GREAT YARMOUTH has a magnificent church, in fact it’s almost a cathedral in terms of size if not in status. Yet you’ll be lucky to see inside St Nicholas’s as you end your Wherryman’s Way walk. Unlike just about every other church along our 35 mile journey, the doors are normally locked. And that, as Simon Knott makes clear in the latest addition to his website dedicated to the churches of Norfolk, just isn’t good enough any more. He writes:
“You may be aghast to learn, then, that this wonderful structure is hardly ever open to the public. At present, you can only visit on a Saturday morning: otherwise, it is merely the private, vastly-subsidised venue of a small group of Sunday worshippers. Nothing could be more short-sighted, and little could be more shameful.
For, while the mission of the Church of England is increasingly seen as to the whole people of God and not just to its registered members, and churches all over England are making themselves open to pilgrims and strangers wanting to feel a sense of the numinous* and even perhaps to be open to a spirituality which may or may not be Christian but which is at least a yearning for God, the people of Great Yarmouth are locked out of their own church from day to day.”
Hear, hear. Away from church opening times, he’s good on the town itself, feeling that it has “broken the surly bonds of proximity to London, which is, after all, fewer than 150 miles away, and instead yearns out for the sea, and Europe”. And just as an aside he asserts that Yarmouth has its own accent. My Thames Valley upbringing means I am hopeless at detecting and decoding the different strains of East Anglian twang. But my (Suffolk born) father in law swears he could spot the difference between a Yarmouth and a Lowestoft accent when he was younger. Do they really still exist today?
* Numinous - “indicating the presence of a divinity”