Monday, December 26, 2011

Open Door

Some people have suggested that it would be helpful if it were possible to have a time when they could come to talk with me without having to phone first or make an appointment. Starting in the New Year, I will be available once a month in the Benefice Hall next to Wickhambrook church for anyone who would like to discuss anything with me - it might be a question about the faith; something to do with Church life; a personal or family difficulty - anything really, it's up to you. I thought we could trial this for, say, six months, usually on the last Saturday of the month from 10.00am until 11.00am, or later if needed. Please feel free to come along or let me know if you think some other arrangement would be better. The first "Open Door" will be on Saturday 28th January at 10.00am at the Benefice Hall.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Toys for under privileged children in Bury Social Services care

At the Toy service at Wickhambrook this morning we received, and
Father Stephen, blessed 25 presents for under privileged children in
Bury Social Services care.

Stephen will be taking your presents to Bury Social services this week.

A very big thank you to all who donated. But the biggest thank you
will be from the children who receive these gifts from our Benefice.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Rector's View - December 2011

Dear friends,

The first Christmas morning that little Linda was able to read she was allowed to hand out the family gifts from under the Christmas tree. According to their family custom, the person who gave out the presents could open the first parcel. After all the gifts were distributed, with loving care, Linda kept looking and looking around the tree. Linda's father asked, "What are you looking for, dear?" Linda replied, "I thought Christmas was Jesus' birthday and I was wondering where his present is. It looks as though everyone has forgotten him."

It's a good point - who would hold a birthday party and then forget to invite the person whose birthday it is?! It is easy, in all the excitement of Christmas, to forget why we are giving gifts, why the decorations are up and so on.

Unless carefully watched, the Christmas rush can spoil our celebration of Christmas. "I wrap, send, clean, cook and worry that no one is left out", said one lady. "I worry about whether the money will stretch far enough, whether the turkey will fit into the oven, and how best to place the chairs around the table." It has been said that once the Christmas season is over, many people find that they are ninety days ahead with their calorie intake, and ninety days behind with their bills!

Our celebration of Christmas would lose much if we really managed to opt out of all the presents, entertaining and decorating. A tin of baked beans without friends or relatives would not be the same! But our celebration of Christmas also loses much if we fail to make time to relax and worship, to ponder with awe the real meaning of Christmas. Let us then have a really joyful celebration of our Lord and Saviour's birthday - and this can certainly include appreciating the good things, which God has given us to enjoy. But let us also make sure that all the rushing, cleaning, cooking and decorating does not destroy the peace, goodwill and joy which ought to characterise the festival of Christ's birth.

Thank you so much to everyone who supported the Operation Christmas Child Shoebox appeal. Fifty five completed shoeboxes have been sent from our Benefice to bring some Christmas joy to deprived children. Jesus said that what we do for other people we do for Him, and I am sure that these are the sort of Birthday presents He is delighted with! Let's see if we can do even better next year!

I look forward to seeing you at one or more of our Christmas services. Our Carol Services are on Sunday 18th December at 4.00pm at Denston and at 6.00pm at Stradishall and on Christmas Eve at 5.00pm at Stansfield. Then, later on Christmas Eve, we celebrate the Midnight Mass at St. Peter's, Ousden, beginning at 11.30pm. The Benefice Service on Christmas morning is at Stradishall at 10.00am.

May God grant to you and to all whom you love, a truly happy and blessed Christmas.


Open Door

Some people have suggested that it would be helpful if it were possible to have a time when they could come to talk with me without having to phone first or make an appointment. Starting in the New Year, I will be available once a month in the Benefice Hall next to Wickhambrook church for anyone who would like to discuss anything with me - it might be a question about the faith; something to do with Church life; a personal or family difficulty - anything really, it's up to you. I thought we could trial this for, say, six months, usually on the last Saturday of the month from 10.00am until 11.00am, or later if needed. Please feel free to come along or let me know if you think some other arrangement would be better. The first "Open Door" will be on Saturday 28th January at 10.00am at the Benefice Hall.

With every blessing.


Rev'd Stephen Abbott

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sunday, November 13, 2011

From the Pew Leaflet ...

Samaritan’s Purse – Operation Christmas Child Shoebox Appeal. Many thanks to everyone who kindly supported this appeal. Fifty five completed boxes have been sent to bring joy into the lives of deprived children – our highest total for three years! Well done everyone. Let’s see if we can do even better next year!

Toys donated at the Toy Service at Wickhambrook, at 9.30am on Sunday 4th December, will again be given to children in the care of Bury Social Services. All donations will be gratefully received and really are appreciated. We ask that the presents are wrapped and have a label on them indicating whether the present is for a boy or a girl, as well as the age of the child to receive it.

There will be a candlelit concert given by Kate Witney, Soprano, and Robert Foster, Lute, with supper, at Stansfield Church on Friday 9th December at 7.00pm. Tickets, at £13.50 each, are available by emailing for further details.

