Sunday 29th March Fifth Sunday of Lent/Passiontide Begins
Message from The Rector
This is the week when we move into Passiontide, the darkest part of our church year. Sunday’s Gospel reading tells the story of Jesus raising his friend Lazarus from the dead – reminding us that the darkness reflected in the readings over the next couple of weeks will be followed by the blazing light of Jesus’s own resurrection. There is hope, and that is a message for our times if ever there was one.
I am currently exploring ways of us being able to share ‘virtual’ services over Holy Week and Easter and will have more news by next week. In the meantime, I do hope that you are aware of the daily services offered online by Bishop Martin. He says Morning Prayer at 8.30am each weekday and you can be with him at –https://www.facebook.com/BishopsCofEsuffolk/.
The staff of our cathedral also offer services at –www.facebook.com./stedscathedral.
There are two services, including one of Holy Communion, every day. All of these services can be viewed retrospectively too.
I am very grateful to our curate, James, for his beautiful reflection after a walk earlier in the week. Our own walk with Christ, remembering his trials, crucifixion and resurrection, is going to feel very different this year. May it be for all of us an opportunity to spend quiet time with God, safe in the knowledge that God is with us everywhere and always.
Thought for the Day
For the first time in nearly eight months I didn’t go to Aldeburgh church this Monday morning. Instead, over my bacon sandwich, I decided to go for a walk. As I left Friston rectory and headed over the fields I began to think of how we might respond as clergy to the odd situation in which we find ourselves.
Church services, which have been cancelled at the moment, are only a small percentage of what the clergy do – we spend our time visiting people, going to meetings, teaching, writing, reading, engaging with the wider community, and turning up to things, moving furniture, and all the rest of it, as part of our offering to the service of God. As a result, my diary has suddenly cleared over the last week or so. Instead of a training day in Ipswich on bereavement ministry I was at home in the rectory. I sometimes write a sermon on a Saturday afternoon, but the Mothering Sunday service was cancelled so instead I cleaned the bathroom and sorted the garage, I polished the car too, just to keep it shiny.
An historic and definitive part of the Church of England’s missional calling is to be a Christian presence in every community – the parish system. That is why each parish has a church and why Mark lives in Aldeburgh, I live in Friston, and clergy up and down the land live near the churches and communities they serve. The parish is the basic unit the church serves.
This parish system has stood the church in good stead for centuries, it is ancient way of doing things – a thousand years old or more – and, in these times, perhaps more relevant than ever as communities such as ours turn to each other for help and assistance in these troubled days – something which until not so long ago communities had done since time immemorial – worked together. Indeed, the parish churches we see in our own benefice weren’t merely planted by the church or built up by some outside agency – they themselves are, more often than not, the result of communal work, communal fundraising and a communal sense of purpose.
So, as I walked over the field at the back of the rectory these things were spinning in my mind – what can we do? How should we respond? When I was at college there was no training for pandemic ministry.
The first thing is, perhaps, to fall back on Christian tradition; to follow Jesus is to act and serve others so we can respond with loving service – helping out where we can across the benefice. As ordained clergy we are called to be available to our parishioners – so let’s be available, at the end of the phone, or via email, or whatever.
Yet I can’t help thinking, as the pace of life quietens, that clergy are called first and foremost to be people of prayer in their communities. We are the people who stand apart already from daily life and have what is known as the cure of souls. I am an assistant curate, which is why I am here, to help with the cure of souls. In addition my job, as deacon is to serve, indeed at services I wear the diagonal sash of a servant to highlight this diaconal aspect of my role. And it is in this role of servant that I pray for you all every day.
Prayer, of course, has many benefits, not least, at this time, in calming us all down as we still ourselves before God. It is through prayer, through Jesus Christ, that we communicate and intercede with God’s love. So, it was somewhere between Friston and Knodishall I decided to make my walk a prayer walk and looked at the Daily Prayer- the daily office of morning prayer – on my mobile phone. I said out loud the opening sentences and first few prayers before realising that walking and talking at the same time isn’t as easy as you might think. I crossed, with the help of my map, into Knodishall and said the psalm 77 “I cry aloud to God – I cry aloud to God and he will hear me” along Fitches Lane.
Walking makes us see things from a different angle and before too long I came upon Aldringham church from the lower part of the graveyard – it looked lovely in the morning sun and as I criss-crossed the graveyard I thought back to July 2018 when I first visited the benefice and thought how much has happened in the last 18 months.
Walking from the top of the churchyard I headed past the alms-houses and through a farmyard before coming to a large reed bed – the fen – circumventing it on a boardwalk. I saw no one and felt so far from the world I wasn’t totally sure if I’d ever see anyone ever again. I found I was thinking about how, as a nation, we have all but forgotten to think about God, and how our frenetic lives have overtaken our spiritual well-being in an unending and ultimately fruitless search for fulfilment through secular, materialism – even now, as we are not able to buy what we don’t need, the void is more obvious than ever.
