Food, Glorious Food – Community Events

They say that an army marches on its stomach – that may or may not be the case, but one thing is certain that our parishes probably do, many of our social activities all centre around food, whether it is fish and chips at a quiz night, coffee and walnut cake at a coffee morning or a giant spread at a harvest bring and share lunch or supper, its is always more fun with food.

We are grateful to a loyal team of volunteers who love to see that no one goes hungry or is lonely and run regular events throughout the year, these are open to anyone who would like to attend, and transport may also be available, please ask:   See below for our upcoming events:

Men’s Breakfast
Venue:  The Hare & Hounds, Harrow Street, Leavenheath, CO6 4PW
Saturday 17th March at 8.45am
A time of fellowship, prayer, a couple of hymns and a full cooked breakfast!
Contact Paul 01206 531224 or

Community Lunch
Venue: Leavenheath Village Hall,  Wrights Way, Leavenheath, CO6 4NR
Tuesday 13th March at 1pm
Tuesday 22nd May at 1pm
Tuesday 24th July at 1pm
Tuesday September 11th at 1pm
Tuesday 27th November at 1pm  (Special Christmas Lunch)
Join with members of the community for a delicious home cooked lunch
Contact Linda on 01206 531224 or

Community Tea
Venue: Leavenheath Village Hall,  Wrights Way, Leavenheath, CO6 4NR
Tuesday 27th February at 2.30pm
Tuesday 24th April at 2.30pm
Tuesday 26th June at 2.30pm
Tuesday 23rd October at 2.30pm
Join with members of the community for a lovely Afternoon Tea
Contact Linda on 01206 531224 or

Coffee Mornings
Venue:  St James’ Vicarage, Bear Street, Nayland, CO6 4LA
Wednesday 14th February at 9.30am
Wednesday 21st February at 9.30am
Wednesday 28th February at 9.30am
Wednesday 7th March at 9.30am
Join with the Vicar and members of the community for an informal coffee (or tea) and friendly conversation.
Contact Revd Mark on 01206 262150 or

Wednesday Welcome
Venue:  St Mary’s Church, Church Street, Stoke-by-Nayland, CO6 4QU
Wednesday 7th March at 10am
Wednesday 4th April at 10am
Wednesday 2nd May at 10am
Wednesday 6th June at 10am
Join us in Church for lively discussion, coffee and cake.
Contact Adam Sedgwick on 01206 262437 or

All are very welcome. 

Why not take the opportunity to invite that neighbour or friend you’ve been thinking of?


Countdown to Easter

Pancake Day, Lent and Holy Week are all part of the journey to Easter Day, the biggest Christian celebration of the year.

It is a time when lots of people make time to think carefully about their life. For Christians, this means trying to live God’s way and remembering all that Jesus did.

Why we have Pancake Day
Pancake Day is also called Shrove Tuesday and is one last chance for a big party before Lent begins with Ash Wednesday the next day.

Long ago, Christians traditionally used up all the eggs and fat they had in store by making pancakes and feasting on them. This was because when Lent came, they would eat less food, or even fast (do without food sometimes) to help them focus on God and not on the things they wanted. This tradition has been passed down the generations.

Shrove Tuesday always falls 47 days before Easter, a date which changes every year. This year, we’ll be eating our pancakes on 13th February, before Lent begins on 14th February.   With eggs, flour, milk and butter, anyone can join in with Pancake Day.

Why is Lent important?
Lent is a time of getting ready for Easter.

When Jesus was just getting started with his work, he went into the desert for 40 days to be all alone with God. He even went without food and prayed, and was tempted away from what God wanted him to do in all kinds of ways, but he resisted that temptation. You can read that story here in the Bible: Matthew 4:1-11.

During Lent, Christians often do something different too, like praying every day or reading the Bible. This reminds us of Jesus’ time in the desert to focus just on God and feel closer to him. The good news is that Sundays are still celebration days – so you can take a break from fasting! The last week of Lent is called Holy Week – during this time, the church remembers Jesus’ death on a cross.

Even young children can take part in Lent. For example giving up a sweet treat every day might remind children that we can live more simply.

