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The bond between Norfolk’s two cathedrals has been strengthened as the Dean of St John the Baptist Cathedral became an ecumenical canon of Norwich Anglican Cathedral on June 30.

The Bishop of Norwich has appointed Catholic Dean Fr Alan Hodgson, as a new ecumenical canon of the Anglican cathedral and he was welcomed at Evensong at 3.30pm, watched by Bishop Peter Collins.

Fr Alan said he was both humbled, delighted and amazed to be asked. “Since first meeting Bishop Graham and Dean Andrew, I have had a respect and admiration for them and the work they do in our city and county – I was just amazed that they offered me this privilege,” he said.

He was ordained as a priest five years ago, after a career as an aircraft fitter, and as an operations manager at Gatwick Airport. “I discovered Norwich about 10 years ago when I was on leave from work (I was not a priest in those days),” said Fr Alan. “I explored both cathedrals and the city itself and really fell in love with the place.  I lived in London then and never imagined for a minute that I would ever live in Norwich.

Born in South Africa, he considered becoming a priest as a teenager and did some missionary work in the country before arriving in England.

“I worked in the airline industry for many years but there was often a nagging pull towards the Church.  I was involved in a fairly life-changing event in London which made me take stock of my life, the gifts that I have been given by God and life in general,” said Fr Alan.

He hopes to foster closer ties between the clergy and congregations of the two cathedrals and said: “Both cathedrals are dramatic and beautiful buildings – I hope that, over the years, I will feel as at home in the Anglican cathedral as I do in our own cathedral.

“We are often seen together at civic functions as well as events in the city and I believe that this serves as a good witness to the good working relationship that we enjoy.”

The Bishop of Norwich has also appointed Norfolk solicitor Virginia Edgecombe, of Billingford, near Dereham, as a lay canon. She said: “I am thrilled and hugely honoured to have been invited to become a lay canon.  I think of the cathedral as a beating heart which never stops and a place of continuity from which we can all draw strength wherever in the diocese we are situated. I look forward to my relationship with the cathedral growing and playing my part in helping it serve the people of the diocese and county.”

Virginia is a trustee of the farm mental health charity YANA (You Are Not Alone) and a former partner with Mills and Reeve, and now a consultant for the law firm.

“I come from a long line of East Anglian farmers and grew up on farms in Essex and Suffolk,” she said. “I spent 10 years working as a solicitor in the City of London and I moved to Norfolk when I married Mike (a dentist, now retired) in 2005.”

The ordained and lay canons of Norwich Cathedral, together with the archdeacons and suffragan bishops, make up the College of Canons, which meets to help the cathedral and diocese work together to serve the people of Norfolk and Waveney.

Bishop Graham said: “I am delighted to be able to appoint Fr Alan Hodgson and Ginnie Edgecombe as canons of Norwich Cathedral. “Both are devoted to the work of God in our region and will be a blessing to the cathedral and diocese.”

The Dean of Norwich, the Very Rev Andrew Bradddock welcomed the appointment of the two lay canons saying: “I am delighted to welcome Ginnie Edgecombe and Fr Alan Hodgson into the College of Canons. Ginnie brings broad experience of the diocese and county, including as a trustee for the charity YANA working with those in agriculture and other rural businesses affected by stress and depression. The appointment of Fr Alan, the Dean of St John’s Catholic Cathedral, as an ecumenical canon, will further strengthen the ties between Norwich’s two cathedrals.”

Pictured above are, from the left, Bishop Peter Collins, Dean Andrew Braddock, Virginia Edgecombe, Fr Alan Hodgson and Bishop Graham Usher. Below Fr Alan Hodgson and Bishop Graham. Pictures by Bill Smith/Norwich Cathedral.