Benefice Newsletter for Sunday 21st February – The First Sunday of Lent

Message from The Rector

Each year during Lent (which began last Wednesday) our diocesan bishops hold a Lent Appeal. We would normally announce it in church and support it from our collections but while we are not gathering in our church buildings, I thought you ought to know about it. As in one or two years in the past the focus is on Kagera, our link diocese in Tanzania and the aim is to support key workers there, including trainee doctors at Murgwanza Diocesan Hospital and farmers who are being taught new and more sustainable ways of working. Our diocese’s web page with all of the details, including how to donate, is here:

Do, please, do what you can.

To focus our minds on Kagera throughout Lent the diocese has also come up with a daily Lent Challenge as a way of collecting a small amount of money each day which, by Easter, will have built into something more substantial. This is the booklet …

… and I notice that today (Friday, as I type) we’re being encouraged to collect 10p for each musical instrument we possess. So, for us that’s a piano, Ro’s flute, four recorders …… the counting continues!

A huge thank-you must go to Chris Theobald from The Parrott and Punchbowl in Aldringham for helping us (via Zoom) to cook pancakes last Tuesday. There were sounds of much excitement as the mixing and cooking happened and some beautifully decorated pancakes emerged as a result. Take a look here:

You don’t need to be a Facebooker to look but if you are then you might like to ‘like’ or ‘follow’ the Pilgrims Together page.

I sincerely hope that by next week we will know more about how we might emerge from our current lockdown and begin to worship in church once again. Watch this space – and pray for good news!

With love, as ever


Almighty God, whose Son Jesus Christ fasted forty days in the wilderness,
and was tempted as we are, yet without sin:
give us grace to discipline ourselves in obedience to your Spirit;
and, as you know our weakness, so may we know your power to save;
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 9.8-17
Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, ‘As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.’ God said, ‘This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.’ God said to Noah, ‘This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.’

Second Reading
1 Peter 3.18-end
For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight people, were saved through water. And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you—not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.

Gospel Reading
Mark 1.9-15
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.’ And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.  Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’ 


Sermon for 21st February –First Sunday of Lent
by The Revd Sheila Hart

The readings we have today seem a little strange, to say the least, for the First Sunday in Lent.

In the Old Testament we hear about the covenant that God made with Noah that He would never again destroy the earth by flooding it and He would set the rainbow in the sky as a permanent reminder of that. Interestingly, we only seem to see rainbows after there has been a heavy rainstorm, not when there has just been a short, light shower.

In Mark’s Gospel – the main reading for the day – we read Mark’s account of Jesus’ Baptism and His testing in the wilderness which is dismissed by the Gospel writer in one short paragraph – almost as if it really doesn’t matter or hold any relevance for his readers.

And in the Epistle, Peter looks back to God’s covenant with Noah and links his experience of the flood and his safe keeping in the ark with the rite of baptism.

We would, in the other years of the lectionary, have had a detailed account of the testing of Jesus in the wilderness; what the temptations were; how Jesus responded to them and we would be in no doubt at the end that Jesus had come away from the wilderness prepared for His life’s ministry of remaining completely sinless to enable Him to fulfil God’s destiny for Him in saving the world from sin, death and the devil, through His death on the cross and His resurrection.

Sermons would have dissected the testing of Jesus in the wilderness and given some good ideas of how congregations might usefully spend the forty days of Lent ensuring that their spiritual lives were in good order and, indeed, deepened by the whole Lenten experience of prayer, courses linked to the Bible and self-denial. But not this year!

In fact, the detailed accounts of Jesus’ testing in the wilderness are only recorded in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. As I said earlier, Mark dismisses it in two verses and John makes no mention of it at all.

So, what are we to make of our three readings for today? Should we look to the more detailed accounts in Matthew and Luke? Should we also dismiss the significance and relevance of Jesus’ testing by the devil, as Mark appears to? Or should we, perhaps use the opportunity which is presented to us this year to look at the bigger picture and reflect on the meaning of Baptism, both in the life of Jesus and also in our own life?

I think that looking at the more detailed accounts in Matthew and Luke would be out of the question as we looked at Matthew last year and we will look at Luke next year so why pre-empt them?

We cannot dismiss the accounts of Jesus’ temptations out of hand for several reasons: Firstly, it is clear that Jesus certainly had some sort of experience in the ‘wilderness’, be it an actual wilderness or a spiritual wilderness, when He was tempted to satisfy His spiritual wellbeing with worldly pleasures. Secondly, this was another of the accounts, following His baptism, where He is clearly shown to be fully human as we are often tempted throughout our life to put our trust in something other than those things which God would bring to us.

Thirdly, the Bible clearly states that ‘He was tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin.’

So, we are left with the third option of looking at the true meaning of Baptism and reflecting on that.

