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Norwich’s Vineyard churches plan to become one

Norwich’s two Vineyard churches have announced that they are planning to join together as one multi-site church when founding pastors Geoff and Annie Lawton retire next summer. Keith Morris reports.

GeoffAnnieLawton500Norwich Vineyard, led by Geoff and Annie Lawton (pictured right), has met in Thorpe St Andrew since 1997 when Thorpe Community Church joined the Vineyard movement. Just over ten years ago, Gateway Vineyard was planted in central Norwich, led by Geoff and Annie’s daughter Hannah and son-in-law, Craig Deal (pictured top).
The new church, called Gateway Vineyard, will be led by Craig and Hannah with site pastors appointed to lead the two congregations, who will continue to meet at Thorpe High School and Norwich High School for Girls.
One immediate change is that Norwich Vineyard Assistant Pastor, Graeme Stewart, will start to work across both sites four days a week to assist with the transition for the next nine months. From this September there will be some joint events such as leadership training and celebrations.
Craig Deal said: “Each congregation will have a leadership team focused on Sunday mornings and local ministry activity led by the site pastors. There will be a leadership team focused on city-wide ministries which seek to show God’s love in spiritual and practical ways, bringing life to the people they serve.”
Geoff Lawton said: “As Norwich Vineyard, we are committed to investing into the community of Thorpe St Andrew, helping the local council do big public events, we also work in seven schools including the chaplaincy at Thorpe St Andrew High School. We also have The Place community hub that engages among other students, the unemployed, the disabled and the older retired community.
“Although Annie and myself will be retiring from church leadership, our heart is very much for the Vineyard family in Norwich and we plan to serve it as we are able.”
Geoff will continue to be a governor at Thorpe St Andrew High School and hopes to continue to lead and develop the chaplaincy team there and his work in other schools and the community. 
Hannah said: “By September 2017, we will very much be one church in many communities; extending God’s Kingdom together, everywhere in every way. Following Jesus, loving people and bringing life.” 

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