Our churches in Lent
Churches may look quite different during Lent. You might notice the colour purple, or there may be very few decorations or flowers. This is because it’s a time to concentrate on God and remember how Jesus gave up his life on a cross to save all of us.

Because Lent is a time to reflect, church music and songs will tend to be more reflective and services won’t ever include the word ‘Alleluia’ – a very joyful word to express praise for God.

It’s a big contrast when Easter Day arrives, when the colourful decorations come out, there’s lots of celebration, ‘Alleuias’ and joyful music! – We even have a special Easter Celebration Service in our biggest church in Stoke-By-Nayland with extra special refreshments and an Easter Egg Hunt for the children afterwards!

Why not go along to a church service in Lent and play a game of spot-the-difference – how is it different to other services you have been to? Then go at Easter and play again! Talk about how each service feels and why they have these different moods.

Come and join us at our Lent and Easter church services, details of which can be found by clicking here



Article taken from with permission.

Be heart-ready this Lent

This year there is a very special day on February 14th. It’s special because it is
Valentine’s Day – and millions of cards and gifts will be shared. But it’s special in the
church because it is Ash Wednesday – and that marks the beginning of the 6 weeks
called Lent.

Lent is the time when Christians take time to try and live God’s way, the way that
Jesus showed us. At the end of Lent comes Good Friday, when we remember the
big love of God on the cross where Jesus died. Then comes Easter day, when we
celebrate that love brings life and joy to the world.

Valentine’s Day is about love – and so is Lent. There are three things that we can
do with the big love that is at the heart of Lent and Valentine’s Day:-

  • Big love says thank you: Valentine’s Day helps us to tell people we love
    them. Sometimes that is people who know – and sometimes it is a surprise to people who don’t know! It can be about romantic love between couples – but this Valentine’s Day why not say thank you for other kinds of love as well? A special card for a grandparent or a child, a chocolate heart left on the desk of a teacher or colleague. All these remind us to say thank you for love.
  • Big love gives up: Lent is traditionally a time when Christians try to live
    carefully, and follow the example of Jesus more closely. This often means
    giving up things for a season; things like chocolate or crisps, social media or
    TV watching. Love often means giving up something for other people – being unselfish and generous, thoughtful and kind. As a family, you could decide to give up something for Lent and every time you go to do that thing, instead take a second to pray for God’s love to be known in the world.
  • Big love takes up: Lent is also a time when Christians decide to take up new ways of living, perhaps giving more away, praying more, reading the Bible more. Sometimes it means doing something that takes a bit of extra time or effort. Love goes the extra mile for other people, taking time to listen, to do new things together and to make a difference to the world. As a family, you could decide to take up something for Lent – doing something together that shares God’s love with others. Check out live Lent for ideas on how to start doing something new.

A prayer for Valentine’s/Lent:
Make a heart shape with your hands (or hold a simple heart shape).
“Dear God – thank you for all the love in our lives and in the world. Help us to share
that love with other people each and every day.”

Hold both hands out, palms up
“Dear God, give us courage to let go of things this Lent. Help us to discover more
about following Jesus and sharing his love in the world.“

Make a cross shape with your hands (or hold a simple cross).
“Dear God, as we think about your big love for us this Lent, help us to take up new
ways of living. Help us to live generously and make a difference to others.

Lent Course 2018 – The Long Road to Heaven

Join the Revd Mark Woodrow as we explore the Christian understanding of Salvation in a five-part Lent Course based on the film The Way.

Starring Martin Sheen as a bereaved father, this soulful and uplifting film observes a group of pilgrims walking the Way of St James to Santiago de Compostela.  As it follows their journey of inner transformation, we examine the Biblical accounts and images of salvation – past, present and future – and address the questions:  What are we saved from? What are we saved for? Who can be saved? What do we have to do to be saved? How are we saved?

The informal sessions will take place from 9.30am to 11.30am (with time for coffee and prayer) at St James’ Vicarage, Bear Street, Nayland CO6 4LA on 16th & 23rd February, 2nd, 9th & 16th March.

