Benefice Newsletter for Sunday 10th January – The First Sunday of Epiphany/The Baptism of Christ

Message from The Rector

Last week, writing my piece for the pew sheet on Thursday 31st December, I hinted that the ‘foreseeable future’ was not very long these days – and this has turned out to be true. After having consulted the churchwardens of our parishes last weekend I decided that it would be best for all of our churches to close for communal worship. It wasn’t an easy decision, or one taken lightly but the current Covid situation is very serious indeed, and seems to be becoming more serious day by day. And, in the end, do we want to be part of the problem or part of the solution?

Having taken that decision the next thing is to make sure that as many people as possible have access to ways of worshipping and ways of keeping in touch. You will find another attachment with this email listing available online and broadcast services of different kinds. In the benefice we will continue to make online services available from 10.00 on Sundays and Wednesdays. Pilgrims Together continue with their weekly Zoom gatherings at 6.30pm on Wednesdays (details of how to join in are further down the sheet) and, also using Zoom and on Wednesdays, Compline is said in Friston at 6pm. Friston are also going to try a Zoom Morning Prayer at 9.45am each Sunday. It (like the Compline) is open to all – just drop Friston Elder Martin Steadman a line and he’ll send you the necessary details – see notices.

We are also very aware how much people miss the chance for a chat after a service. We propose a new experiment – a weekly Zoom Coffee Morning. Make yourself a cuppa, log on and join in for however long you wish. We’ll begin on Tuesday January 19th at 10.30am and publish the login details on next week’s pew sheet. All are welcome and we’ll keep the virtual café open for an hour, so if you can’t make 10.30 you can drop in when you are able to.

We are also very aware that there are loyal members of our community who aren’t able to ‘do technology’ and join in online events. Claire had the excellent idea of asking whether some of those people might appreciate receiving a CD of the Sunday service, to play at their leisure. By definition these people won’t be reading this online pew-sheet and we will try and make contact to make the offer. But if you know of anyone who might appreciate a weekly CD please could you let Claire, or I know? And if you, or anyone you know, is in need of any help that you think anyone at church might be able to supply please don’t hesitate to ask. We will always try to do what we can.

With love, as ever


Eternal Father, who at the baptism of Jesus revealed him to be your Son,
anointing him with the Holy Spirit: grant to us, who are born again by water and the Spirit, that we may be faithful to our calling as your adopted children; 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.

First Reading
Genesis 1.1-5
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

Second Reading
Mark 1.4-11
John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, ‘The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.’

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’


Sermon for 10th January – The First Sunday of Epiphany/Baptism of Christ by The Revd James Marston

May I speak in the name of the living God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

On a snowy January day in 1976 a very beautiful baby boy – me – was baptised in a small village church in west Suffolk. I wore the family’s ageing christening gown. The vicar, too scared to go out in the snow, had to be collected by my father and driven to church – mother laid on refreshments for various friends and family. I was, as it happens, very well behaved and compliant to the proceedings.

It was an event of which I have no memory, not until I started on the path of vocational discernment did I even give it a second thought. Indeed, it wasn’t until I had to prove I was baptised that I asked when, where and why I had been baptised as a child in the first place. I never really got a sensible answer, apparently it was as much more to do with being “the done thing” and “family tradition” than an expression of religious belief, perhaps wrapped up with a nebulous concept of being formally named.

We don’t often think about our baptism – for many of us it was done as a child and is not often a memory we actually hold. Those who get baptised later in life, I imagine, think about it and learn about it in a different way and but for lots of us it is a rite of passage that we are often unaware of.

Baptism remains for many a way of introducing a new child to the community, it is an event which is usually followed by a celebration. It is also a church service in which a child or adult is anointed, and it is special. It marks the beginning of a new life in Christ.

We have heard in our gospel reading today the story of Jesus’ baptism. And event which, when it happened, was extraordinary and perhaps a bit strange, John’s ministry of calling for repentance and baptism by water has little, if any, precedent in religious teaching of the time. And why would the divine need to be symbolically washed of His sins? Why baptise Jesus who has come to fulfil John’s prophecy? Indeed, there is “no hint in Mark’s narrative that John recognised Jesus as the one whose coming he had proclaimed.” 1*nor is there any hint of why Jesus is baptised at all.

