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Pilgrimage day in the deanery of Dereham in Mitford

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What does a bishop do?

Well, on a visit to the deanery of Dereham in Mitford, Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham Usher, planted a tree with children, walked with villagers, ate with clergy, prayed with as many people as possible, demonstrated the uses of his crook and created a mini bishop.

The Bishop’s visit began at Mattishall Primary School where he was hosted by the reception class, who helped him plant an apple tree.

The second school of the day was Barford Primary School where Bishop Graham spoke at assembly – and dubbed one pupil bishop for the day.

Rural dean the Revd Dr Tim Weatherstone said: “Bishop Graham was keen to demonstrate the many uses of a bishop’s crook or staff, much to everyone’s amusement.”

The pilgrimage day continued with a walk to nearby Colton via the churches of Barford and Colton. In Barford church Bishop Graham met David Dale who has served as churchwarden here for almost 25 years. Tim said: “Visiting the churches was a great opportunity to encourage the churchwardens and people for all they do to support and serve their local communities.”

Bishop Graham said: “One of the joys of these pilgrimage days is meeting the wonderfully committed churchwardens and other volunteers. I’m very grateful to everyone I met during this pilgrimage day and the many different arrangements that had been put in place. I always enjoy being out and about in the diocese. There is so much to thank God for in how clergy and laity of the Church of England serve the communities of Norfolk and Waveney.”

After lunch with many of the deanery clergy, at the Goat Shed farm shop and café in Colton, Bishop Graham travelled to the army base at Swanton Morley. He met an officer and the army chaplain and learned about the vital welfare work carried out by the chaplaincy.

Evening worship at Great Dunham church was followed by a question-and-answer session in which the bishop spoke about topics ranging from personal conduct and the importance of kindness to what the future might hold for local churches.

Rural dean Tim Weatherstone said he had particularly valued the chance for people across the deanery to meet the bishop. “It was an opportunity for folk who might not be familiar with church to understand the role of a bishop and actually meet with him. For me one of the big draws of the Church of England is that as the parish priest you are responsible for everyone in your parish, irrespective of whether they come to church, so everyone can genuinely say they have someone who cares about them. And as the chief shepherd, the bishop oversees all of that.”

The Dereham in Mitford deanery includes more than 50 churches in five benefices, covering many very rural parishes as well as Dereham and the Queens Hills estate on the edge of Norwich.

Tim said: “It stretches from the edge of Norwich almost as far as Fakenham in one direction and from the edge of Wymondham to beyond Dereham in the other. Bishop Graham’s visit touched all of our benefices.”

And where exactly is Mitford?

It’s more a question of when.

The ‘hundred’ of Mitford was an ancient administrative area of Norfolk, including Dereham, Hockering, Mattishall and many more villages.