Message from our Curate in Charge, The Revd James Marston
As I began to think about my message to you today over a mid-week macaroni cheese and glass of white wine in the rectory kitchen here in Friston, I thought to myself how so much has happened to me and us in the last two years – flood, plague, lockdowns, uncertainty, and now the retirement of our much-loved incumbent.
As we keep the show on the road until a new appointment is made, we find ourselves in a strange position – one of pause and reflection, as is natural and expected in a period of vacancy, combined with a renewed energy, and urge to act and do as we emerge blinking into the activity of autumn and the winter months.
It is my job, I think, to help guide the benefice through this time and try to strike the right balance. Some habits and customs may fall by the wayside, other fresh ideas and thoughts may emerge – let’s see how it goes.
Whatever happens this remains an exciting benefice, with much going on and much to look forward to. This week I am preparing for services such as baptisms and memorials and a marriage blessing that have all been requested, following the time of restriction, as people wish to engage once again with church. And I would commend to you the success, for example, of the benefice choir at Mark’s final service – perhaps this coming together of skill, enthusiasm and passion for praising God gives us food for thought.
And I urge to you help and encourage Rev Jo with the re-emergence of Messy Church on September 18th, an important area in which the Holy Spirit is clearly busy and an activity in which we can all, from across our group of churches, play our part.
Curates, assistant priests and even rectors do not work discreetly, away from the community in which they serve, but together with those in the pews and wider community.
Proclaiming the Gospel and the knowledge of Christ is a team effort and to share the love of God in this place at this time, whatever the challenges, is something I know I and my clergy colleagues are excited to be part of.
I’m looking forward to the coming weeks and months we meet again as a benefice at the end of October for our All Saints service in which, I hope, we will celebrate, once again, who we are as we praise God together.
In the meantime, even though the future might seem a little uncertain, this week’s Old Testament reading contains the opposite “Be strong, do not fear!”
Peace be with you.
whose only Son has opened for us
a new and living way into your presence:
give us pure hearts and steadfast wills
to worship you in spirit and in truth;
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.
Say to those who are of a fearful heart, ‘Be strong, do not fear!
Here is your God. He will come with vengeance, with terrible recompense. He will come and save you.’ Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy. For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water;
the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp, the grass shall become reeds and rushes.
James 2.1-10 [11-13] 14-17
My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favouritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, ‘Have a seat here, please’, while to the one who is poor you say, ‘Stand there’, or, ‘Sit at my feet’, have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonoured the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court? Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you? You do well if you really fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ But if you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. [For the one who said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’, also said, ‘You shall not murder.’ Now if you do not commit adultery but if you murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. For judgement will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgement.] What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill’, and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.
From there Jesus set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, ‘Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.’ But she answered him, ‘Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.’ Then he said to her, ‘For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.’ So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone. Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, ‘Ephphatha’, that is, ‘Be opened.’ And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. They were astounded beyond measure, saying, ‘He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.’
Sermon for 5th September
Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity,
by The Revd Mark Lowther
DEUTERONOMY 4: 1-2, 6-9
JAMES 1: 17-END
MARK 7: 1-8, 14-15, 21-23
What is a sermon actually for? Putting together this last one that I’ll preach here as Rector (and laughing to myself that I was starting with this thought – a bit late, you might think!) I did a bit of Googling. There’s lots and lots of American stuff, of course – quite a lot from churches and pastors who are quite used to a sermon that lasts at least half-an-hour – but one observation caught my eye. There was the story of a preacher who arrived in the pulpit of a church where he was the guest preacher to find a notice that said, ‘What are you trying to do to these people’?
We who do preach always hope that the words that we say might actually help a congregation in some way and maybe even encourage them to make positive changes in their lives. But realistically, we know that the chances are that much of the time, the words that we preach will soon end up in the mental recycling bin, forgotten about like a week-old newspaper. But, as anyone who knows me knows, I’m an optimist (I can’t actually see how you can be a Christian and not be an optimist) – so how, with these three readings ringing in our ears, can I offer you a thought or two that might last longer than last week’s Sunday Times? What can I do to you?
Well, let’s get one thing clear straight away. It’s not what I can do to you that really matters, it’s what God can do to you – at best I’m just an enabler. What God can do to you and what you can do for God. In that reading from the Old Testament Moses was telling the people of Israel to observe the rules, the ‘statutes and ordinances’ that God had given him and that their duty was to pass them on to future generations. Which they did.
But there grew up Jewish sects who interpreted ‘the law’ very literally, forgetting to ask themselves why they actually did what they did but just doing it – and giving others who didn’t a hard time. Like the Pharisees. The Pharisees were Jews who, to quote an encyclopaedia definition, ‘continued a form of Judaism that extended beyond the Temple, applying Jewish law to mundane activities in order to sanctify the every-day world.’ And their ‘holier-than-thou’-ness, their pettiness, not to put too fine a point on it, got Jesus’s goat. He called them ‘hypocrites’ – and the origin of that word is tied up with Greek theatre – it originally meant something like ‘play-acting’ – playing a part, not being yourself.
