Bishop Graham started November with a visit to the Wells lifeboat station, and the Sea Cadets, to see the new lifeboat, ‘The Duke of Edinburgh’, calling it an “inspiring visit”. Later that day, he was pleased to present the Bishop’s First Nature Award to the Paston Footprints project, which creates walking trails in Norfolk inspired by the life of the Paston family. Dr Rob Knee (Paston Society) and Dr Sarah Hanson (UEA) said “We are very honoured to have won this first award which will enable us to continue to develop the project in line with the awards spirit”. Bishop Graham said he was impressed how “Paston Footprints works to encourage children and families to experience nature and connections with Norfolk.”
The next day, he visited St Edmund’s Kessingland and then preached in the evening at Peterhouse Cambridge, where he met a student who he blessed when “she was just hours old” and Bishop Graham was rector of Hexham Abbey.
On Monday 13 November, Bishop Graham gave his maiden speech in the House of Lords, where he reflected upon the biodiversity of Norfolk and the 658 churches in the Diocese – “Many of them are gems of medieval architecture. All of them are treasure troves of memory and places of prayerful watching. Plenty have unique round towers. Each rural church community knows about the hidden challenges of poverty, poor transport and the high cost of housing, but also about the strong sense of community found in our churches and schools.”
On 18 November Diocese of Norwich Synod took place and members reviewed the year of living pastorally, reflected on what God is calling parishes/chaplaincies to be in the coming years, agreed the route map to net zero, and affirmed the 2024 budget.
Later in the month Bishop Graham attended Christ Church, Eaton to celebrate their 150 anniversary, saying “Keep refreshing the parts of the parish others don’t reach. Look back with thanks, but look forward by taking the wounded hand of Christ the King into the future.” He also rededicated the organ in Norwich Cathedral, waking it up with three knocks from the crozier.
Bishop Graham visited Bicycle Links to see their social enterprise project ‘Welcome Wheels’ which provides refurbished bikes (with helmet, lights and lessons) for refugees. This year the Bishops Refugee Fund has been able to fund seven bikes, with four from last year being repaired.
Bishop Graham attended the Royal Welsh Cavalry regimental dinner in Swanton Morley and dedicated a Bible for the Mess. He then visited ‘Hear for Norfolk’, saying it was “a great visit … As someone who wears hearing aids, I was impressed with this community-based not for profit health provider model, contracted by the NHS to provide a free service across Norfolk, with vans visiting rural communities.”
December was another busy month which started with a visit to Christ Church Lowestoft to mark Advent Sunday.
This month also saw the Diocese achieve Eco Diocese bronze, as part of its carbon reduction and creation care journey, with Bishop Graham thanking all involved in reaching this milestone. Following COP28 Bishop Graham shared his reflections on the outcomes of COP28 saying “Thank you, but we should have done more”.
Bishop Graham’s Christmas video was launched, sharing a message of peace with the children at Cringleford Church of England Primary School. You can watch the video here.
He visited Thursford Christmas Spectacular on 7 December, calling it “A unique Norfolk experience attracting thousands of folk to this county to be entertained and also to hear the Christmas story.”
In mid December he also asked some questions in the House of Lords about legal migration, especially about how Government changes to policy will impact our overseas clergy or their spouses, and other faith workers.
On 17 December, some “joyous” confirmations at St George Colegate. Later that week he had tea with a recent recipient of the Royal Maundy, 98-year-old Betty, an organist at St Martin’s Mission Hall Cromer since “since the boys went to war”. Then he ‘leap-frogged’ Christmas Day to record the BBC Radio 4 Sunday morning worship for New Year’s Eve at Norwich Cathedral. He also asked us to remember, in this time of joy, the continued conflict in Gaza, in particular with the news that the IDF has forced closure of the Al Ahli Hospital in Gaza and detained most of the staff: “The staff of Al Ahli Hospital have been a lifeline for the people of Gaza over decades. They have continued their ministry of healing with unbelievable dedication, personal cost and huge challenges during the war. Lord, have mercy.”
Just before Christmas, Bishop Graham attended the BUILD Norwich annual reflections as their mystery guest. Billed as “watched by millions on TV this year as a royal event”, he said it was a great disappointment to some who thought Prince William was attending!
Moving into Christmas week, Bishop Graham took part in the Christmas procession at the Cathedral, celebrated Midnight Mass with the community at St Francis Heartsease, and, having given a Christmas reflection on BBC Radio Norfolk, led the service in the Cathedral on Christmas morning. The year ended with the customary stay at Sandringham House with The King and Queen, with Bishop Graham preaching about ‘pondering these things in our heart’ at choral mattins as the parish church.
Thinking ahead to 2024, Bishop Graham has extended an invitation to all 18 – 29 year olds in the Diocese to join him on a pilgrimage to Taizé in July 2024. Find out more here.
A full year containing many incredible memories and with much to give thanks to God.