Picture gallery: A Yarmouth holy site receives a new honour
Warm choral song ushered in a new era for a Norfolk church as it was ordained a minster.
Religious leaders, civic dignitaries and more than a thousand people braved the winter chill to play their part in history as St Nicholas Church received the new title of Great Yarmouth Minster.
The moment came last night (December 9) as people packed inside the building to embrace the spirit of Christmas for the town's annual civic choir service.
In an inauguration ceremony led by the Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Rev Graham James, a declaration of agreement was signed by members of Great Yarmouth Borough Council and the church to make the title official.
Addressing the congregation, the bishop said: 'Minster churches possess great historical and architectural significance as well as a contemporary mission and ministry, stretching beyond immediate parish boundaries. This is true of both St Nicholas, Great Yarmouth and for St Margaret's, King's Lynn in this diocese, which is also to be a minster.
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'These great churches are cherished by their towns and many civic and community occassions take place within them. They are significant gathering points for a much wider area than their geographical parishes and have a growing and developing ministery with much appeal to tourists and pilgrims.'
The new honorary title bestowed on St Nicholas Church marks its historical and architectural significance and elevates it to one of 16 to receive the honour in the last six years.
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The Mayor of Great Yarmouth Barry Coleman welcomed the new status and stressed the importance of the minster.
He said: 'It is a place where the town comes together to celebrate and give thanks for its good fortune.
'On behalf of the Great Yarmouth Borough, I pledge our continued support to the minster and the ministry.'
The Rev Christ Terry, team rector of the minster deemed the largest parish church in the country, said: ''We are delighted that the Bishop of Norwich has decided to give the church Minister status which we see as recognition of the role we seek to meet within the life of the town and its surrounding area.
'We also hope that the new role might encourage people to visit the town and share in the heritage of the town of which St Nicholas is a part. As a church community we are exploring new ways in which St Nicholas can be used as a centre for Christian mission to the town and the wider community around Great Yarmouth.'
At the end of the service, people told of their pride and their pleasure at being a part of the occasion.
David Morrice, 67, from Caister, remembered the minster when it was a bombed out shell during the second world war and said it was great to see the glory of the church recognised with the new status.
He added: 'I thought it was brilliant. When needs must Great Yarmouth puts on a fantastic civic service.'
Meanwhile, June Seabrook, from Great Yarmouth, said: 'I thought it was very well put together service. My late husband (Keith Seabrook) is buried in the graveyard here. He was a historian of this church and would have been very proud of this ceremony.'
The new full title for St Nicholas Church is The Minster Church of St Nicholas, Great Yarmouth.