The issue in question was Jesus and his friends being criticised for not obeying the Jewish purity laws, not washing their hands or their food before they ate. Now we know that washing your hands and your vegetables and fruit is a good thing to do and we know why. But if you didn’t know why (and ordinary 1st-century folk certainly didn’t know what a germ was) and if you blindly just did something because it was in an ancient book of rules it was a very different matter.
The pharisees had a very good reason for being so precious about the laws – it was because, for them, it defined who they were. The laws had come into being, at least in part, to separate the Jews from the peoples whose lands they occupied. ‘We do it this way – we’re not like them’. And here’s where things begin to become a little uncomfortable for us – because we do the same, don’t we? We can all too easily pretend that by doing some things, not doing some things, preserving some outdated things, satisfying ourselves and (we think) making us look good in others’ eyes we are better than others. And God know that we aren’t.
The end of our reading from the Letter of James is very true but potentially very dangerous. He speaks of Christians keeping themselves ‘unstained by the world’. ‘The world’ to James was, of course, the one ruled by a Roman emperor and which had little time for what we might call the ‘human rights’ of the ordinary people of a country like Palestine. The fledgling church told of a very different kind of monarchy, the rule of a heavenly King, a king of love.
So seeing ‘the world’ for what it is and not being seduced by it is vitally important – as much for us now as it was for 1st-century Palestine. But what James doesn’t mean is that we should distance ourselves from the world – because that’s not what God did and does. ‘God so loved the world’ that he came into it in human form. Engaged with people, loved them, healed them, fed them ‘true bread’.
Died for them, rose again, and lives for them now and forever. He lived for others and calls us to do the same. The examples that James gives us are caring for orphans and widows in their distress but that is just one example (a good one) of what living for others means, isn’t it?
I have seen some wonderful examples of people living for others during my time here. Those who devote themselves to a sick partner or friend, those who give huge amounts of their time to help others less fortunate than themselves, those who use their God-given talents in service of one kind or another. To use James’s vocabulary, not just hearers of the word but doers. Wonderful!
Not everything has been quite so positive but, do you know, I have been very touched by the fact that, on more than one occasion in the last week, people who I know disagree with each other have come together for a common cause – to say goodbye to Ro and to me. And may I say a big thank-you for that. And leave you with a quotation from the introduction to a rather wonderful little book called ‘How To Be an Anglican’ by the British former Dean of Philadelphia Cathedral, Richard Giles. It’s quite a long passage (and I’ve trimmed it slightly) but is worth it, I think – and it sums up so well my own feelings today.
The churches of the Anglican communion often appear to exist chiefly for the purpose of keeping God amused, and indeed that’s no mean calling. It is truly a wonderful, and sometimes comical, creation; a church quite unlike any other, which defies most attempts to classify or tame it, but which is all the stronger for not taking itself too seriously. Certainly it will drive you mad at times, for it lacks the machinery necessary for imposing the party line, and has neither the ruthlessness to expel the intruder nor the earnestness always to get off its backside as quickly as it should. If you persevere you will become exasperated and sometimes angry. You will not find in Anglicanism a structure of cast-iron certainties bolted securely one on top of the other, but neither will you have to suspend your rational thought-processes upon entering our doors.
You will find in Anglican tradition a consistent, holistic approach in which faith is not holed up in a separate ‘religious’ compartment but is part of life. It offers no safe havens or cocoons in which we can evade the piercing eyes of the same Jesus who only had to look at Peter to say all there was to be said. ….. So if you are in the mood for an adventure, and can cope with a degree of uncertainty along the way, able to enjoy the journeying as much as the arriving, then read on.’
How To Be an Anglican, Richard Giles, Canterbury Press 2003
I recommend that you do. And so, Alde Sandlings Benefice, journey on – grow together in love and faith, be ready to laugh and cry together. God has great plans for you. Keep on listening in prayer for what they might be – and then go for it.
Returning to that injunction in a pulpit – What am I (what is God) trying to do to these people? Answer – love them – because God is love. Know that you are loved.
Lord God, the source of truth and love,
keep us faithful to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship,
united in prayer and the breaking of bread,
and one in joy and simplicity of heart,
in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Mark’s Farewell Benefice Holy Communion Service
29th August 2021
Last Sunday we said farewell to our Rector, The Revd Mark Lowther, and boy did we do him proud! Congregation members from all four churches within the Alde Sandlings Benefice joined together at Aldeburgh Parish Church for the most wonderful Holy Communion Service.
The real treat was to hear the Benefice singers. Alan Bullard had somehow pulled together twenty-four choir members within the Benefice and not only conducted and led the choir, but also wrote two pieces of music especially for this service. So, thank you Alan, and of course Andrew Gosden (organist), and the Benefice Singers for all your work in really making this service extra special. We do hope we can repeat this sooner rather than later.
After the final hymn Revd Johanna Mabey presented Mark with a gift from all the elders, clergy, and Claire in the form of a framed word art gift. We had all put our heads together to put forward words and phrases that best expressed our time with Mark, with some giggles. Then a book was presented, that Revd Jo had asked many people to sign with their best wishes for Mark & Ro as they begin their retirement. Revd James Marston then announced that in the best Anglicans traditions, we’ve had a ‘whip round’ and Mark was then handed a cheque. Coco (the spaniel) was also given a gift of course.