The season of Lent is one in which we accompany Jesus on His journey to Jerusalem, His arrest, trial, crucifixion and resurrection. Baptism, for the Christian, is the beginning of our journey with God through life. It is where we turn away from sin and enter our new life in Christ. The water signifies our washing, cleansing from sin, and our readiness to enter upon our Christian pilgrimage. The prayer for the gift of the Holy Spirit and our signing with the cross enable us to grow in faith and have the power within us to continue on our journey in Christ as ‘His faithful soldier to our life’s end.’

The flood, in Genesis, was God’s way of trying to rid the world he had created of sin – the sin of disobedience to Him. He did manage to find one family – Noah’s family who remained faithful and obedient to Him despite having to build a big boat in a land where water, especially in the form of rain, was scarce and for a very long time, that boat was their home alongside two of each kind of creature that God had created. It was a kind of baptism – a new start if you like.

The baptism of John, into which Jesus was baptised, was a baptism of repentance – turning away from wrongdoing and disobedience to a new life after the cleansing in the waters of the river Jordan. Jesus was baptised to indicate that he was fully human and the descending of the dove of the Holy Spirit and the voice from heaven when He came up out of the water showed that He was also fully divine. It is interesting that Jesus’ wilderness experience followed that which was for Him a spiritual high.

Lent is a season in which we reflect on our life, our faith and our experience of God in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. Our baptism, as I have said, is the beginning of that life of faith. So, let us spend some time during this season Lent – which is for us this year in the midst of lockdown and a global pandemic a truly wilderness experience – reflecting on our own journey of faith as we walk with Jesus through His wilderness experience to the cross and beyond. Amen.


The Saints Series (Heroes of Faith) by Canon John Giles

This week – MERVYN STOCKWOOD (1913 – 1995), Bishop of Southwark 1960 – 1980 

As Vicar of Great St Mary’s, Cambridge, from 1955, Mervyn Stockwood drew huge numbers of students to his services to hear him and star speakers, including lay men and women, not all Christian, who tackled headline issues, political as well as religious, from the pulpit. The addresses led to heated discussions at the back of the church after the services. Out of this fiery crucible of faith, non-faith, worship, vision and controversy, came literally hundreds who decided to put their shoulders to the wheel of the ordained ministry, while confirmed ordinands, such as myself, found their vocation and vision of the job that lay ahead widened and strengthened.

I would meet Mervyn again twelve years later at Walsingham, when, as Bishop of Southwark and Administrator of the Shrine, he was dedicating a new aisle in the church. I was there having taken students there on a retreat. Mervyn tackled me at the reception, asking “Who are you, and why are you here?” It happened to be at a time when I was thinking of pastures new. He put me down in his little black book and I forgot all about it. Six months later a letter arrived asking if I would be interested in a large parish in South East London and join his Diocese. Kidbrooke was a huge challenge, and I accepted readily.

As Bishop, Mervyn fulfilled all three biblical functions of Prophet, Priest, and King. He was a true priest, working tirelessly to inspire and equip his people and parishes for ministry. He came to dedicate a new church centre on the huge GLC housing estate in my parish. He had prepared a special sermon for the occasion, but when he saw who was actually there, including even a keep-fit class in leotards, he realised his words would go right over all our heads so improvised a brilliant simpler talk which was dead right. His churchmanship was middle to high, and he was totally dedicated as priest. He prayed for his clergy in his chapel every morning, using his Christmas cards to remember them individually. No clergyman in the diocese ever failed to send him a card or absented himself from the Clergy Conferences at Butlins Holiday Camps, a typical crazy idea, which helped to create a deep family feeling in the Diocese.

He was Kingly too – you might say a Prince Bishop, with a forceful natural authority. That sounds a bit backhanded. Yes, he could be pretty arch and maddeningly autocratic, yet all was forgiven in view of his fearless leadership and almost invariably correct decisions. When he eventually retired from the diocese in 1979, high-placed supporters gave him a farewell dinner where toasts were proposed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Barbara Cartland, and Frankie Howerd. His influence was as wide as that. It must have been quite a party.

On the first Sunday of Lent, we remember Isaiah 58.6: “Is not this the fast that I choose: to lose the bonds of injustice, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke.” The job of the Prophet is to give the word of the Lord, and Mervyn undoubtedly prophesied to the nation.

In the summer of 1976, the National Front were resurgent, infiltrating football crowds with their propaganda. He called on the parishes to support a protest march through the middle of Lewisham. Mervyn led the march. Prime Minister Jim Callaghan acknowledged that Mervyn’s action had helped turn the tide of public opinion against the National Front.

His connections with Wandsworth and Brixton prisons, gave him the background to speak powerfully in the Lords and the House of Bishops on penal reform and the abolition of Capital Punishment. He identified completely with the Wolfenden Report and homosexual law reform.

