Shrinking the Footprint – Becoming an Eco Church

 The Church of England’s national environmental programme exists to enable the whole Church to address – in faith, practice and mission – the issue of climate change.    The Church is committed to a carbon reduction target of 80% by 2050, with an interim target of 42% by 2020.

“Responding to climate change is an essential part of our responsibility to safeguard God’s creation. Meanwhile, to love our neighbour – particularly, in this case, our neighbour whom we may never meet but who lives daily with the profound threat posed by this moral crisis – is at the core of what it is to follow Jesus Christ.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby

As part of our own local commitment to using our churches to promote a more sustainable future for all, we are beginning to look closer on what we and congregations can do to make a positive difference in our day to day lives, e.g. switching our electricity to ‘Green’ and Renewable Tariffs, reducing our dependency on plastic and harmful chemicals, encouraging bio-diversity in our churchyards and when possible to share transport and encourage those who are able to walk or cycle to church.

Even small changes, replicated across our parishes, benefice, diocese and beyond can have a large cumulative effect and we would love for everyone to be involved.

For ideas and the latest environmental news download the latest e-news here

Do keep an eye out for more information and activities from our own benefice, especially as we are also aiming to achieve an “Eco Church” award (initially at Bronze or Silver but ultimately at Gold level) for all five of our churches in the benefice over the coming months.   Please do get in touch if you would like to be involved.


Children’s Summer Holiday Club Plans Announced

In an exciting new project to offer even more for those families in the Benefice, and to build upon our successful Messy Church and family@polstead Service, and Kidz Club at Stoke-by-Nayland CofE Primary School, we are pleased to announce that from the 13th to 17th August 2018 we will be inviting Primary School Age Children to become “Guardians of Ancora” during our FREE week long Summer Holiday Club.

Once, the Hall of Memory in the city of Ancora was filled with wonderful story-treasures, each a reminder of one of the great stories of the Saga.   Now, many of those objects have been lost.   Each day of the club, the task of the Guardians will be to find a lost story-treasure, return it to the Hall of Memory and explore the story that it represents.  As the Hall fills up, the Guardians will discover how each story fits together to reveal more about who Jesus is and how they might develop their own relationship with him.

For more information please contact The Revd Mark Woodrow (01206 262150) or use the form below.


Want to get a sneak peak of what the Guardians of Ancora get up to?

Spring Fair & Church Fete – Thank You

What a difference it makes when the Bank Holiday weather is not only dry but fantastically warm!

The good weather certainly brought out the crowds in the morning for Stoke by Nayland’s bi-annual Spring Fair, where people enjoyed climbing St Mary’s tower to admire the views, watch the kites being flown, purchased, ice creams, beer and crafts, as well as watching a wonderful demonstration of May Pole Dancing by the pupils of Stoke by Nayland Church of England Primary School…. even the vicar joined in!

Then in the afternoon, many went down the hill to join in all the traditional fun and games at Nayland Church Fete.   The children (and a few adults) got into the swing of things with the sack race, egg and spoon race, three legged races, and the fiercely fought sprints – followed with more ice creams (and for the adults at least a chance to drink the Pimms tent dry not once but twice!)

In what seems to be turning into an annual occurrence The Revd Mark Woodrow once again volunteered to have wet sponges thrown at him (although we suspect that this might have just been a ploy to cool down!)

All in all it was the most wonderful day, raising much needed funds for St Mary’s Church in Stoke-by-Nayland, St James’ Church in Nayland and St Mary’s Church in Wissington.

Can we say a massive thank you to all the Committee members and Volunteers who made both events such a success, and for all of our Parishioners, Visitors and Friends for once again supporting these events.

Trinity Sunday and Gorgeous Green

This coming Sunday is known as Trinity Sunday, as special day in the churches year when we learn all about God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

We are celebrating this at a special Choral Evensong on Sunday 27th May at 5pm in Stoke-by-Nayland, where Bishop Martin, together with the Serendipity Choir will lead a service which will include the Commissioning and Re-Commissioning of our benefice’s Lay Elders – and just like any good celebration there will also be some refreshments served afterwards – do please come along and join us.