Here are a few photos from the day, which includes the beautifully designed retirement cake baked by Fran Smith, which was presented to Mark & Ro in the Church Hall.
WE WISH YOU BOTH A VERY HAPPY RETIREMENT MARK & RO (& COCO)
WE REALLY WILL MISS YOU
A message from the now retired Rector, The Revd Mark Lowther
A short note to say an enormous thank-you to everyone involved in making last Sunday morning so memorable for me, and for Ro. To be honest I’m still processing it all but every time I think back on it, I can’t help smiling to myself. It was so good to have folk from all of the parishes worshipping together, singing together, praying together – a joy. And then there were the gifts. The ‘picture of words’ is just wonderful and each time I look at it I see something new. The collection was so generous, and I promise that we will buy something very special with it to remember the Alde Sandlings by. The things that you all wrote in my leaving book are very moving and it’s particularly good to have the messages from the children at Aldeburgh Primary School. Finally, thanks to the caterers for the wonderful spread in the Church Hall afterwards – with a special mention to Fran for an amazing cake! It must have taken ages to do and I’m so glad to have photos of it before we all tucked in.
It has been a privilege to be your Priest-in-Charge / Rector for the last six years and you will always be in my prayers. And now – look after James and the team (because I know they will look after you) and I pray that someone will be appointed to the Alde Sandlings Benefice who will enjoy being here as much as I have done.
With every blessing, and my love
Alan Bullard Weekly Online Hymns
Next week –
Sunday 12th September
Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity
✞ Pilgrims Together return on Wednesdays ✞
The Pilgrims worship together every Wednesday.
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for the links
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.
✟ Aldringham Outdoor Services ✟
The services start at 11am, in the beautiful Aldringham churchyard. Weather permitting, these services will continue throughout September.
ALL VERY WELCOME
Food Banks at the East of England Co-op
Foodbanks provide a valuable service to those in need in our communities. 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.
The Trussel Trust Organisation
Food banks in our network have seen an increase in the number of food parcels given out over the last year 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 – https://www.trusselltrust.org/give-food/
01722 580 178 or emailing email@example.com
Friston Ride and Stride Information
Ian & Mary Cycle to Raise Awareness of the
Ian & Mary will be cycling 30 miles to visit churches across 16 towns and villages – a challenge but demonstrates the enormity of the energy projects. These are:-
If approved, the construction of these projects will extend over 12 years causing major disruption to residents and visitors, threatening the tourist economy, closing footpaths, and causing environmental damage. Our churches will also bear the brunt of this, with Friston Church being less than 250M from the substation site and threatening the peace and tranquillity of the Churchyard and Church itself.
The route will be a physical challenge for Mary on her “sit-up and beg” bike while Ian, despite his age, still enjoying the adrenaline of a racing bike! Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to donate. Alternatively online donations may be made on the Just Giving website at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/St-Mary-Friston
The 2021 Suffolk Historic Churches Ride and Stride
Saturday 11th September 9am-5pm
The Annual Sponsored Ride and Stride is a national event, and every second Saturday in September cyclists and walkers all round the country are out making money for their local county Churches Trust.
WE OF COURSE NEED OUR TEAMS TO BE SPONSORED,
At Aldeburgh there is Adrian and Jill Brown; Richard and Emily Rapior; Mary Sidwell; Ed Wilhelm (Bellringer); Fran Smith (recorder).
If you would like to take part, please either:
Email email@example.com and Claire will pass on your details to the team organiser at each church.
Or see the organiser at the church you worship (Fran Smith, Aldeburgh, David Copp, Aldringham, Simon Ive, Friston) where they will be pleased to give you a sponsor form and take your details.
The Return of Our Messy Church Services
We are delighted to be re-starting our much loved Messy Church Services with Harvest Messy Church on
Children of any age, parents, and grandparents are all welcome.
A fun morning of crafts, bread making, singing, games and prayer…
If you would like to book a place, Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
HELPERS NEEDED FOR THIS VERY VALUABLE MINISTRY.
Another date for your diary:
Christmas Messy Church on Saturday 11th December at
10am to 12 noon
AGAIN, HELPERS ARE NEEDED…
✞ Compline on Zoom ✞
Compline online services are every Wednesday at 6pm.
All are very welcome.
Please contact email@example.com for the links
Benefice Fun Day
The second Alde Sandlings Fun Day took place last Friday (27th) at Aldeburgh Parish Church. It was an absolute delight to see so many visitors and friends come to join us all. A HUGE THANK YOU to all those who contributed with the donations, baking, helping on the day, and of course the BBQ. The total monies collected on all the stalls was £1,186.08, giving a grand total of £2,061.72 for both weeks.
✟ Church of England and Diocese Online Worship ✟
There are many online services you can view from the
Church of England website
Church of England Facebook page
Church of England YouTube channel
St Edmundsbury Cathedral Facebook Page