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.

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.

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.

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 http://www.churchofenglandchristenings.org with permission.

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 revdmarkwoodrow@gmail.com).     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: http://www.soulofindia.com/seven-and-a-half-churches/

Seven and a Half Churches, September 2018

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)

Rogation Day 2017

Yesterday (Sunday 21st May) the weather held fine and after a service of Holy Communion the benefice headed out in cars and shooting trailer to ‘Beat the Bounds’ of Wiston and Nayland and to bless the crops and our community as we went.

Finally we returned back to St Mary’s, Wiston, where the sun continued to shine as we shared a picnic lunch in the churchyard.

Thank you to everyone who made the day possible.  Thanks also to Jacqui Smith, and Antonia, Stephen and Joe Rowland for the photographs.

Church Warden Retires after 44 Years

After 44 years of caring for the 12th Century Church of St Mary in Wissington (Wiston), Gerald Knox has decided it is time to ‘pass on his stave of office’ to the next generation.

TGerald Knox Retiremento mark this amazing achievement, The Revd Mark Woodrow, Priest in Charge, presented Gerald with a special Long Service Award on behalf of the Diocesan Bishop, The Rt Revd Martin Seeley, in recognition of his dedication and loyalty.

The Bishop also agreed that Gerald, should be granted the honorary title of Warden Emeritus.

Gerald isn’t retiring completely from church life, he has agreed to remain as treasurer – a position he has faithfully fulfilled for a mere 30 years!

“Well done thou good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23)


In dulci jubilo (in sweet rejoicing) at Wiston Church

Marenzio Singers at Wiston Church

Marenzio Singers at Wiston Church

Last night in a packed Wiston Church,  we were entertained to a delightful selection of seasonal music, both sacred and secular,  from across the centuries by the wonderful Marenzio Singers.

The evening was organised by the Friends of Wiston Church (Registered Charity No. 1158565) .

Thank you to all who attended, those who prepared refreshements, and of course the Marenzio Singers themselves.