From Bishop Martin – a response to Pastoral Guidance on Civil Partnerships

I have just returned from a two-day meeting of the Archbishops and Bishops of the Church of England to review the developments in the “Living in Love and Faith” project.  This project will produce resources that will help the Church to learn how questions about human identity, relationships, marriage and sexuality fit within the bigger picture of what it means to embody a Christian vision of living holy lives in love and faith in our culture.  It is seeking to find a way through our deep differences on these matters.

The meeting began and ended with expressions of great sorrow and distress about last week’s publication of “Pastoral Guidance on Civil Partnerships for same sex and opposite sex couples.”  As you may be very aware, this and the resulting comments have caused a great deal of hurt to many people, both within the church and in wider society.  An apology, signed by the Archbishops on behalf of the Bishops, is due to be issued on Friday.

Whilst this statement was generated when I was on sabbatical, I share in the corporate responsibility for its production. I am very sorry that it was published, and indeed produced in the first place, and for the deep personal pain and sense of rejection that so many have felt by its content and tone.

I and a number of my colleagues asked that the document be withdrawn, but this was decided against by the majority.  Whilst I accept it expresses the existing official position of the Church of England on the place of sexual activity in our lives, I cannot grasp why it needed to be stated now and in this way, particularly since we are currently in the process of questioning, learning and reflecting as part of the “Living in Love and Faith” project.

I recognise that some hold that the current teaching is exactly what we should be saying; others feel that we can say it, but in a way that suggests it is an aspiration; and still others want the Church’s teaching to more clearly reflect the ways in which sex is part of relationships that are not, or not yet, marriage.

Personally, I would hope that we can move away from this narrow focus on sexual activity towards encouraging relationships which embody and reflect God’s love for us, in which we support one another, and those who seek our help, whether single or in a faithful and committed relationships, to deepen lives in which we ever more truly know and show the fullness of God’s love for us all.

Advent and Christmas Trees

This weekend will sees the start of the Season of Advent, the days and weeks when we begin to think about all those people throughout history who prepared the way for the coming of Jesus, the Messiah, the baby in a manger, who would change the world forever.

It is also the weekend when many will begin to think about a Christmas Tree.    If you would like your Christmas tree to mean more this year, why not try this beautiful and thoughtful prayer idea?

Children love to help with decorating the tree. This idea is an easy way to let them
get involved, and helps them pray at the same time.

• Buy some pretty gift tags (sparkly stars work well) – or make some by cutting
up last year’s Christmas cards.

• Write on the plain side the names of people or situations that you want to pray

• Hang the gift tag prayers on your tree as a sparkly reminder – just as your
tree lights shine in the darkness, so your prayers are like a candle that lights
up the lives of those in need.

• Christmas is a particularly difficult time if you are sad, or ill, or lonely or
worried. Keep a few spare gift tags so you can add to your tree when you
think of others who need your prayers.

Tip: If you know someone needs your prayers, but it’s best if others don’t know
they’re in need, why not just write their initial on the tag, or draw a heart shape – God
will know you are thinking of them.

New – Children and Kid’s “Swap Shop”

As a way of helping families make their money go further, and to help reduce our environmental impact, we are delighted to introduce our very first Children and Tots Swap Shop.

On the first Wednesday in December (4th) we will be hosting a Swap Shop in St James’ Church in Nayland from 10am to Noon (alongside our well established Coffee, Cake and Conversation).

It is an ideal opportunity to bring along any clean, good quality clothing, toys’ or baby equipment that you no longer use and allow others to take them away and give them a second life. Hopefully you can also then find something larger or more age appropriate for your child(ren) to take away with you.

As it is happening in the first week of December, hopefully it will be a great chance to recycle last years Christmas Jumper or Party Dress which they have outgrown, without having to spend a fortune buying a new one this year.

This event is FREE (Donations Welcome) and EVERYONE is invited, so feel free to share.

As an added Bonus you can also enjoy some wonderful homemade cakes together with a nice cup of tea or coffee.

It is hoped that if this first Swap Shop is popular we will make it a regular monthly event.

Remembrance Services 2019

This year marks the 80th Anniversary of the beginning of World War Two, and we will commemorate this occasion with Services and Acts of Remembrance in each of our five parishes on Remembrance Sunday.

At all of these services we will remember everyone both military and civilian, who have been wounded either physically or mentally in wars and conflicts, but also those who made the ultimate sacrifice and gave their lives in the hope of a better world.

Join us at one of our services:

Sunday 10th November 2019
8am                     Stoke Church (Traditional Holy Communion)
10am                  Wiston Church (Parish Act of Remembrance)
10:45am           Nayland Church (Parish Remembrance Service – Starts at War Memorial)
10:45am           Polstead Church (Parish Remembrance Service)
10:45am           Stoke Church (Parish Remembrance Service)
10:45am           Leavenheath Church (Parish Remembrance Service)

Harvest – Saying Thank You for Food

Throughout September, churches in our benefice will all be having their Harvest Festival services.   At these services you are encouraged to bring food donations or toiletries to give to our local food banks.

Often there’ll be hymns and songs that say ‘thank you’ to God for all that he provides, every day.

These are some simple ways to say ‘thank you’ to God at home too:-

Say a ‘thank you’ prayer

A line in the Lord’s Prayer asks God to ‘Give us this day our daily bread’.  When we say that line, we’re asking God to provide the basic things in life that keep us healthy and happy. It can start with the food we need to eat each day, but for lots of different reasons, not everyone has enough.

So saying thank you for our food is important – we might thank the person who cooked it, and we might go back further and think of the people in the shops where we bought the ingredients, and even trace it right back to the farmers who grew the crops in the first place.

