Bishop of Norwich’s new book: A Place for God
PUBLISHED: 10:51 20 February 2018 | UPDATED: 10:51 20 February 2018
Archant Norfolk 2015
A tube station, a safari park and a shanty town appear alongside Norfolk landmarks in a new book by the Bishop of Norwich
Forty inspiring places feature in a new book by the Bishop of Norwich, written to be read over the 40 days of Lent. The Rt Rev Graham James has picked places ranging from a motor museum to Jerusalem, Devil’s Island in French Guiana and a sports pitch in Cornwall called Hell Fire Corner,
In A Place for God Bishop Graham writes about what each of the 40 places has meant to him. Although the book roams the world, highlighting places he has visited, it is not a not a travel guide; and although bible stories are mentioned it is not a book of religious readings. Instead it is an invitation to travel, for 40 days, through 40 locations in a journey of faith.
“I was tempted to call this book Location, Location, Vocation because my sense of vocation, both as a Christian and as a priest, has been related more to a place than I have sometimes been willing to admit,” said Bishop Graham.
There are eight Norfolk entries - a full fifth of the worldwide list – from the man who has been bishop here for almost 20 years, including three different mentions for Norwich Cathedral. But many of the settings are not conventionally religious. Bishop Graham finds God in the Dallas book depository from which President Kennedy was shot in 1963, at a motor museum in the Lake District and at Victoria Falls, as well as in a shepherd’s field just outside Bethlehem.
At Norwich’s Bishop Bridge his meditation includes how bridges create connections and carry loads, links between the letters of St Paul and Leonardo da Vinci’s explanation of an arch as ‘a strength caused by two weaknesses’, the tragic history of Bishop Bridge as part of the route to Lollard’s pit where people were burned alive for their beliefs, and his own journeys over the bridge to the station or a football match.
At Beeston Priory, near Sheringham, he tells the story of St Augustine who, eight centuries after his death, inspired monks to build the great 14th century church. At Walsingham he reflects on Christian unity and at ruined St Benet’s Abbey, near Wroxham, where he is abbot and preaches at an annual riverside service, he says: “I have come to appreciate it as a spiritual gift to the broken and weary in heart.”
At Norwich Cathedral he celebrates the new hostry and refectory, a medieval painting once used as a table, and the ancient bishop’s chair. “One of the strange things about sitting on a throne so high and lifted up is that it creates a sense of exposure,” he writes. “I hadn’t realised just how vulnerable and fragile someone sitting on a throne can feel,”.
He says the ancient seat offers another theological lesson, with a view along the whole cathedral and, when the doors are open, out to the Cathedral Close and the street beyond. “The bishop is thus invited to focus on the world outside.”
And so he has. His previous book focused on 40 people who inspired him, these are 40 places which have spoken to him – in Albania, Libya, Papua New Guinea, Sweden, Soweto and Norfolk.
A Place for God, by Graham James, is published by Bloomsbury for £9.99.
On February 23 Bishop Graham, the longest-serving Church of England bishop, celebrates 25 years as a bishop with a special service at Norwich Cathedral.