How an East Anglian church is helping the community during Covid-19

Jon Norman, senior pastor of Soul Church Norwich. Picture: Jess Samsom

Jon Norman, senior pastor of Soul Church Norwich. Picture: Jess Samsom - Credit: Archant

Gina Long meets Jon Norman, senior pastor of Soul Church Norwich

Jon Norman completed a gruelling charity challenge. Picture: Jess Samsom.

Jon Norman completed a gruelling charity challenge. Picture: Jess Samsom. - Credit: Archant

What’s the impact of COVID-19 for the Soul Church and how have you adapted?

Like, everyone, it’s had a huge impact on us, but I think in many ways for the good. The buildings might be closed but the church has defiantly remained open. We have been able to take the message of Jesus outside of the four walls of the building and make it tangible through handing out over half a million meals to those who have been most affected by this pandemic. We have also set up online church every Sunday to continue to give people a message of hope when they need it most.

What is your connection to East Anglia?

I was born and raised here, I am a Norfolk boy, went to Taverham High School, moved away for 10 years and in 2014 came home!

What is your East Anglian Heaven?

Pretty much everything. I love the coast, the city, the country, and the fact we are on the doorstep of London but don’t have the crazy lifestyle that brings. Most of all I love people.

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And what is your East Anglian Hell?

I actually do not hate anything, but I dislike the pace of change, this can be incredibly frustrating.

What’s your favourite East Anglian restaurant?

No.1 Fish n Chips in Cromer. It’s not called No.1 for no reason. Simply outstanding.

What’s your favourite way to spend an East Anglian evening?

A family walk from Overstrand to Cromer along the cliff tops, watching the sun go down.

What’s your favourite East Anglian landmark?

I love Norwich Cathedral; it holds such treasured memories. My dad was laid to rest there in 2010. In 2016, I was ordained a Canon of the Cathedral. It’s also a refuge and a place of solitude for so many.

What’s the best thing that happens in East Anglia every year?

I love the Royal Norfolk Show, it feels like it brings East Anglia together as we celebrate education, the arts, science, horticulture, sport, local businesses and faith. I try and make sure my diary is clear. The Suffolk Show is great too.

What is your specialist Mastermind subject?

I am not sure I have one, but I do feel my life message is to keep giving people hope. So much of our diaries have been cancelled this year, so much disappointment and setbacks, but hope can never be cancelled.

What is always in your fridge?

We are privileged to be able to support some children trapped in poverty in Africa and South America. So, we have their adorable little faces on our fridge to remind us how blessed we are.

What’s your simple philosophy of life?

Life isn’t about what we have, but who we have.

What’s your favourite film?

Dumb and Dumber.

What was your first job?

Burger King. I got turned down at McDonalds!

What is your most treasured possession?

My dad’s Bible. He left it me when he passed on. Worn out from front to back.

Who do you admire most?

That’s a tough one. I admire people who live their lives to help others, and those who make great sacrifices to help others achieve and have a better life. I think I would also have to say my wife, she lives to give. [I am] Always so thankful she is by my side.

What is your biggest indulgence?

Co-op Salt and Vinegar Crisps late at night. They are so salty and vinegary they are addictive.

What do you like about yourself most?

Ummm, my determination. Last year I was able to put this to the test, somehow I completed seven marathons in seven days to raise money for the new Soul Church purpose-built facility in Norwich.

What’s your worst character trait?

Like a lot of determined and driven leaders, I can be quite controlling. I need to let go, release, and empower those around me more.

Where is your favourite holiday destination?

The Greek islands. There is something so unique and special about them.

Best day of your life?

These questions don’t get any easier, wow! The day I got married, 15 years ago, to Chantel.

What’s your favourite breakfast?

Bill’s breakfast in Norwich: porridge followed by eggs Benedict, gluten free toast and jam and English breakfast tea.

What’s your favourite tipple?

Boring, but has to be hot chocolate.

What’s your hidden talent?

I can play the trumpet. I passed my Grade 4.

When were you most embarrassed?

I misread an email when I was conducting a wedding in Cape Town, and arrived at the wrong venue. I finally got to the right one over an hour late. I wasn’t popular.

What’s your earliest memory?

Playing in a sandpit at our family home in a tiny hamlet called Roudham near East Harling.

What song would you like played at your funeral?

Fix You by Coldplay.

Tell us something people don’t know about you?

I struggle in large crowds of people at social gatherings. Crazy, when I speak to large gatherings all the time. I much prefer conversations with small groups of people.

What’s the worst thing anyone has ever said to you?

I sadly get toxic messages and comments online from time to time, but I work hard to block them out of my mind ASAP. I also think it’s a reflection at what’s going on inside of them, rather than maybe what I have or haven’t done. Ignore the noise is my motto.

Tell us why you live here and nowhere else.

I have a deep conviction that Norfolk is where I was called to be. We love helping people from all walks of life who want to engage in faith and the community. It’s also the most incredible place to raise a young family and enjoy an adventurous outdoor lifestyle.

What do you want to tell our readers about most?

I would like to personally invite you to our Soul Church. We are multi-generational, non-denominational, non-judgemental community of people who celebrate God and love others. You don’t have to believe to belong, just come as you are. Right now we gather online at at 10.30am and 8pm every Sunday. Once our doors reopen, we meet at 4 Mason Rd, Norwich, NR6 6RF. We hope to see you there soon.

I have recently launched my own podcast, The Jon Norman Leadership Podcast, on YouTube, iTunes and Spotify to help people from all walks of life navigate these challenging times and you can also find me on Instagram and Twitter @jonjnorman.

If you live in Suffolk or Norfolk and have an interesting story to share email me at: or follow Twitter: @geewizzgee1 Instagram: ginalongmbe