O@@@ne of the joys of summer is the explosion of green everywhere, even in cities. Dark green trees, soft green grass for picnics, tender green leaves that get darker through the summer.

Next time you’re out and about as a family, see how many different green things you
can count, and maybe even collect a few things to take home and press inside a
heavy book.  Pressed leaves and flowers can make beautiful pictures. You can even use them to create home-made cards for birthdays and other celebrations.

Summer is a wonderful time for planting too. Try planting seeds or bulbs with your
child to see how they can grow when they’re fed and watered. Amaryllis bulbs grow
fast and have beautiful big flowers, which children will love. If you want to grow
something to eat, why not try rocket, which can be harvested as soon as four weeks
after planting?

If you go into our churches you will see that they feature a lot of green fabric over the summer. During this time, Christians just get on with growing in our life with God, like the plants are doing. And like the plants, to grow, we need feeding spiritually. Praying is a great way to feed our growing faith.

Long summer days and nights can be a good time for prayers. Start with something
as simple as saying thank you to God for something you’re really grateful for, or
asking for God’s peace at bedtime each night.

These are three examples of simple prayers you could try:

Saying Thank You:
God the Father, who made us, we thank you.
God the Son, who saved us, we thank you.
God the Spirit, who holds us in love, we thank you.
God, who is everywhere, thank you for being you.

God, who is like a mother hen watching over her chicks,
Keep me under your warm wings as I sleep.
Send me good dreams.
And help me wake up ready for another day.

Prayer for God’s help:
Father God, sometimes I am scared.
Sometimes I am worried.
Sometimes I need help.
Sometimes people I love have problems.
Please be with me and help me,
Like shepherds caring for sheep.

Pentecost & Revd Val’s Retirement

This Sunday (20th May) is Pentecost Sunday, the Great Fifty Days of Easter-tide reaches its conclusion with the Feast of Pentecost.   It is the day when the church celebrates the arrival of the promised Holy Spirit.

Pentecost is regarded as the birthday of the Christian Church, and marks the start of the church’s mission to the world, and like any birthday it is a time for great celebrations, with the church liturgical colour changing from the white and gold of Easter, to Red to symbolise the flames in which the Holy Spirit came to earth.

It also marks the day when The Revd Val Armstrong officially retires as an Associate Priest for Stoke, Polstead, Leavenheath, Nayland and Wiston.

To celebrate her ministry and service to our community there will be a special family@church service at 10am in Polstead Church where everyone is invited (you might even like to wear something red for Pentecost!)

The service will be followed by an early Bring and Share Lunch (or elevenses!)

Godparents’ Sunday 2018

The Church of England celebrates the role of godparents everywhere on a special
Sunday in the Spring. This year it is on Sunday 6th May 2018.

This year in our benefice we are celebrating Godparents’ Sunday during our 10am Service in Polstead Church and we think this will be a wonderful way to get together with your godparent or godchild.

If you can’t make that service, here are some ideas to celebrate the special relationship of godparents at home:

  • Together with your child, make cards for their godparents. It could be a simple ‘thank you’ card, or you can include a prayer (even something as simple as ‘Loving God, bless my godmother/godfather today’), or include a special memory your child has of time with each godparent. You could stick in a photo, or your child could draw their memory.
  • Ask your child’s godparents to show them photos of the christening day and talk about how special it was for them. They can light your child’s christening candle together and read a Bible story or say a prayer. (This can be done on the
    anniversary of the christening too.) This prayer may be suitable for a child:
    Dear God,
    Thank you for my godparents.
    Look after them and bless them.
    Help me to be kind and loving to them,
    And help us together to know more of You.
  •  Try this soft toy prayer idea: make sure your godparents have a soft toy and that your child has a similar soft toy. Whether you can be together or not, pick a time of day, perhaps just before bedtime. Tell the godparents and godchildren that as they hold the toy at the same time, they will be thinking and praying for each other right then.

You don’t have to wait until Godparents’ Sunday to do something special.

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The First Easter

Easter is the biggest celebration of all in our churches… yes, bigger even than Christmas!

