September 23 2014 Latest news:
Saturday, August 30, 2014
Thirty-five years ago, All Saints’ Church in Westlegate was bare and empty before it was turned into a day centre that became a place of sanctuary for countless people looking for a refuge and second home in the city.
And the city centre church, opposite John Lewis, is empty again after being stripped of its furnishings following the closure of the day centre at the end of June.
Former users of the centre and staff were invited back yesterday for a farewell and the bells once again rang out over the city. The blessing was given by the Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Rev Graham James, who said it was a “particularly sad” day.
He said: “I imagine that when people came into this church 35 years ago the atmosphere was depressed. But even today, the atmosphere at this church is one of love and friendship, and you can tell that it’s a place where people have been happy. This has been a place of unconditional friendship.”
One of the trustees at the centre, Katherine Gray, whose mother Jo Cook founded it in 1979, was handed a bouquet of flowers.
She said: “When my mother came into this church in 1979, it was stripped of its furnishings and looked very sad. Thirty-five years on, it’s looking rather bare again.”
Janet Wyer, the chaplain, prepared the farewell, and the event was also attended by Norwich Sheriff William Armstrong, in his capacity as a citizen of Norwich, with the bible reading given by Peter Threadkell, chairman of the centre’s trustees.
Among the 60-plus people gathered for the event was Albert White, from Woodcock Close, Norwich. Before it closed, he visited the centre every day for about 30 years.
He said: “It’s a very sad day. Since it closed I have not been anywhere else. It’s been like losing a home.”
The day centre provided a café and place to rest and socialise every day for dozens of people, including many homeless and vulnerable adults.
But, despite rising demand for its services, it closed with the loss of five jobs.
The centre’s trustees blamed rising expenses, including rent, heat and light, a fall in people spending money in the centre, and difficulties securing grant funding. They also said the Norwich Historic Churches’ Trust, from whom they rented the building, had been unable to agree a more affordable rent. The Norwich Historic Churches’ Trust is looking for a new tenant.
Are you opening a day centre in Norwich where people can go for refuge? Email firstname.lastname@example.org