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Sowing seeds and branching out…

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The Revd Canon Andrew Beane shares how the Aylsham & District Team Ministry are using local history as a mission opportunity:

“Our churches and churchyards are of course amazing places to explore; they are tourist attractions and places of reflection and peace. They also offer us opportunities for mission; reaching out to people in creative ways and encouraging them to ‘come and see’.

In 1814 Humphry Repton was so famous that novelist Jane Austen gave him a cameo appearance in ‘Mansfield Park’; 200 years later the gardening guru Alan Titchmash held him in such high regard that he commissioned a statue of Repton for his private garden.

He designed hundreds of gardens and country estates all over the UK. In Norfolk the best known are Sheringham Park and Catton Park. Further afield, Repton designed Russell Square in London, Woburn Abbey, Blaise Castle near Bristol and Endsleigh in Devon.

This ‘A’ list 19th century celebrity Landscape Gardener is buried in a magnificent grave in the east end of Aylsham Parish Church and our link with Repton gave us an opportunity to work creatively and collaboratively (something at the very heart of all we do at Aylsham) with other organisations one being Broadland District Council.

2018 is the bicentenary of his death and this gave us a wonderful opportunity to think outside the box when it came to how we might commemorate such an interesting historical figure.

Here are some of the principles we followed, many of which would work in any church:

  • Always be on the lookout for opportunities to be creative. Look for special commemorative years; connections with national events; local stories; and most importantly once you have an idea start planning early. We have had over a year to plan our Repton events.
  • Work with local partners. Broadland District Council have been amazingly supportive through their Tourism Officer and their Community Grants programme. Don’t forget to build links with local community groups & local business.
  • Social Media. At Aylsham we have found that social media; Facebook & Twitter can be incredible helpful in promoting events; building networks and finding partners. Our reach on social media is ten times the size of our local community!
  • Always think about reaching out to people outside the church community. Ask yourselves, how can we work to bring different parts of the community together? How can you give existing events, services or activities a twist to fit your theme? For example, our after-school club and toddler group are both having special gardening activities during the Repton200 Season.
  • Special events are always mission opportunities. Don’t forget to signpost people to Sunday or weekday Church. Look for ways to offer creative prayer. Keep contact details to invite to future events, gain feedback or just to say thanks for support.

These principles led us to a programme of exhibitions, concerts, cycle trails, foraging; from competitions to children’s activities the Repton200 Season includes around 50 events across a number of different Repton connected venues. Here are just a few which are taking place in and around Aylsham Parish Church:

  • Repton Workshop
  • A day with Prof. Tom Williamson from UEA exploring Repton’s life & work
  • Repton Festival Evensong with Canon Peter Doll from Norwich Cathedral
  • Foraging Workshop with Wildcraft Brewery.
  • Gardeners Delight Concert celebrating horticulture with music and poetry in aid of Christian Aid
  • The Gospel of Wildflowers with Bishop Tony Footitt.
  • Memorial Lecture with Prof Stephen Daniel world leading Repton expert.
  • Eco Warriors Children’s Activity Day at Aylsham Parish Church.
  • Gardeners Market at Aylsham Market Place.
  • Heydon Open Gardens in the beautiful village of Heydon.

To find out more about Humphry Repton, book your place at one of the events, or discover more about the #Repton200 Season, check out or follow the Hashtag #Repton200 on Twitter.”