Against strong opposition he appointed John Robinson, who would later write “Honest to God”, as Bishop of Woolwich, and spoke with him in support of the publication of DH Lawrence’s “Lady Chatterley’s Lover”.

Members of non-stipendiary ministries will know that the Diocese of Southwark under Mervyn initiated the original Southwark Ordination Course, opening the way for large numbers of men, and later, women, to fulfil their vocations in the church. He initially opposed the ordination of women in General Synod because of the way the campaign was being run. However, in 1978 he ordained Elizabeth Canham as deacon in Southwark, and later accepted an invitation to assist in her ordination as priest in the USA, becoming the first Bishop of the Church of England to take this step.

The stories of Mervyn are endless, and his life speaks for itself, so no more from me.  If you want your faith in the Church of England gingered up (and who doesn’t? – that has to be the link with Aldeburgh and the Benefice this week), read “Chanctonbury Ring”, Mervyn Stockwood’s autobiography, published by Hodder & Stoughton.

John Giles

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.

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


This Week’s Film Review – The Dig

I’m sure that by now many of you will have watched ‘The Dig’ – the film that tells the story of the amazing Anglo-Saxon archaeological discoveries at Sutton Hoo. If you haven’t seen it (it’s on Netflix but, hopefully, will soon also be able to be shown in cinemas) I would thoroughly recommend it.

It is important to remember what the film is. It does not claim to be a historically accurate record of the times – though much of it is.

It is a film based on a book, by John Preston and also called ‘The Dig’, which itself takes a certain amount of ‘literary license’ with the real story. But what emerges is a thoroughly gripping yet gentle film, telling of the discovery of one of the most important archaeological finds in Great Britain and the hugely important part played in it by Basil Brown.

Brown was a Suffolk man, from Bucklesham, and was more or less self-taught. He studied on correspondence-courses and achieved diplomas in astronomy, geology and geography. In the film he is played, with skilful understatement, by Ralph Fiennes and his performance is the glue that binds the film and the story together. We also meet Edith Pretty, the landowner in whose fields the discoveries were made in the late 1930’s. Her portrayal by Carey Mulligan (20 years younger that Pretty would have been at the time) and the subtle growth of her relationship with Brown (described by Ralph Fiennes as ‘not clouded by love or romance’) is very special and beautifully realised in the film. The whole story is told against the background of impending war, and the image of huge Suffolk skies and passing RAF aircraft is one that leaves a lasting impression. The blending of fact and fiction is, for the most part, skilful and sensitive and I found the whole film both engrossing and touching.

By the way, if you are interested in the real Sutton Hoo story do have a look at these archive BBC film clips – and, among other people, you’ll meet the real Basil Brown and hear his glorious Suffolk accent!

Revd Mark Lowther


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


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.


✞ 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.  All are welcome!
The meetings start from 9.40am every Sunday morning

To join the Zoom Meeting, please use this link.
Please contact for the link.

✞ 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.

Please contact for the link.

Save the date: Saturday 6th March 7pm- Pilgrim’s Fun Quiz

Following the success of our January Quiz Night, another is planned for Saturday 6th March.  Please contact Sue and Richard if you are able to offer a round of questions: or please contact for more information.


Tuesday Coffee Morning with Mark & Friends 
Our regular Zoom coffee morning will be from 10.30am – 11.30am every Tuesday. All are very welcome. Grab your favourite morning beverage and let’s have a good ole chat – just like we used to.

Please contact for the link.


 Book/TV/Film Review Club 
Have you found a great escape during this lockdown in books, a tv series, or a good film? Are you re-visiting the classics, or reading them for the first time? What box sets are you binge watching? Are you watching The Serpent, The Bay, A Perfect Planet, The Crown?
Please do share your reviews/recommendations with us.
Just send your review to
We would really love to hear your suggestions.


The Week Ahead
Next Sunday 28th February
Second Sunday of Lent


A Notice from Elizabeth Smith at Aldeburgh Baptist Church. World Day of Prayer – 5th March 2021
On 26th May 1940, when Britain was close to defeat during the 2nd World War, and the entire British Army was trapped at Dunkirk, King George VI called for a National Day of Prayer. Millions of people across the British Isles flocked into churches praying for deliverance and the Miracle of Dunkirk took place in the next few days.
Today the whole world is facing an emergency as great as Britain faced in 1940. It is surely time for us all to come together to pray for God’s deliverance and for his blessing. On Friday 5th March the annual World Day of Prayer Service will be very different, in Aldeburgh, from the one we are used to. Instead of meeting in the Fairfield Centre we will be viewing the Service on YouTube, where we can pray together for Vanuatu and the World, facing the pandemic together.
Learn more about Vanuatu, a beautiful tropical group of islands in the Western Pacific, by watching this video

Join the service the Aldeburgh WDP Committee is preparing:
on Friday 5th March connect to the YouTube Service
The link will be on the Aldeburgh Baptist Church website –