Instead, the story provides the setting for the revelation of the identity of Jesus – emphasised by the descending of the spirit and the voice from Heaven. “You are my son, the beloved, with you I am well pleased.” And the account also provides an important signpost to the doctrine of the triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all present.

But there’s yet more. The baptism of Jesus is the moment Jesus of Nazareth comes out of the shadows of obscurity and begins his ministry. In Mark’s Gospel this is where Jesus is introduced for the first time and Mark is describing a divine epiphany through which Jesus’ life and ministry are to be viewed. And immediately after this episode Jesus prepares for what is ahead of him by retreating into the wilderness and the story of his ministry of healing, exorcism, and teaching continues.

So, what of our own baptism? Today Christian baptism remains a sacramental marker on the journey of faith. “The forgiveness of sins; the gift of the Spirit, the bestowing of a dignity as a beloved Son of God” 2*– all of these blessings and joys come to us through Christian baptism – even if we don’t remember it or think about it very often.

And it is through baptism that we often begin our own journey of faith and align ourselves with the life, death and resurrection of Jesus himself and, by doing so, the eternal joy of salvation. It is in baptism that we turn to Christ and give our lives over to God to be guided by His hand.

Indeed, it is not by accident that the baptism of Christ is celebrated at the beginning of the year, as baptism marks not only a beginning but it points to the future as well – and that future is, with faith, always one of hope.

Indeed, thinking about our own baptism may present us, as it did Jesus, with not only a renewed sense of vocation but also a renewed hope in the light of the resurrection.

And in these dark days of January 2020 where fear and foreboding reign, the season of epiphany is brought into ever deeper focus as we look for and find signs of joy and signs of hope.

Putting our lives into the hands of God, rekindling our faith and hope, remembering own baptism into the joy and blessings of the incarnation, is something we must hold onto with all our might.

Through prayer, through worship, through community – howsoever curtailed, God is there for us in these troubled times, and our baptism reminds us of that as well.

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year

“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”

And he replied:

“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.

That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”

So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night.
And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.3*



1* Hooker, Morna D, The Gospel Acccording to St Mark. p45
2* –
3* – God Knows, Minnie Louise Harkins


850th Anniversary of the murder of Thomas Becket,
by David Gordon.

Last week marked the 850th anniversary of the murder of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, in Canterbury Cathedral on 29th December 1170.

Had it not been for Covid restrictions we would probably have held a service in Aldringham church to mark this anniversary, given that it is a most significant event in the history of Aldringham church.

The catholic church, headed by the Pope in Rome, had authority separate from that of the state and King Henry II wanted to change this. He wanted the power!  When he appointed Thomas in 1162, he thought that he had the man to change things and to bring the church under the king’s control.  But Thomas had other ideas. As Archbishop he saw his duty as being to protect the church from any earthly authority. Matters came to a head in 1170 when Henry, in France at the time, lost his temper and said, ‘who will rid me of this pestilential priest.’  Four of his knights took him at his word, travelled back to England and did the deed.

But this was not good news for Henry. People regarded Thomas as a martyr for the rights of the church. Pilgrims started to visit his tomb and the Pope put further pressure on Henry when he declared Becket a saint in 1173. 

And Henry’s enemies took advantage of the situation. Even his wife plotted against him and encouraged their two sons to rebel against him in an alliance with his enemies, the kings of France and of Scotland who launched invasions of his lands. 

Henry decided that he had to make penance for the murder of Becket and in July 1174 he walked barefoot into the city of Canterbury, prostrated himself before Becket’s shrine and spent the night in prayer.

Henry was thus preoccupied and had to send his trusted knights to deal with the Scottish invaders.  The English force of 400 knights was led by Ranulf de Glanvill and the Scots were defeated at the battle of Alnwick (in Northumberland) on 13 July 1174. The very day that Henry was in Canterbury praying.

Now Ranulf was a local lad. Born at Stratford St Andrew, he married a local lass, Bertha, daughter of the lord of the manor of Parham. And with the marriage came a marriage dowry of land at Butley.  Another consequence of the murder of Thomas was the practice of founding monasteries.  And Ranulf founded Butley Priory on his land at Butley in 1171.

