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Magical bishop starts new Norwich adventure

PeterFox2006: Wrestling giant bats and being held at gunpoint are all in a day's work for a bishop who plays the banjo and is a fully paid up member of the magic circle.

And after four years in the wilderness of Papua New Guinea, the Rt Rev Peter Fox is sure his new post as Interim Vicar of Lakenham and Tuckswood in Norwich will be no less of an adventure.

The 53 year-old moves from his position as Anglican Bishop of Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea where he served for four years.

Bishop Peter, who first moved to Norfolk when he was seven years old, has previously been curate of Wymondham and a group of parishes near Fakenham and views the appointment as a bit of a family reunion.

He said: "We already have two sons living in Norfolk - David, 23, who works in Norwich and John, 19, who is studying at UEA.

"It was very hard because you can only take leave every two years when you are an Anglican Bishop so I could only see them every two years."

The bishop and his wife Angelique returned this summer with their youngest son Daniel, 14, who moved with his parents to the island north of Australia.

Bishop Peter says he will always look back with fond memories on his time in PNG which has become a second home.

"I will really miss the people," he said. "We have some great friends out there and it was an amazing honour to be chosen to be their bishop.

"I had first gone out there in 1979 and made many good friends, but I returned to marry Angie in 1981 and then we moved out together. I had no idea I had made such an impression on the people I met there. I still used to visit them when I was working over here but I couldn't believe it when they asked me. I never dreamed I would be a bishop.

"Bishops are supposed to play classical music on an organ. I listen to country music, play the banjo and am a member of the magic circle."

But Papua New Guinea is not a usual parish: "When you visit some villages, by way of welcome they send out a man with a spear or an axe or something, and he will literally run at you as if he is going to attack you. Then he will swing it around you, as if he's going kill you at any moment.

"Once he has terrified you enough, he'll stop and they'll all break into peels of laughter and start dancing. It's supposed to test your courage and show that you are worthy to enter their village."

It can be a dangerous country, too, as Bishop Peter and his family found out in 2002 when they were held at gunpoint as a man tried to steal their car.

But he is unfazed by minor glitches. He said: "That sort of thing happens a lot. I mean it was fine, none of us were hurt, it was just that he had a gun."

He is, it seems, equally unfazed by the area's wildlife, and is particularly fond of the bats. He said: "Once, when I first went we went to the very farthest reaches of my patch, to the eastern highlands and up to some beautiful caves to look at flying foxes.

"Some kids who were following us managed to catch one and I went over to have a look. They are beautiful creatures and I was admiring its eyes and its fur so I decided to make a joke. It was my first stint in PNG and I was still getting the hang of the language. So I was telling this long convoluted joke about the bat being a member of my family as it shared my surname Fox. And no one laughed.

"They just gave me the bat. They thought I wanted it. And I ended up carrying the thing through half of the jungle. And that's a lot of bat."

Bishop Peter is certain his adventures will continue in Norwich and looks forward to taking care of his new parishioners. He also hopes to cement existing links between Norwich and Papua New Guinea by raising some money for the diocese he has left behind.

"The diocese out there is very poor," he added.

Pictured above is Rt Rev Peter Fox.

Article and picture courtesy of EDP24.co.uk


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