the Lords Spiritual. He said “a huge privilege and thank you to all who made me welcome. Despite the paucity of what I offer, I pray that the Christian faith will daily inspire me with wisdom as we face many threats and opportunities, and seek a more peaceable, equitable and creation valuing nation and world.”

On 28 October Bishop Graham gave the opening address at the Norfolk Beekeepers’ Association centenary conference. As Bishop Graham keeps bees in his garden it was wonderful to be among fellow beekeepers. Finally, he ended the month at St Remigius, Hethersett, which is in vacancy, and undertook interviews with politician and priest Jonathan Aitken, and warfare author Margaret MacMillan, as part of the Norfolk Autumn Hostry Festival.

This is just a snapshot of the Bishop’s activities.