Then, at what was called on my map Peggy’s Perch, I walked along the side of North Warren, one of the earliest RSPB reserves. I found a bench and read the first reading – Exodus – in which Moses killed an Egyptian, a story I had forgotten. I read the next reading Hebrews, which talked about how the people of Israel worshipped and how Christ offered himself to “purify our conscience” as we worship the living God.
At some point I was hoping to walk into Aldeburgh along the old railway line, but I must have taken a wrong turning as I found myself on the main road alongside some very smart houses. Curiosity got the better of me and I had a peer over the hedge quite a few times.
I said the Benedictus – the Song of Zechariah – as I walked across the fairway of Aldeburgh Golf club and it was here I had my first contact with people – two metres apart – as I sort of lost my way. I was directed up towards what I suspect might be the Hazelwood area of the parish. It was here I prayed for all of you, for my family, for the world, the church, the scientists, the hospitals, my sister, the key workers, the government and the Queen. I said all this out loud and finally finished morning prayer at about 1pm – my feet were getting tired and I still had some way to go.
An hour or so later I walked into the rectory gate, up the drive and unlocked the door to the kitchen, took off my shoes, and almost seized up. It took all my energy to make a cheese and pickle roll.
I had crossed farmland, woodland, graveyard, river, reed bed, warren, golf course, I’d seen the sea, the Alde estuary, enjoyed the huge East Anglian sky, walked in the fresh air and worn myself out. I had been a presence in all of our parishes just in a different way, from a different perspective and with the purpose of prayer – I could not help but think how lucky we are, how lucky I am, how much we have to look forward to, how fortunate we are to have one another, and how, ultimately, God shows us the way.
The Church of England is producing lots of good material and advice at present. This includes some excellent prayers for us all to use and I commend them to you:
You can also join the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich weekly newsletter mailing list by visiting:
Most merciful God, who by the death and resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ delivered and saved the world: grant that by faith in him who suffered on the cross we may triumph in the power of his victory; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
Lord Jesus Christ, you have taught us that what we do for the least of our brothers and sisters we do also for you: give us the will to be the servant of others as you were the servant of all, and gave up your life and died for us, but are alive and reign, now and for ever.
The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me all round them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. He said to me, ‘Mortal, can these bones live?’ I answered, ‘O Lord God, you know.’ Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.’
So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.’ I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.
Then he said to me, ‘Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, “Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.” Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act, says the Lord.’
To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason, the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.
Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, ‘Lord, he whom you love is ill.’ But when Jesus heard it, he said, ‘This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.’ Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.
Then after this he said to the disciples, ‘Let us go to Judea again.’ The disciples said to him, ‘Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?’ Jesus answered, ‘Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.’ After saying this, he told them, ‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.’ The disciples said to him, ‘Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.’ Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead. For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.’ Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow-disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’
When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ Martha said to him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.’
When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, ‘The Teacher is here and is calling for you.’ And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet come to the village but was still at the place where Martha had met him. The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus began to weep. So the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him!’ But some of them said, ‘Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?’
Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’ Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, ‘Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead for four days.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?’ So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upwards and said, ‘Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.’ When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go.’
Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.
Prayer for our times from Norwich Cathedral
Covid 19 Prayer
God of compassion, have mercy upon this nation and our world in this time of fear and confusion: we bring before you those who are suffering and who tend to their needs; may those in isolation know your comfort and company and may neighbours show your love in works of care, kindness and prayer;
we pray for the National Health Service and all engaged in scientific research and we pray too for those upon whose shoulders the yoke of leadership rests, that in their conversation and communication your still small voice may be heard;
we ask this in the power of the Holy Spirit, through the One who stretched out his hands to bless and to heal even Jesus Christ our Lord.
Written by Canon Andy at Norwich Cathedral
Next Sunday – 5th April
Food Banks – Message from the Community Engagement Officer
We support 22 independent and Trussell Trust Foodbanks through our Food Stores; the Foodbanks all collect from the stores who support them. To find the list of who we support and how to find out what their specific needs are please go on to our website
I can confirm that we are working hard on how best we, as a Society, can best support our local communities. There have also been articles in the paper about how food banks are struggling to receive donations as many supermarket shelves are empty.
Suffolk Community Foundation are in need of donations to support the various Suffolk Charities they are involved with, to support them financially go to https://www.suffolkcf.org.uk/in-response-to-the-coronavirus-threat-suffolk-community-foundation-launches-local-appeal/.
Message from Suffolk Trading Standards
Please pass this on to friends and neighbours
There have been reports in Suffolk of people pretending to be from the British Red Cross, knocking on the doors of elderly and vulnerable individuals, taking their money to do shopping – and then not returning.
British Red Cross are NOT utilising a postcard system currently in connection to Covid-19 and any distribution of these cards locally needs to be reported to us via 0808 223 1133.