The defeat of the Scots started the end of the rebellion and Henry had a great deal to thank Ranulf for!  So, he gave him a present.  A vast tract of land in Suffolk – the manor of Leiston – stretching up the coast from Thorp to Minsmere and inland to Theberton and Leiston.  And it included Aldringham church. So, the advowson of our little church passed to Ranulf. At that time, it was probably more a chapel than a church, likely a modest wooden building. Ranulf immediately passed the advowson to his newly founded priory at Butley and so, very briefly, Aldringham was in the care of Butley priory.

Ranulf decided that he would use Henry’s present to found another monastery and so in 1183 he established Leiston Abbey, not on its present site but in the marshes at Minsmere.  And he gave the whole of the manor of Leiston to the Abbey including the advowson of Aldringham church which was transferred from Butley priory in 1185.

Thus, started a period of 350 years during which Aldringham church was in the care of Leiston Abbey and during which time the present church building was built. This only came to an end with the dissolution of the monasteries by king Henry VIII.

Murdering an archbishop has unexpected consequences!


The Week Ahead
Next Sunday 17th January
The Second Sunday of Epiphany


Useful information to help during these times 

If you are finding life difficult at the moment and need someone to talk to there are always people available to listen.  You are, of course, always welcome to ring Mark or another member of the clergy team but in addition here are a few helpline numbers that are available (thanks to Parish Nurse Ali Cherry for the information):

Silverline:  Need help? Call us ANYTIME on: 0800 4 70 80 90

The Silver Line is the only free confidential helpline providing information, friendship and advice to older people, open 24 hours a day, every day of the year.

Age UK Advice Line: 0800 678 1602

Lines are open 8am-7pm, 365 days a year.

Suffolk Mind: 0300 111 6000. Offer telephone counselling service for the over 70’s

Daily Hope:   The line – which is available 24 hours a day on 
0800 804 8044 – has been set up particularly with those unable to join online church services during the period of restrictions in mind.


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Other useful numbers:

For short term help with tasks such as shopping

Aldeburgh Good Neighbours scheme: 07773 031064

Aldringham Good Neighbours scheme: (covers Thorpeness also): 07521 047843




Food Banks at the East of England Co-op 
Foodbanks provide a valuable service to those in need in our communities and have an even more vital role to play as we navigate our way through these unprecedented times. The Aldeburgh Co-op and Solar in Leiston are doing a grand job in collecting food donations, which are collected regularly and distributed. So please look out for the various collection baskets.

Update from the Trussel Trust Organisation

Food banks in our network have seen an increase in the number of food parcels given out over the last few months due to Coronavirus, so any donations are much appreciated.

You can find out which items your local food bank is most in need of by entering your postcode here – By clicking on the food bank’s name, you can also find out where to drop off your donations.

You should also check the food banks website or social media pages for any changes to opening hours or operations as a result of the Coronavirus before dropping off donations –

If you would prefer to make a financial donation, then please visit the food bank’s website (under ‘Give help’) or you can donate to the Trussell Trust centrally by contacting our Supporter Care team on 01722 580 178 or emailing

***There is also a local foodbank run from the United Church in Leiston.  We are investigating if and how we might be able to help them and should have some more news next week. ***


Weekly Benefice Newsletter
If you would like something added to the weekly newsletter that is relevant to the Benefice, please do let Claire know and we will do our best to include it the following week. Whether it be a story to tell, or tips or recipes or a notice to be added to spread the word.
Please send Claire your content by Thursday at 4pm if you wish for it to be included in the Saturday newsletter.

For our online services each week we need two readers who can record themselves on their phone, tablet or computer and email the result to Claire or Mark.  If you haven’t done this before and would like to join the list, you would be very welcome. 
Please let Claire or Mark know of your interest.

✞ Pilgrims Together on Wednesdays ✞

The Pilgrims worship together every Wednesday.
You are all more than welcome to join them via Zoom.  
The worship starts at 6.30pm (Zoom call opens from 6.10pm) and the call is then left open after the worship time for people to catch up.  The worship is about 30 minutes long.  We have a different worship sheet each week which goes out on a Monday ahead of the Wednesday.  
People are more than welcome to email 
to receive a copy or be added to our mailing list.

✞ Friston Sunday Services on Zoom ✞
Friston will be holding a live Zoom service for all those who wish to join on Sunday starting at 9.45am.  It will be a Common Worship Morning Prayer with Emma and Martin leading.  All are welcome!
The meetings start from 9.40am every Sunday morning  (starting 10th January).