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African bishop brings Norfolk message of hope

A Bishop from Zimbabwe brought a message of hope for his country and church thousands of miles to the village church of All Saints in Wreningham, South Norfolk today (March 5), while helping to cement 100-year-old links with his African diocese. Keith Morris reports.

Around 100 years ago, the Rev James Hay Upcher, son of Rev Arthur Wilson Upcher, Rector of Wreningham and Ashwellthorpe in Norfolk, began a mission in Wreningham, Zimbabwe and called it All Saints, after the village church back in his home county.
Ever since then, links between the two churches have remained strong, despite the difficulties faced by the Zimbabwean church, especially under the recent rule of President Robert Mugabe.
Bishop Godfrey Tawonezvi, of Masvingo Diocese in Zimbabwe, led a service of celebration and prayers with Rev Jenny Cooper to mark today’s visit and international church links.
He told the congregation that he is hopeful for the future of his country and its Anglican church leading up to a vital referendum on a new constitution on March 16, and subsequent general elections, to bring to an end a four-year coalition government.
Bishop Godfrey said: “We are hopeful that the new constitution will be agreed and that free and fair elections will follow with international observers allowed into the country to watch over them.”
The Bishop said that the Anglican church in Zimbabwe now faces a more optimistic future after church buildings, schools and clinics were handed back to the church by the country’s Supreme Court in November, after previously being illegally seized.
Last year, a special window in Wreningham church was restored and dedicated to former church warden Dennis Long and All Saints in Zimbabwe and the Bishop was shown the window during his visit to Norfolk.
WrenAllSaintsBishopCooper450Back in 1997, Dennis Long, his daughter Rachael and two other parishioners went to the re-dedication of the Zimbabwean church, which the Norfolk parish supports financially.
Remembering the visit, Rachael today said: “It made quite an impression on us. The church was literally chock-a-block for the re-dedication service and people were even outside looking in the windows.”
While in Wreningham, Bishop Godfrey also visited the village primary school and a proposed new link between the school and a similar church school in Wreningham Zimbabwe is now under consideration.

Pictured top is Bishop Godfrey Tawonezvi, preaching at All Saints in Wreningham, Norfolk and, above, with Rev Jenny Cooper.

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