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Thorpe market church snow 600C

Thorpe Market church engaging with the community

2017: St Margaret’s Church in Thorpe Market has become a hub at the centre of village life, welcoming all visitors and hosting a variety of events, as well as worship. Tony Rothe reports.

In the 1990’s, Thorpe Market Parish Church was threatened with closure, but church leaders were not prepared to let that happen. “We thought that in order for our small village church to survive into the 21st century we had to engage with as wider cross-section of the local and wider community as possible” explained Margaret Hunter from the church. “In 1998 we set about improving the facilities at the church to provide for unlimited community activities whilst keeping a pattern of regular worship.”
The leadership team were spurred on by the words of the Right Rev Graham James, Bishop of Norwich back in 2012 when he said that the aim was to reinstate local churches to their position at the centre of town and village life. He said: “It’s about recovering the way churches used to be used. The nave was the village hall of the past. That was where trade was done and gossip was exchanged as well as where worship took place.”
Thorpe Market art 640CFThe pretty church now has a toilet, kitchen, car park, and level access. The building is in an excellent state of repair with new roof, effective heating, modern lighting inside and out. The back pews have been removed to provide a welcoming space. The church is equipped with versatile demountable staging, cinema screen with video projection facilities, sound system, black-out blinds, exhibition boards that run 23 metres around the walls.
“St Margarets is a small building, Georgian not medieval, so no pillars in awkward places and we can seat around 100. Its compactness makes it suitable for the more intimate events and its acoustic is wonderful” said Margaret.
The next event will be the EastCoastArtz Summer Exhibition, one of five art exhibitions held in the church during the year. The exhibition will run from 10am to 5pm daily from Friday August 11 to Monday 14, with “Art in the Evening”  from 6:00pm until 8:00pm on the Friday.
A variety of work on show will include, paintings, collage, textiles, driftwood items, photography, sculptures, prints and cards. Artists taking part include, Edy Ward, Susanne Lakin, Ken Riches, Jeny Walding, Bill Firmin, Maureen Cherry, Nigel Paterson, Chris Dean and Carol Gibbons. Entry is free and refreshments will be available.
Thorpe Market snowdrops 540ATOther events during the year include concerts by the Cantamus Choir, formed at the church  in 1998, which also uses the building as a rehearsal studio, and Snowdrop Sundays in February regularly attracting over 2000 visitors to the award-winning churchyard, right, which is maintained by volunteers under the auspices of Norfolk Wildlife Trust and is one of the most diverse in the Diocese in terms of species identified.
Alongside conservation the church has been recycling since the 1980s, with paper and glass skips and a clothes bank belonging to the Salvation Army. Used books are also recycled, mobile bookshelves allow a village library/shop to be displayed around the church.
There will be a concert by Mundesley Community Choir on September 29 and a Chalk Reef Theatre production of “Lady Bracknells Confinement” on October 14. Equipment is in place for a village cinema – they just need a movie enthusiast to take the initiative.
“Our church family is small but committed. It is younger than in most village churches and is slowly growing. Our worship is traditional Anglican but more informal than in larger churches, and we offer a warm welcome to all who wish to join us” said Margaret.
The church is on the edge of the village, at NR11 8UA.
Visit : www.thorpemarket.org.uk

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