Norfolk Christians celebrate with Olympic Torch
As the Olympic Torch passed through Norfolk the county’s Christian community took its full part in the celebrations with prayer flashmobs and batons and several torchbearers involved.
A prayer flashmob (pictured right) took over Hay Hill in Norwich city centre on Tuesday June 3 at 7.14pm exactly filling the area with worship songs and prayers for the nation and the Olympics.
A prayer baton (pictured above) which has been preceding the Torch’s progress across the UK, arrived at the House of Prayer in Norwich around midday on Wednesday July 4, brought by a team from Peterborough churches and the World Prayer Centre. Around 40 Norfolk church leaders accepted the baton - which was filled with prayers from Peterborough - at a Unite meeting and then wrote prayers to be carried on July 5 to the next stage on the relay – Ipswich.
As the torch entered Norfolk around midday on Wednesday it was also preceded by a distinctive brightly coloured Praise Bus is travelling the breadth of the country, an hour ahead of the Olympic Torch Relay, playing worship music to onlookers as they line the streets awaiting sight of the Olympic Flame.
When the Torch reached the Royal Estate at Sandringham, inspirational former Norwich Housing Services Manager Eddie Pleban, was handed the torch and he began and ended his section by walking, completing the stint in his wheelchair pushed by wife Jeannie.
“I had all these people around me cheering me on and it was just such an honour. I can't express my feelings. For me it was a landmark in my recovery,” said Eddie. “To think that a year ago I was literally hanging onto life not knowing whether I would walk or talk again. God has been my strength during the last year, always there in the darkest despair. I often think now about the footsteps in the sand story. I know now what it is like first hand to be carried and loved by Jesus. I also know that I am now walking beside him, albeit with sticks, and every so often I know that I can reach out and hold on to Him.
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Norwich trainee solicitor and Christian Sarah Goring, picked up the Torch in Aylsham around 5.30pm on Wednesday an honour for her voluntary work with Kingscare in Norwich, Loose Change Theatre the RNLI, and NewDay.
Sarah said: “Yesterday was totally amazing, such a fantastic atmosphere and an overwhelming experience. It was such an honour to be part of such a fantastic event and the crowds were brilliant, so many friendly people. It is a day I will never forget, I had real feeling that I was running for justice and I hope that this experience will open doors for me in the future to be able to make a difference to people around the world.”
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Tom Ward, Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University of East Anglia and a member of Norwich Central Baptist Church, carried the Torch as it entered Norwich around 6.15pm. Tom was representing the UEA and said: “Before I ran I said Hebrews 12 v1 seemed appropriate, and indeed there were a great many witnesses. I was very fortunate to be running on Esdelle Street so saw many friends from NCBC.
"It involved hours of sitting in a bus making friends with the other runners and then a sudden intense shock of noise and seeing friendly faces. God blessed us all with the weather and the atmosphere, and it was a humbling privilege to take part. Even more enjoyable were the many hundreds of people who wanted to be photographed holding the torch yesterday evening and early this morning. Old and young alike seem to take pleasure in it.”
Around the same time UEA student Melissa Ilboudo from Burkina Faso, received the Torch. Melissa has worked for Christian Aid since arriving in the UK and raised £330,000 through triathlons, half-marathons and other initiatives - winning the British Council's International Student Award in 2010.
Melissa said: “There ae no words to describe it, it was amazing! Norwich came out, we were really blessed with a good weather. It is real honour to be part of such an historical moment, which I will never forget . I had my moment to Shine.
"I cannot stop praising God for such a blessing, it is indeed one moment in a lifetime, that I will never forget. I will lift the torch high as an ambassador of Christ.”
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Blind Norwich church minister, Rev Simon Stokes was given the honour of carrying the Torch from City Hall, across Millennium Plain and into Chapelfield for the difference he has made to the community through his church and non-church work.
Simon, who is now vicar of Sprowston with Beeston St. Andrew, said: “I was overwhelmed, almost to the point of tears. I felt incredibly proud, privileged and humbled all at the same time. I felt so privileged to have had the opportunity and to have the work I've done recognised.
"I was running for everyone who I've ever worked wih, encouraged, supported or been supported by.”
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Taking up the Torch on Thursday morning on Ketts Hill was YMCA Norfolk Fundraising and Communications Manager, Susie Knights, who was nominated for her commitment to raising funds for the YMCA in Norfolk and in particular for a £1m appeal, which has now been achieved, towards 40 move-on accommodation units.
“It has been such a privilege and honour to be one of only 8000 taking part in such an amazing event that brings the focus of the world to Norfolk. I am sure most, if not all, torch bearers are like me and can think of many others more worthy of carrying the flame, this is why Norfolk is so special and Britain is so Great. My experience today is that every step taken, every smile, wave and encouraging word embodies the Olympic values - respect, excellence and friendship," said Susie.
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