Discover together with your child what happened on the very first Easter using this easy-to-read summary of the story that’s right at the heart of the Christian faith, and then why not join us on Easter Sunday Morning in St Mary’s Church in Stoke by Nayland for a very special Easter Celebration (find out more here)


There are so many symbols of new life in the shops at Easter, like eggs, chicks and spring flowers. The very first Easter story is about new life – despair turning into joy, an amazing miracle and the extravagant love of God for all of us. Here’s what happened…

A special meal
Jesus gathered his friends around him for a special meal, and during the meal he tried to help them understand what was going to happen to him.

He took some bread, and broke it, and gave it to them, saying ‘This is my body’. Then he poured some wine and shared it with them, saying ‘This is my blood’. He knew he was going to die, and he wanted his friends to understand.

Then he took a towel and started to wash their feet, to show them that if he, their teacher, could wash their feet, then they should also learn to do kind and humble things for one another. He was showing them that a leader can also be a servant.

After supper, they went to a beautiful, quiet garden so that Jesus could pray about what was going to happen. He really needed his friends that night, but they kept falling asleep. He had never felt so alone.

Late at night, one of Jesus’ friends, Judas, came to the garden, bringing with him soldiers from the temple to arrest Jesus – it was dark, so he told the soldiers he would show them which one was Jesus by kissing him. We don’t know why Judas did it, but he wasn’t the only one who betrayed Jesus that night. When the soldiers arrived, all Jesus’ friends ran away, and then later, his best friend Peter was so afraid, he wouldn’t even admit to knowing Jesus.

On trial
Jesus was put on trial – all night they questioned him. Early in the morning they sent him to Pontius Pilate, the Roman Governor, and asked him to kill Jesus for them – they said that Jesus was claiming to be a King, a rival to the Roman Emperor.

The Romans often crucified people – they knew it made everyone afraid of them. So when the crowds asked for Jesus to be crucified, Pilate eventually agreed. He didn’t really care whether Jesus was a criminal or not.

So Jesus was beaten, and given a crown made of thorns – the soldiers were mocking him as ‘King of the Jews’. Then they took him away and crucified him – they nailed him to a large wooden cross, and hung him there in the blazing hot sun, along with two criminals.

Gradually some of Jesus’ friends came back: John stood by Jesus’ mother Mary, and Jesus asked them to care for each other after he was gone.

Finally, there came a moment when the sky went dark, and Jesus took his last breath. Jesus’ friends buried him and rolled a large stone against the tomb entrance, and the soldiers stayed to guard it (they didn’t want anyone to steal the body and pretend that Jesus had come back to life).

The next day was the Sabbath – the holy day – and on that day Jesus’ body lay silent and cold in the tomb.


Tomb stone rolled away

Early on the first day of the week, when it was still dark, some friends of Jesus (both called Mary) went to the tomb with spices and herbs, so that they could care for Jesus’ body.

They had wondered how they would move the stone away, but they arrived to find the tomb open, and an angel who told them that Jesus was alive – well, they were not sure what to think! One of them went back to the city, but the other stayed in the garden.

She was crying, and it was still dark, so when saw someone standing near her she thought it must be the gardener. Maybe he had moved the stone and taken Jesus’ body?

He’s alive!
Then the man said to her, ‘Mary’ and she recognised his voice. It was Jesus, and he really was alive! He said to her, ‘Go and tell my friends what you have seen,’ and she did – she ran all the way back to where Jesus’ friends were staying and said to them, ‘I have seen the Lord, and he is alive!’

They didn’t know what to think either, but over the next hours and days, they all saw Jesus – he came to them in the house, he met some of them on a journey, and then visited them again while they were fishing, and cooked them breakfast! There was no doubt about it, Jesus was alive, and they began to tell everyone the good news.

2 donkeys, a procession and a baptism

2 donkeys, a procession and a baptism – it could almost be the title for the next Richard Curtis hit film, but instead over 120 people gathered for a special Palm Sunday service at St James’ Church in Nayland, where we remembered Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, before going outside and re-enacting it!

Revd Mark introduces himself to Cilla and Poppy the donkeys

Cilla and Poppy rewarded with carrots by some of the children

The Palm Sunday service was followed by another special occasion, as Ellis Willmott was baptised, with the help of his brother Harrison.