It would be helpful if you could let The Revd Mark know if you were intending to join him (01206 262150 or     You may wish to purchase a copy of the accompanying book ISBN 978-1-78279-274-1

Seven and a Half Churches: The Legacy of St Thomas in South India

When 16th century European priests arrived in southern India to introduce Christianity, they were told that a more famed Christian missionary had been there many years beforehand.
As they travelled in and around the regions of Travancore and Cochin, the priests found that there were indeed a long-established community of Christians, and the man who first converted them was none other than St. Thomas the Apostle (the “Doubting Thomas”), who it was said, arrived in India aboard a Roman trading vessel in 52 AD.
Now, whether St. Thomas himself actually preached under the palm trees of Travancore and Cochin more than 1900 years ago, in the end come down to an act of faith. One thing is certain though and that is that Indian Christian traditions predate any in Europe, and for the more than 2 million Christians in the region there is no doubt.

Indian Child at prayer

However, just like St. Thomas, it is easier to believe when you can see and touch things for yourself, and so to trace these historic roots and traditions for yourself I am inviting you to join me in discovering these in depth first-hand on a comprehensive trip next year from Monday 17th September 2018 to Thursday 4th October 2018.

Together, we will explore these unusual stories, the “seven and a half” churches founded by Thomas, and the Christian traditions of south India. Our journey will take us along the south west Malabar coastline, through the backwaters of Kerala to the very southern tip of the subcontinent, before travelling on to the Coromandel coast in the east, where, tradition tells us that St. Thomas met his end at the hands of an angry king on a hilltop just outside modern-day Chennai (Madras).

Southern Tip of India (Kanyakumari)

Along the way we will visit a modern-day legacy of St Thomas’ Christian influence, as we visit the Donhavur Fellowship, a community founded by the late Anglican missionary and spiritual writer Amy Carmichael.

Simple church at Dohnavur Fellowship

As well as experiencing and participating in the Christian traditions; we will also take the opportunity to visit the magnificent Hindu temples in Madurai and the UNESCO World Heritage sites in Mahabalipuram – all with plenty of time to relax, shop for gifts or handmade clothes, eat well and to enjoy all that India has to offer.

Revd Mark being ‘blessed’ by an Elephant in Madurai

This tour really does offer something for all, whether you have travelled to South India before, or a new to the region or country, this tour will enable you to meet the real people and explore those places overlooked by tourists – allowing you to become a pilgrim instead and to follow in paths once trodden by saints.

I very much look forward to travelling with you.

The Revd Mark Woodrow

For more information or to book your place:

Seven and a Half Churches, September 2018

Christmas Tree Prayers

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.

Carols at bedtime

Christmas is great time of year to learn songs – many have been passed down the
generations for hundreds of years. And singing together is also lovely way to praise
God, whether at home or in church. Try these well-known songs with your child.

As Christmas draws near, why not include a verse or two of Away in a Manger in
your child’s bedtime routine?

Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,
the little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head;
the stars in the bright sky looked down where he lay,
the little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.

The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes,
but little Lord Jesus no crying he makes.
I love thee, Lord Jesus, look down from the sky,
and stay by my side until morning is nigh.

Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask thee to stay
close by me for ever, and love me, I pray.
Bless all the dear children in thy tender care,
and fit us for heaven to live with thee there.

When it’s dark, you might enjoy singing just the chorus of This little light of mine.

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine,
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine,
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine,
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

A really simple song that you could use in night time prayers goes to the tune of
Frere Jacques:

Light a candle, light a candle,
God is here, God is here.
Bless our friends and family,
Bless our friends and family,
Far and near, far and near.

Safety first:  Small children love to watch a candle flame, but you must never leave
a lit candle unattended or within a child’s reach – you might prefer to use a battery
powered candle for night prayers.

For more information about our Christmas Services – Click Here

Remembrance Services 2017

This week we remember all those, both military and civilian, who were wounded or have given their lives in the hope of a better world.