There will be a four course Christmas supper at the Shooting Lodge, Stradishall, on Tuesday 13th December at 7.00pm. Tickets, at £12.50 each, are available by by emailing for further details.

All Events can be found at

If you, or someone you know, might be interested in exploring the possibility of preparing for Confirmation in 2012 please let the Rector know by the end of the year.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Rector's View - November 2011

The Healing Ministry - My personal involvement with the healing ministry goes back to my ordination. I would like to hear from people as to whether or not they might appreciate the introduction of a regular healing ministry service into the life of the benefice. The service would take place in the context of the Eucharist and there would be the opportunity, for those who wish it, to receive the laying on of hands and anointing with Holy Oil. In addition there would also be prayers for healing and wholeness, a short address or meditation, and perhaps specially chosen readings. One possibility might be to make this a regular Sunday morning service on fifth Sundays.

It is important to understand the nature of Christian healing. It is not an alternative to conventional medicine, but rather works in partnership with it. Christian healing is about being made whole - becoming confident and rounded people, growing in God's image. It is about resolving inner conflicts and fears; taking away guilt and hardness of heart; and bringing us mature peacefulness and strength to accept God's will, whatever that may be. The healing ministry is a Sacrament in which we encounter Christ the healer in a personal, sometimes powerful, way.

Sometimes God does choose to restore people physically. More usually He heals us by enabling us to accept ourselves; to trust Him; to restore our relationship with Him and with others; and to help us relax in His presence - both here and hereafter.

This kind of ministry is now high on the agenda of the Church of England and features prominently in the Common Worship services material. It is, in short, mainstream worship in the Church of England. I am convinced that this kind of ministry has a place in our regular pattern of worship and will enrich our benefice life and the provision of a fuller Christian ministry here.

It is important, however, that people are properly prepared for this ministry and know what to expect and what not to expect. If there is interest in this, I would propose to talk and preach about it further, before it is introduced to the Benefice.

Do, please, feel free to talk with me, or ask any questions which you may have, or let me know your thoughts and observations.


November 13th is Remembrance Sunday, when we remember those who lost their lives in war. The scale of suffering and loss of human life is so great that it is difficult for us to comprehend. We must remember, however, that those numbers are made up of individuals – someone’s father, or husband, or son. We remember them not so as to glorify war but to remember those who gave their all in the cause of peace and in the struggle for a better world, free from discrimination, prejudice and oppression. We honour their memories by continuing to work, in our own day, for a better society. The Benefice joins together for a service at St. Peters Church, Ousden at 10.00am. Then we are invited to gather for the Churches Together united Act of Remembrance at Wickhambrook War Memorial at 12.00 noon.

If you, or someone you know, might be interested in preparing for Confirmation in 2012 please contact me by the end of December. There is no need to make a firm commitment at this stage, but it would be helpful to know who is interested in exploring the possibility.


You can read the latest news around the Benefice and in the wider Church on the Benefice blogspot.  Please go to the following:  This can also be accessed from the Benefice Website home page

With every blessing.


Rev'd Stephen Abbott

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Remembrance Sunday

Every year we hold Remembrance Sunday services at the churches in the Bansfield Benefice. This year the Benefice Remembrance Sunday service will be at St Peter's Ousden on Sunday 13th November at 10.00am.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Rev'd Ian Finn To Be Made Honorary Canon

It has been announce on the Diocese website that the Rev'd Ian Finn, former Rector of the Bansfield Benefice and current Rural Dean of Clare (of which the benefice is part) is to be made an Honorary Canon of the Cathedral Church of St James and St Edmund. The ceremony will be at the cathedral on Sunday 20th November 2011 at 3.30pm.

Toy Service - Donations For Children In Care

Toys donated at the Toy Service at Wickhambrook, at 9.30 am on Sunday 4th December, will again be given to children in the care of Bury Social Services. All donations will be gratefully received and really are appreciated. We ask that the presents are wrapped and have a label on them indicating whether the present is for a boy or a girl, as well as the age of the child to receive it.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

A big thank you ...

To Ruth Seal – our new Benefice Co-ordinator for the Children’s Society. Please contact Ruth about all matters concerning the Children’s Society – new box holders are always needed and appreciated.

To Sharon Wilkinson – our new Benefice Safeguarding Officer – being our main contact and having an overview of the protection of children and vulnerable adults.

To Josie Wreathall and Diana Bowie – our new Co-ordinators for the Traidcraft Shop and Coffee Mornings and to everyone who is helping them.

Thank you all so much for taking on these valuable positions for God and His Church.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Rector's View - October 2011

Dear friends,

Samaritan's Purse - Operation Christmas Child - Shoebox Appeal

Operation Christmas Child is the world's largest children's Christmas project, bringing joy into the lives of underprivileged children since 1990. Last year, nearly 1.2million shoeboxes were packed with gifts and goodies and sent from the UK to children who need them most in some of the toughest parts of the world, including Haiti. In most cases the shoebox will be the only Christmas present that child will receive.

