Mission England legacy in Norfolk 25 years on
2009: Some 25 years after evangelist Dr Billy Graham visited Norwich as part of the major Mission England crusade, and just before a major celebration event on June 6 marking the anniversary in the city, the question is: “Did Mission England change the region's spiritual climate and Christian community and what are the lasting legacies today? Keith Morris reports.
Today, 25 years after the memorable events of June 1984, here is what has happened to some of the people who were involved or who attended the Mission England crusade.
Mission England East Anglia North regional co-ordinator Peter Carroll (pictured right) spent two full years on the enormous enterprise. "It was a life-changing moment for a large number of individuals," said Peter, today a church warden of St Stephen's in Norwich.
"But the most enduring thing for me was all the churches in the region coming together in co-operation and understanding. Then working together and forging relationships across geographical and denominational boundaries to a common purpose. The mosaic of Christian life in the region changed forever."
Tim Stapleford, chairman of the Norfolk Christian Youth Football League, said: "It gave me a greater depth and confidence in my Christianity to make this apparent in my high school teaching role and in leading a young people's group on a Sunday morning at Holy Trinity, Norwich. Today, my commitment through faith includes coordinating the running of the Norfolk Christian Youth Football League, having shared a vision to create this in 1995.
Tony and Carol Smith currently work in West Africa and met as a result of the 'Mission England' crusade. They have been long-standing members of Holy Trinity, Norwich and are supported within the church's missionary network.
Carol said: "At the last prayer triplet meeting before Mission England, a friend said that none of the people she had been praying for would come to the event, but a colleague had asked to come. We prayed for him; he went forward, and became a member of our church. I met him there; we married and are now working with a Bibleless people group in Africa."
Mission England was an important milestone for the Waite
family with two of them having since become Church of England ministers. Dan Waite
, 66, is part of the ministry team at St Andrew's, Gorleston
where he was ordained 11 years ago. He was director of a bacon company in 1984. He and his wife, Jill
, had started taking their two daughters, Sally
, to Sunday School at St Andrew's when a coach to Carrow Road was organised. Dan describes how, as Billy Graham was speaking and calling people foward, he felt the need to "get up out his seat" and go down to the front. But he had his eyes closed in prayer and when he opened them "the whole family had gone as well".
Daughter Sally Gaze (pictured right) also went into the ministry. She serves a group of South Norfolk churches including Saxlingham Nethergate and has been greatly used to develop new types of church styles and rural work, and has written two books on the subject.
(pictured right) was a Police Officer back in 1984 and as a member of the Christian Police Association
was asked to drive Dr Graham wherever he needed to go.
He said: “To spend so much time with him was a privilege and a challenge for me personally. He was praying constantly. We had prayer together in the car to and from the Carrow Road meetings (I was allowed to keep my eyes open!).
“Everywhere we went during the day, people recognised him and wanted to talk to him. I remember him saying grace in a Little Chef one lunchtime and all the staff coming out to listen. It was a special week.”
Today Ian is pastor of Saxlingham Nethergate Chapel in South Norfolk.