Join us at one of our services:

Saturday 11th November 2017
10:45am      Nayland War Memorial

Sunday 12th November 2017
9:30am        Leavenheath Church
10am            Wiston Church
10:45am     Nayland Church
10:45am     Stoke Church (incorporating Polstead)

“family@polstead” our benefice family service continues

Across the benefice we have a wide range of service styles, and now to complement our existing monthly “Messy Church” for families with children we are delighted to have introduced “family@polstead” a service for the young (or young at heart!) held in St Mary’s Church, Polstead.

Everyone is welcome to this short service (about 35-40 minutes) which is then followed by refreshments.     Car Parking and Toilets Facilities are available.

Why not come along for our next one on Sunday 19th November 2017 at 10am.

Share a little light this Halloween

Some parents aren’t sure quite what to feel about Hallowe’en – is it just harmless fun, or are there aspects of it that don’t fit in with how we want to see the world? A child’s christening service is very honest about the reality of good and evil, and Hallowe’en can be a good time to talk about those things and how the love of Jesus can be a ‘light in the darkness’ for everyone.

The word “hallowe’en” actually means “the eve of all hallows’ day” – in other words, the night before the church’s festival celebrating All Saints.  A Saint is sometimes thought to be an exceptionally holy person – someone really special, who did extraordinary things because of their faith in God.

The famous saints are all amazing examples of what it’s like to live God’s way. But in the Bible, St Paul calls all Christians saints – a saint is simply a friend of God, who seeks to live their life according to God’s purposes. When someone is christened, they truly become a Saint, so All Saints’ day is a celebration of the whole family of God.

If you’d like to mark Hallowe’en, these are some ideas that will bless others as well as being fun too.

What’s happening in church?
In St Mary’s Church, Stoke-by-Nayland on Sunday 5th November at 4pm we have a special service for All Souls day – a time when we remember our loved ones who have died. There will be an opportunity to go and light a candle to remember someone – even small children grieve in their own way, and may find comfort in this simple action.
Why not join us, or simply pop into your closest church (all of the churches in our benefice are open during the day), and say a prayer or light a candle.

Carve a pumpkin
Did you know that gargoyles (the scary looking faces carved in stone on churches) were originally made in medieval times to scare away evil spirits? The pumpkins with scary faces carved into them at Halloween are a bit like that. But nowadays most  people believe that you can’t fight evil with evil – you can only fight evil by doing good, and that good will always win in the end.

So why not see if you can carve a friendly looking pumpkin this Halloween, as a sign  that you and your family are going to be a force for good this Halloween? (And you can always use the offcuts from your pumpkin to make delicious soup!)

You can do the same with Halloween costumes: superheroes make a great, positive  alternative to scary witches and ghosts.

Give a treat
Not everyone is comfortable with the idea of children going round to neighbours’ and
just asking for treats (although Revd Mark at the Vicarage in Nayland will have sweets available for any callers!)     But if you don’t want them to miss out on something their  friends are doing, why not have a family baking session, and take a tray of biscuits
with you if you go out with them? Even little children can help stick a smiley face on
an iced biscuit. That way, you have something lovely to give away to your neighbours, too!

Safety first
Many children’s fancy dress costumes are highly flammable. Please, don’t ever use real candles around your front door or in your pumpkins – use the small battery powered candles instead. If you can afford to buy a multi-pack of these electric candles, you could lend them to your friends and neighbours.

Something to watch
A great video that reminds us about the real meaning of Halloween.

Say a goodnight prayer
Even if you’ve steered clear of scary costumes, and even if your child has loved the  evening, it can be reassuring to have a goodnight prayer that reminds them that love,
and light, and good, are always going to be stronger than fear and evil.

The ancient service of Compline (Night Prayer) has been used as this reminder for centuries, and many of its prayers are still well known today:

“Visit this place, O Lord, we pray
and drive far from it all snares of the enemy;
let your holy angels dwell with us
to preserve us in peace;
and let your blessing be upon us always
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Or, in a simpler children’s version:

“Be with us, Lord,
and take away all fear,
may your angels protect us
and give us peace.
And bless us always.  Amen.”

You can use these lovely prayers any time when you need a reminder that God is with you – especially at the end of a difficult day, or when something sad has happened, or when your family is worried about something.