Archbishop ‘thrilled’ by youth plans for Norfolk convent
Last summer the Sisters of the Community of All Hallows held a Dragon’s Den style event to find a new occupier for the site. The exciting new plans have been agreed and have the support of the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby.
The Community of All Hallows became a dispersed Order in August of last year and applications were invited for groups to occupy their former buildings. The Community announced today (September 27) that the convent will become the home of a new religious community, retreat centre and prayer space for young people.
The group, known as “With”, will plant a religious community on site, with a life of prayer, service and community for and with the young people of the UK. This community will hold the spirituality of the site, inviting young people, and those who work with them, into retreats centring around spiritual practices and daily offices.
Alongside this, the community will welcome non-residential members who will be able to connect with the daily rhythms online; this same online platform will allow young people to continue their journey after leaving the site. The team believe this will be not only life giving for the young people, but life changing, offering a way of living that will sustain them for life.
Commenting on these plans Archbishop Justin said, “All the evidence that I have seen indicates there is no renewal in the church apart from a renewal of the Religious Life. Since becoming Archbishop I have worked, prayed and longed to see new forms of prayer communities within the tradition of monasticism. So this project thrills my heart. The plans for All Hallows Ditchingham are amongst some of the most exciting proposals I have heard since I have been Archbishop. I commend the faith, the risk, the sacrifice and the tenacity of the team. And I can’t wait to see this community up and praying. I commend this step of faith for the sake of the renewal of the church and the glory of God.”
‘With’ comprises a group of youth workers from across the south of England and represents a range of denominations and organisations and plans to work with many others. The new project will be supported by the Church Army, helping to oversee the initial development of the project until the new charity is formed, and offering specialised support and back-office services.
Jamie Cutteridge, With’s Director and Project Manager said: “We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel in terms of the history of All Hallows, but rather just picking up the baton from those who have served Jesus so faithfully in Ditchingham over the past 160 years and reimagine it for a new generation.
"With all that teenagers are bombarded with in the 21st Century, we believe that space to retreat and reflect is more important than ever before, and we know from our experience in working with young people how transformative times away can be. We’re overwhelmingly excited about the future of the site and so grateful to the Trustees and Sisters for trusting us with what happens next.”
A fundraising campaign has been launched in order to renovate the site.
Canon Andy Bryant from Norwich Cathedral supported the Sisters as they explored their options for the future of the Community and was involved in the rigorous selection process. Canon Andy said: “We are all very excited by these proposals for the site. It will be a wonderful resource to support young people and Christian youth work across the country whilst continuing the Community’s own tradition of work with young people”.
For over 160 years, the Community of All Hallows has been reaching out to vulnerable young people and for many years ran its own school, alongside the Sisters’ life of worship, prayer and service. As they considered leaving the site, the Sisters wanted to enable the site to be re-imagined as a resource for the Church in the 21st century, to continue to be a place of Christian community and service, a sign of God’s Kingdom in the world.
Sister Sheila, the Community Co-Leader said: “Our Community has been richly blessed by using this beautiful site over many years. Now we are delighted to be able to pass it on so that others can serve God in this place”.