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Youth workers to take over running of convent after Dragons Den style competition

It could easily be the start of a bad joke, but instead it's the start of a story which Justin Welby described as "one of the most exciting proposals I have heard since I have been Archbishop".

In August 2018, the number of nuns at All Hallows in Norfolk had fallen to just four.

The Community, wanting their space to be better used, launched a Dragon's Den style competition with entrants invited to submit proposals on how their buildings should be used.

A group of youth workers, known as 'With' pitched the idea of planting a new community dedicated to prayer for young people across the country. They also wanted to introduce young people to the spiritual practices and daily offices of community lives through retreats.

After a number of rounds of interviews they were given the go-ahead.

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 who 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."

Welcoming the plans, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby 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."

In order to keep the convent running, the group now needs to raise a large amount of money. It plans to plant a new community at the convent by the end of 2020.

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