Churches show faith by action not by doctrine
2010: Transforming Norwich helps churches in Greater Norwich work together to worship, witness and serve the Norwich community. With new chair Madeline Light at the helm, the group looks forward to building on the exciting new initiatives that have already started and further improving communication and prayer between churches. Helen Baldry reports.
Madeline has been priest of St Stephen’s church, Norwich since May 2009. Her role as chair of Transforming Norwich started in June this year at the outreach event Celebrate Norfolk. Her role for the next two years is to facilitate conversations between the various churches and specifically to encourage outreach initiatives across the churches including Norwich Foodbank, Celebrate, Street Pastors and Unite.
Madeline said, “Transforming Norwich is unique in the city here. There are many associations and friendships between individual churches in Greater Norwich – whether through physical proximity or similar doctrinal stand. Transforming Norwich overarches all that and gives opportunity for new ways of communication.”
Madeline moved to Norwich in 1984. She has had a lot of experience of different Christian denominations; she was brought up with Roman Catholic influence, married a Methodist, was ordained in 1999 in the Anglican church and her four children got involved in various Christian churches in their teenage years.
Madeline feels this background and experience of different denominations equips her well as the chair of Transforming Norwich.
“My background has helped enormously. I have noticed a change in attitude over the last 30 years. Christians want to work together more now with less importance placed on denominations. There is now more movement between churches.”
Madeline believes that a big impact will happen when the ministers of local churches pray together. “I believe this is something that is close to God’s heart. Social action unites people and always has done. Prayer is what unites people with diverse opinions,” she said.
The way Transforming Norwich engages with new projects is to get involved at the start to bring people together, then to step away to enable them to become independent. Future plans for the group include a decision over the format of the Celebrate event next year and changes to the Good Friday walk of witness in Norwich. There has been some discussion over extending the impact of the Good Friday event, since it takes place when the city is empty of people. The event is greatly appreciated by many people and it is felt that there may be scope to do something else to raise the public impact of the event.
Asked about her experience as a female priest, Madeline said that the subject of women in leadership has always been influenced by cultural issues. She says that Jesus’ treatment of women was quite extraordinary for his time. She has never faced any kind of opposition in her involvement with Transforming Norwich.
She said: “Diversity and the different aspects that it brings will always be a challenge but we are strengthened by our same core understanding and we work together united in Christ. Transforming Norwich is all about attempting to express faith through action rather than trying to debate doctrine.”