For children who are old enough, trying talking about this together one meal time, taking each item on the plate and thinking about where it came from and all the people and work that has gone into bringing it to your table.

Saying grace before a meal is a way of saying thank you to God for making the earth
and everything in it – all good things come from God, and it’s up to us to use them in
the very best and most generous way.

Try singing this grace:
One, two, three, four, five, thank you God that I’m alive.
Six, seven, eight, nine, ten, thank you God for food. Amen!

One of the most traditional graces goes like this:
“For what we are about to receive, may the Lord make us truly thankful
and keep us always mindful of the needs of others.”

Some families hold hands while they say grace – this reminds us that we are thankful not only for our food, but that we can share it with people we love, as in this prayer:
“Thank you God for food, and family, and friends. Amen.
“Thank you God for food, and family, and friends,
we remember those who have no food today,
and those who have food, but nobody to share it,
As you have blessed us, help us be a blessing for others. Amen.

Decorate a ‘grace’ table mat:

Take a piece of A4 paper, and in the middle draw round a medium sized plate to make a circle, then in that circle draw round a smaller plate. You should have something that looks a little bit like a plate. Then draw a fork outline on the left, and a knife outline on the right, and a spoon above – don’t worry about the quality of the artwork!

Now, have some fun decorating your plate with pictures of their favourite food – you can draw pictures yourself, or cut them out of magazines, or use pictures from food packets – and you can even label them if your child is old enough to start learning to read.

Somewhere on your paper, perhaps at the top or in a corner, write ‘Thank you God’ in big letters and colour it in – this is your thank-you place mat, a reminder of all the good things that God gives us.

Once you’ve finished decorating, you can either laminate your artwork, or slip it into one of those plastic folders and seal up the end with sticky tape.

Use your place mat at family meal times as a reminder of your thankfulness for all God’s blessings, and particularly for food.

This is such a fun activity, that you can create a new one every so often, with updated favourite foods, and perhaps even write a little ‘grace’ prayer of your own to go on it? Or simply include one of the prayers on this page.

Make food fun!
If your child is a bit of a fussy eater, you could try making their food more fun. Maybe arrange the veggies in the shape of a smiley face?

Merchant Navy Day 2019

Since 2000, Merchant Navy Day on 3rd September has honoured the brave men and women who kept our ‘island nation’ afloat during both World Wars, and celebrated our dependence on modern day merchant seafarers who are responsible for 95% of the UK’s imports, including half the food we eat, plenty of the fuel we burn and virtually all the products and goods we take for granted!

This year the Red Ensign will be flown at Stoke, Nayland and Polstead.

For more information about Merchant Navy Day, visit

Best wishes to all our year 6 pupils

Yesterday, Revd Mark was able to welcome the parents, staff and students from Nayland Community Primary School into St James’ church in Nayland for their annual “Celebration of Learning” and to help them wish all the year six pupils who are moving on to secondary schools every success.

This morning it was the turn of Stoke by Nayland C of E Primary School to have their leavers service, to celebrate all that had happened in the last year, to present awards and to celebrate success.    We also had the chance to see and share memories of our year six pupils from Oak Class as they begin their transition to High School, and the church presented each child who was leaving their own bible to help their continue their spiritual journey, whilst the school gave each leaver an atlas to help them discover the wonderful world that awaits them.

This morning was also poignant, as after 28 years as both a teacher and more recently as Head Teacher in Stoke Primary, we said are goodbyes to Jane Le Grice who is retiring today.   Jane presented each class a small wooden cross for their prayer area, and a larger wooden cross for the school hall;  in turn Revd Mark presented Jane with a Bible on behalf of the Benefice  in recognition of the part that she has played in nurturing the spiritual life of those children in her care.

Nayland Fete 2019 – A Massive THANK YOU!

Thank you to everyone who joined us for our Annual Church Fete at Nayland Village Hall.

There was a wonderful community atmosphere as people from across the village (and further afield) enjoyed the side stalls, children’s and adults fun races, the Beer and Pimms Tents, the wonderful local sausages and burgers, the music and so much more.

All of this couldn’t have happened with a lot of hard work from a fantastic committee and team of volunteers, as well as the financial support of our local business sponsors.

All the profits from the event will be used to maintain and enhance the physical building of St James Church, to preserve it for future generations of villagers, as well as helping us to develop it into a valuable community space, as well as an important and much valued place of worship.

Nayland Church Fete 2019

This coming Bank Holiday Monday (27th May) sees the return of our Annual Nayland Church Fete on the Recreation Ground behind the Village Hall (CO6 4JH) .

There is so much going on this year that we have extended the opening times from 1pm to 4pm just so that you have the chance to see and do everything!

In addition to the Classic Car Display, the £150 Top Prize Raffle, the ever popular Children’s and Adult’s Sports and Tug-O-War,  NEW THIS YEAR we are introducing  “Have a Go Archery” with White Dragon Archery, that is on top of all of the stalls listed below!

Glass and China
Kitchen and Picnic
Pictures & Soft Furnishings
Bric a Brac
Jewellery & Handbags
Good Condition Ladies Clothes
Garden Tools/DIY
Bottle Tombola
China Smash

Cakes and biscuits
Ice Creams
Strawberries and Cream Teas
Hot Dogs & Burgers
Beer Tent
Pimms Tent

Last year over £14,000 was raised again which was used towards the improvements to St James’ Church, providing a new servery and accessible bathroom.  More work is planned in the coming years to make the church an accessible asset for the whole community.

Adults – £3
Concessions – £2
Children – Free

Ample Free Parking (follow local signs)

We look forward to seeing you all there – but thank you in advance to everyone, visitors, sponsors, volunteers who make this event happen.