We now look forward to Holy Week, including our very special Easter Celebration Service in Stoke-by-Nayland at 10am on Easter Sunday.

Marking Good Friday

There are many traditions around Easter which have survived through generations. The Friday before Easter Sunday, Good Friday, is marked by remembering the cross of Jesus. Help young ones know that before the Easter eggs, Christians mark this day in special ways too.

Children look forward to hot cross buns, Easter eggs, chicks and making bonnets around Easter. Good Friday is more than a Bank Holiday – in churches it’s a very special time to remember that Jesus died on a cross to save the whole world. Here are some traditional and new ways to tell children that Good Friday is all about the cross.

Hot Cross Buns
Though many places sell them all year round, hot cross buns are traditionally eaten on Good Friday. The cross on the top is a reminder of the cross on which Jesus died, and the spices are a reminder of the spices used in his burial.

There are lots of great recipes online, such as this one.

Last year, Churches in Devon had a great idea for some prayers to say while baking hot cross buns, and for sharing them afterwards – click here to find out what they did…

Find a crossCross plane trail
ICross window framef you go to Church on Good Friday (and we have services in both Nayland and Leavenheath) look round the church building and see how many crosses you can find.

Even if you’re not in church, learn to spot crosses everywhere: window frames, aeroplane trails…

Cross jewelleryMany people wear a cross as jewellery, some people carry a small cross in their pocket or bag. At a christening the Priest will draw the sign of the cross on the child’s forehead – the cross is a sign of belonging to God, and of the love that God has for us.

One of the most famous bible verses says, “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son…” (John chapter 3 verse 16). New parents probably understand this sort of love better than anyone: the love that means you would do anything and everything for the sake of your child. We can pray “Our Father”, because God loves us like that – Jesus’ death on the cross was God being willing to do anything and everything for our sake, because he loves us.

Make an Easter Garden

Easter gardenThis can be anything from a simple plant pot ‘garden’ to something much more ambitious. Usually an Easter garden includes a hill with three crosses on it, and a cave-tomb (usually a smaller plant pot) with a stone against it. Some gardens also add a path made of gravel, and spring flowers such as primroses. Here is a nice easy-to-make natural version, using moss for grass, twigs for the crosses, and a small plant pot for the cave.

You can even make an Easter Garden picture instead if you don’t have the materials to make a 3D one from natural objects – try cutting the pictures out of the seed catalogues that are often delivered free from local garden centres.

When you make the garden, put the stone in front of the cave. On Easter Sunday, roll the stone to one side (or peel it off if you made a picture) to help tell the Easter story.

Mothering Sunday

There is lots going on in our Benefice throughout Lent and in the run up to Easter.  On the 11th March our services will remember both our ‘Mother Church’ and our own mothers.   Some churches may also have a time in the service when children give flowers to their mothers, or to those who have played a mother’s role in their life.

If you’re preparing for Mother’s Day at home, it can be a good time to help children
learn about God’s love for them too, which is also like a mother’s love. Here are some
things to do together as you think about that love:

• Make a few pom pom chicks, you can even save them for Easter Day as a table decoration: see:

•Ask your child who the chicks’ mummy is. If you like, you can talk about how they are
born from an egg.

•Talk about how a hen protects her little chicks by hiding them under her wings. She feeds them and holds them close to her to keep them warm and safe.

•Think about how God’s love is like this. We are like God’s little chicks and God wants to keep us safe too, just like the hen.

•Why not play at being hens and chicks together, spreading out arms and gathering
underneath them?

•At home, you can also read one of the Bible stories that has a mother’s love at its centre – for example, the story of Moses.

A mother’s love is so special it’s worth celebrating, but some people may find Mother’s
Day difficult for lots of different reasons. Some people may not have a mother who they see any more. She may have died, or they just never knew her. Some parents find
Mother’s Day sad because they have lost a child and still grieve.

As well as celebrating the love of mothers, a church will always remember that Mother’s Day can be difficult as well, and will often say prayers or provide a place to light a candle during the service. The vicar can even offer a confidential listening ear and prayer at this time, if that is something you would like.

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