Enterprising vicar for Norwich’s marketplace church
The church of St Peter Mancroft, neighbouring Norwich market, has a new vicar with an entrepreneurial spirit and an enthusiasm for finding out what brings people joy. Jenny Seal reports.
Rev Canon Edward Carter was inducted as the new Vicar of the Church of St Peter Mancroft, the city centre church that towers over The Forum, in October.
Edward, who is married with two grown-up sons, seems younger than his 51 years. He has the youthful enthusiasm of someone with lots of different interests, and a curiosity in people, the latest trends and how things work.
Since arriving in the city he has already joined the Norwich Spikers volleyball team and become a regular at Norwich Board Gamers’ evenings as well as immersing himself in the history and surroundings of his new church.
It is the third time Edward and his wife Sarah have lived in Norwich. They first moved to Lakenham 25 years ago because of Sarah’s job at Norwich Union. Edward started a small business where he had some success producing, selling and licensing board games, which are one of his passions. “It was fun and I learnt a lot,” he said. “But it didn’t turn into a proper business.”
He became a member of St Mark’s Church in Lakenham where he began to pray about what he should do with his life. “I had a strong sense that being involved in business, and small companies, was part of my life,” he said. “But on the other hand I knew that the church was as well. I talked to my parish priest and other people and gradually it became clear that I should offer myself for ministry in the church.”
At age 27, he moved to Oxford to train and then came back in 1997 as Curate of St Matthew’s Church in Thorpe Hamlet. Since then he has had a diverse ministry.
In 2000 he moved to Windsor where he was a Minor Canon in St George’s Chapel, living in Windsor Castle for four years. “I was there during the Queen’s Golden Jubilee,” he smiles. “I can tell you lots about exciting stuff I was part of in a small way.” After he became a parish priest for a church on a Didcot housing estate and then Canon Theologian at Chelmsford Cathedral.
“And now, this year, the opportunity has arisen to come back to St Peter Mancroft, here in Norwich. So I’m delighted to be back,” he said.
In his ministry he most enjoys preaching and applying the Bible to life in the 21st century. “I love bringing the Scriptures and today – the newspaper, the radio, the city, the busyness of life – together, laying them alongside each other and seeing how they speak to each other,” he said.
And although clearly impressed by the history and tradition of the 15th century church and the energy of its people, plus the 50,000 visitors it annually welcomes, Edward gets most animated about St Peter Mancroft’s location. “The thing that really excites me is geographical; it’s quite literally next to the marketplace. I’m excited about the people who day-by-day do their stuff around it and that sense in which the church is part of the landscape. It’s a real presence.”
He is still passionate about enterprise and looks for ways to incorporate this into his ministry. “Because of what I’ve done in the past and just something about me,” he said, “I love creative things and I think I’m some sort of entrepreneur in ministry now.”
During his time in Chelmsford he was commissioned with finding a new way to help people pray and think about their faith in order to mark the centenary of the Diocese. He used his skills to manage a project that produced chunky wooden holding crosses from disused pews.
He said. “I found a workshop and we made in the end about 15,000 holding crosses. Some were made out in Africa. They have the great commandment laser etched in them as well. I love a project like that because it’s a real thing, its tangible, you can feel it. And it actually touches people in different ways – they can hold onto something that is precious to them.”
With all of his own passions it isn’t surprising to discover he enjoys finding out what excites other people. “I love seeing people shine and glow in whatever they are doing,” he said. “That’s the first question I ask people – ‘what brings you most joy?’
“Entrepreneurs aren’t just inventors who sit in a shed and fiddle away at something,” he said. “They are people who network and try to work out what is catching people’s imagination - what people will be excited by. So that’s the kind of mind-set I’m bringing.”
Photo: Rev Canon Edward Carter inside the Forum, next to St Peter Mancroft.