The 125-page book was written by YMCA Norfolk board member Peter Larter and local historian Charlotte Barringer and contains almost 100 original photographs.
In a foreword to A History of the YMCA in Norfolk and Lowestoft, Rt Rev Graham James, Bishop of Norwich, writes: “In its early days the YMCA offered classes in Greek and New Testament at 6am. Today it offers something rather different, but the outreach and compassion remain as strong and as vibrant as ever. The spirit of Christian service is alive in Norwich and Norfolk and the YMCA is a beacon in that adventure.
“Adventure is the word to describe so much of what this book contains. Adventurous activities for young people and adventure in relation to the expansion of its work, most notably in the last 25 years under chief executive John Drake.”
John himself said: “The book is well worth reading. Charlotte's research reveals fascinating insights into the social networks and political intrigues that have been constant in Norwich and Norfolk since earliest times. It seems that some things never change and yet everything appears to be new. I was reminded that our founding forefathers would view today's insoluble problems as God-given opportunities to achieve great things for the care of the vulnerable and the wellbeing of the city and the county that they loved.
“Our hope is to place the History in schools where the next generation of young people can use it as a study guide so that they will learn from the past in order to build for the future.”
The history focuses on the extensive work in Norwich and right across Norfolk including dedicated chapters on Cromer, Fakenham, King’s Lynn, Lowestoft, Swaffham, Thetford and Yarmouth.
Norwich Young Men’s Christian Association was founded in 1856 by a group of young men, largely Nonconformists, to help apprentices and shop workers and to improving the moral and religious life of the City.
Since then, it has helped generations of young men find their feet in providing accommodation, education and recreational activities. It helped when Norwich was flooded in 1912 and provided vital support for thousands of soldiers during the two world wars.
It pioneered the Foyer concept, featured in a BBC documentary, was visited by Prince Charles and helped British soldiers in the Balkans
Some 150 years after it was created, YMCA Norfolk has now started building 34 purpose-built accommodation units at the Norwich Bus Station site and a second 40-unit development is planned.
It continues to work with dozens of asylum seekers and prisoners. It works in 34 schools across the county as well as providing an ever-expanding range of accommodation options for young homeless people in lodgings, Nightstop, hostels and self-contained units.
As author Peter Larter wrote: “YMCA Norfolk has an impressive story to tell and a heritage to treasure, but more importantly it has new generations to serve.”
A limited number of copies of A History of the YMCA in Norfolk and Lowestoft are available from the YMCA by writing to Susie Knights at YMCA Norfolk, The Street, Trowse, Norwich, NR14 8SP while stocks last. A suggested donation of £5 would be welcome to cover printing and postage costs.