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Way back in 1962 the vicars of Woodton with Bedingham and Shelton with Hardwick had both retired. By 1963 the vicar of Hempnall and Topcroft had died just before he retired and the vicar of Fritton and Morningthorpe had retired, so all the villages that now make up the Hempnall group were without a priest. The Bishop of Norwich, Launcelot Fleming, was looking at an experiment carried out in Lincolnshire and in west Norfolk of joining parishes together to form a group. He wrote to Peter Bradshaw, who was willing to take on the job of team Rector and the challenge of getting these eight rural communities to work together with two other clerics to assist him.
The six parishes of Bedingham, Fritton with Morningthorpe, Hempnall, Shelton with Hardwick, Topcroft and Woodton were formally linked as the Hempnall Group of Parishes in 1964, pioneering rural group ministry. Our sense of identity as a Group was developed in those early days and has continued ever since. Maintaining this sense of the Group is important to us and is fostered by the way we are organised. We have a full-time Team Rector, the Revd Michael Kingston, and a part-time Team Vicar, the Revd Liz Billett.
During 2014, we celebrated the Group, looking back in thankfulness and looking forward in hope. Here are a few of the events of the year.
Couples from around the group gathered in St Margaret's Church in Hempnall, supported by their friends, to celebrate marriage. A string quartet, led by Liz Marjoram, played Mozart's Divertimento in three movements, before, during and after the service. The service included renewal of vows, spoken together but very special for each couple present. And of course there was a magniificent cake and a glass of champagne to follow.
Fun and games for Shrovetide: the race was run either individually or in threes, and the event was enlivened by Michael and Liz appearing as lemons. Liz tossed her pancake a winning number of times in a minute. This was the first major fundraising event for our 50th anniversary charity, Toilet Twinning.
Hempnall church was full of flowers on Easter morning, and full of people from all around the group. We were joined by Bishop Alan and his wife for our celebration service.
We saw again the moving resurrection scene from the young people's Good Friday drama, and Bishop Alan preached. The celebration choir sang 'This Joyful Eastertide'. The Hempnall Group enjoys celebrating, and did so in style with bubbly and canapés after the service!
Throughout April, golden egg were hidden in each of our eight churches. Many thanks to those who went around and found them all. From your comments, you seem to have had fun! The 6 winners were announced in the June copy of Outlook, and there were prizes ... Merryn was very good at finding the eggs. This was the one in St Andrew's Bedingham
In an extended 'Beating the Bounds', walks around each parish are taking place throughout the year. The Hardwick walk was wet, wet, wet, but those who gathered for the Bedingham walk enjoyed weather worthy of the first day of June.
On 2 July, seven people publicly confirmed their faith in a moving service led by Bishop Alan.