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Two Norfolk churches named as most welcoming 

All Saints Church, Hemblington and Wymondham Abbey have been named the Most Welcoming Anglican Churches in the Diocese of Norwich.

The Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham James announced the winners today (Saturday 6 August) at Norwich Cathedral. He said:  “First impressions matter in life.   A welcoming church will give a good first impression, but the welcome must not be superficial otherwise the good feeling the visitor has will soon fade.   The winning churches in this competition have thought long and hard about how to present themselves and the Christian faith to those who come for whatever reason.   They are a delight to enter.  
Wymondham Abbey and Hemblington, two churches of very different size and resources, have built a well-deserved reputation for their welcome and witness.   I congratulate them, and the organisers of this competition which I hope will go from strength to strength in the years to come.”
Sybil Martin, from Wymondham Abbey, said: “We are thrilled and delighted to have won the Most Welcoming Church Award. Everything we do is about worship and mission and we think that being a welcoming church is an integral part to that.  As a church we are committed to providing a welcoming space for everyone whether that means a quiet space for prayer and reflection or a place to celebrate important life moments. At the same time, many of our visitors come to admire the building, attend events, enjoy the exhibition and interpretation or to simply to shelter from the rain. Our aim is that everyone who enters the Abbey is welcomed in such a way as helps them to feel a sense of the presence of God."
Sue Shillam, from All Saints Church, Hemblington said: "We are delighted to have won the Most Welcoming Church Award and that our sense of welcome and hospitality was so apparent to judges. Our approach to welcoming people begins at the gate and moves through our conservation churchyard with its prayer walk and into the church where the door is left open from spring to autumn and level access is available. Our guide books help visitors to learn more about the building and the worship here and we try to extend our hospitality by offering refreshments and a WC which is available to everyone while the church is open."
This is the first year that the Diocese has run the competition and over 30 churches entered. People were asked to nominate their church as ‘the most welcoming’ and then a panel of judges came to visit unannounced to see how welcoming they really were.
One of the judges said: “We have had a fascinating time visiting all the churches who had been nominated. They ranged from large town churches to the smallest of churches in the middle of nowhere. The aim of the award was to find good practice which could easily be shared with other churches in the Diocese.  We looked for a number of things including signs of welcome, a clean porch with up to date notices, the condition of the biscuits where offered (and were pleased to note no soggy examples were found!), how helpful guides and leaflets were and how loved the building felt.” 
The judges were looking for a mixture of criteria ranging from simple things like signs that indicate the church is open; how clean, tidy and well maintained the church and its surroundings are; how interesting the church is; and if there are leaflets or guides that express the essence of the church.
Highly Commended churches were: All Saints Hethel, St Catherine’s Ludham, St George Tombland Norwich, St Edmund Taverham, St Mary Magdalene Gorleston, St Michael Irstead, St Michael and All Angels Aylsham, St Peter and St Paul Cromer, The Fountain of Life Ashill, St Helen Norwich.

Pictured above is All Saints, Hemblington. Picture courtesy of Simon Knott.


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