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Norwich’s two Vineyard churches set to become one

Norwich’s two Vineyard churches are set to merge at the end of May, following the retirement of Norwich Vineyard founding pastors Geoff and Annie Lawton. Keith Morris reports.

The merged church will be known as Gateway Vineyard Norwich and will be led by Geoff and Annie’s daughter and son-in-law, Hannah and Craig Deal who founded and lead the existing Gateway Vineyard church in the city. It will meet on Sundays mornings at the Norwich High School for Girls as well as in Life Groups across Norwich and surrounding areas.

The church office will be at the former YMCA sports centre in Trowse and ‘the place’ community hub in Thorpe St Andrew will continue running a range of activities.

Norwich Vineyard has met in Thorpe St Andrew since 1997 when Thorpe Community Church joined the Vineyard movement. Just over ten years ago, Gateway Vineyard was planted in central Norwich and has now outgrown its parent church in size. The combined congregation will number around 250 on a Sunday morning.

Craig Deal said: “We are really positive about the change which will draw together the strengths of both churches and we are expectant for this new season. We have been exploring multi-site church over the last two years and are open to what this could look like in the future.

“Our leadership team is also focused on city-wide compassion ministries which seek to show God’s love in spiritual and practical ways, bringing life to the people they serve.”

The combined church runs social action ministries including a Foodbank, Saturday soup run, Food Store, Grow Kids, Football Team, Baby Jam and toddler groups, a Hope into Action house and Drop-in Centre.

Craig said: “We are incredibly blessed and thankful for Geoff and Annie, for their leadership, love and sacrifice in serving the church and city faithfully over many years.”

Geoff and Annie will remain part of the church and Geoff is planning to continue working with the chaplaincy at Thorpe St Andrew High School where he is both a chaplain and governor. They will continue to work with Thorpe St Andrew Town Council.

Geoff said: “Although Annie and myself will be retiring from church leadership, our heart is very much for the Vineyard family in Norwich and we plan to serve it as we are able.

“Time has gone so quickly. It only seems a short while ago since we were dreaming about starting a Youth for Christ centre in Norwich. We went on to work with the local church, then to leading one ourselves. We have sought to follow His call. It was mad at times but fun. We will seek to go on loving Jesus, loving His church and to serve His cause. We will join in wherever God leads and with the energy He supplies! We are looking forward to the next season of our lives.”

Hannah Deal said: “We will continue to be very much one church in many communities; extending God’s Kingdom together, everywhere in every way. Following Jesus, loving people and bringing life.” 

Geoff and Annie will be having a retirement service at 3pm on Sunday May 21 at Thorpe St Andrew High School, and the last regular Sunday service there will be on May 28 at 10.30am. All are welcome at both services.

Pictured above are Annie and Geoff Lawton, left, with Craig and Hannah Deal who will be leading the new combined Gateway Vineyard Norwich church.

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