Norwich city walls prayer walking initiative
2012: Call to Prayer has a heart to establish prayer walking over the whole of Norfolk and it has begun by concentrating on central Norwich, within the old city walls. Biddy Collyer reports.
At one time Norwich was known as the most Christian city in Europe. During the Middle Ages, there was a leper hospital outside each of the city gates; more money was left in legacies to the poor than anywhere else in England (a far higher percentage of people than in London were giving in this way).
Mother Julian, an anchoress who was based at St Julian’s Church, Norwich, wrote the first book in English by a woman. “Revelations of Divine Love” is the account of her meditations on the cross and since its rediscovery it is having a profound influence on modern spirituality.
Another important person was Thomas Bilney, one of the foremost fathers of the Reformation came from Norfolk. He was burnt at the stake in Lollards Pit, near the banks of the Wensum, in 1531. After a period of economic decline, the 19th century saw Norwich once again prospering thanks, in large part, to Christian philanthropists such as Jeremiah Colman and George White.
In the seventeenth century, the doctor, philosopher, Thomas Browne, author of one of the foremost books of the Early Modern period of English literature, Religio Medici , used to prayer walk around Norwich. Among his private papers after his death was found this comment, “to pray more and pray always, to pray in all places where quietness invites me to pray, in the house, on the highway, and on the street. And I have resolved to know no street or passage in this city that may not witness that I have not forgotten God.”
We believe that by once again following his example and covering our city with prayer, we can have a powerful spiritual impact on it, bringing new life and health. There is evidence that hermits lived above some of the gates that guarded the city, their prayerful presence affecting the “comings in and goings out”. It is with this in mind that we would once more want to guard our city with prayer and thus influence it spiritually for the good.
We have called the project of researching the spiritual history of Norwich “Re-digging the county Wells” because we are aware of the importance of working with the spiritual roots of the city. We have made a start by concentrating on the area of Norwich bounded by the city walls, all of which can either be seen or traced. The city has been divided into 12 segments (see map right), based on the old gates that used to guard it.