Our Benefice is again supporting the Shoebox Appeal - it is an excellent way in which we, as Christians, can make a real difference to the lives of very underprivileged children. As we approach Christmas, we give thanks to God for the greatest gift - the gift of His only Son to our world and to us individually. Supporting the Shoebox appeal is a very practical way of giving thanks to God for the gift of unconditional and unending love in Christ, by passing on some of that love to a child who is a lot less fortunate than us.

Please consider supporting the Shoebox Appeal. Information leaflets, containing full details, are to be found at the back of all the churches. Please then pass your completed Shoebox to me or to a Churchwarden for passing on to me. The deadline for handing in the completed Shoeboxes is the Benefice Service at Ousden on 30th October, as they need to be taken to a collection point at the beginning of November.

Thank You from Kyrgyzstan

Last year our shoeboxes were sent to Kyrgyzstan. Imagine not being able to send your children to school just because you cannot afford stationery! For one mother in Kyrgyzstan this was a reality. She had two teenage daughters, but neither of them could attend school because they could not afford pens and paper. But this all changed when the two girls received shoeboxes from Samaritan's Purse, complete with brand new school supplies. The mother was thrilled. "I'm so thankful to the people who did the shoeboxes because now I can send my children to school because they have school supplies, without these they couldn't go to school."

The Children's Society

As we think about helping underprivileged children, let us not forget the invaluable work of the Children's Society, another charity regularly supported by our Benefice. The Children's Society works with some of the most vulnerable and needy children in our own society - many of them living on the streets of our cities and daily facing multiple dangers. Usually they have been subjected to one or more forms of abuse and find it difficult to trust adults again. The Children's Society offers safety, security and someone to talk to, as well as the opportunities towards a new and happy future.

For a number of years Ruth Castles was our Benefice Co-ordinator for the Children's Society and we are most grateful for all that she did. Ruth has now moved into Bury and so we urgently need a new Benefice co-ordinator. This only really involves work twice a year - receiving the collection boxes once a year, counting the contents and sending it off, then returning the boxes. The other thing is ordering materials and publicity for the annual Christingle service. Please think and pray about whether this is something you could take on and, if you can, please let me or a Churchwarden know as soon as possible.

Rev'd Stephen Abbott

Thursday, September 15, 2011

World Development Newsletter - September 2011

From: Sue Young, World Development Adviser, Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich 

Harvest is a time when we think about food. We give thanks and celebrate what God had given to us. We also think about where our food comes from and consider how farmers and producers are treated. And we consider the food trading system and the role of food speculation. 

Creation Time 1 September – 4 October 
Every year, throughout the month of September, churches are encouraged to celebrate Creation Time. This year the theme is Our Daily Bread – Food in God’s Creation. When we pray “Give us our daily bread” we are both acknowledging our dependence on God’s generosity and our realisation that the answer to prayer needs to include agriculture, commerce, sharing, trade-justice, animal welfare, diet and a host of other considerations. The Churches Together in Britain and Ireland has a wealth of resources available for free download, including sermon notes, prayers of intercession, service outlines and group study notes (

Churches Week of Action on Food 10 – 17 October 
Around World Food Day on 16 October is the churches week of action on Food. Almost one billion people in the world live with constant hunger, despite the fact that we currently grow enough food to feed everyone. For campaigning material around the Food for Life campaign, visit the Ecumenical Alliance web site (

Food Speculation 
Banks are earning huge profits by betting on the price of staple foods, like wheat, maize and soya.  This creates instability and pushes up global food prices, making poor families around the world go hungry and forcing millions into deeper poverty. On the World Development Movement web site ( you can learn more about this and take action by emailing the Treasury asking them to support strong and effective regulation to stop this betting on hunger.  

Jean Daltry has become the new co-ordinator of the Diocesan link with the Diocese of Kagera. 
Please pray for her as she takes on this demanding role, advocating the link and co-ordinating our  activities. Contact her about all matters relating to Kagera   

Fund raising evening of live music, auction, BBQ, raffle and stalls in aid of the Disasters Emergency  Fund from 7.00pm on 16 September at the Brewery Tap Pub, Ipswich. For more information:   

On Saturday 8 October there will be an 8 mile circular walk from Bury St Edmunds cathedral in support of India’s Dalits and tribal people in their fight for land rights. Christian Aid partner Ekta  Parishad is organising a year-long series of marches, culminating in an enormous 100,000 strong march from Gwalior to Delhi in October 2012.  The marchers’ goal is to claim rights to lands that their families have worked and lived on for generations, and which they are denied because of discrimination. Christian Aid believes that if the Indian government were to implement an existing land rights law, it would lift 400 million people out of poverty.  The walk in Bury, starting and ending with prayer, is to raise awareness and give financial support to Ekta Parishad and other partners working to tackle inequality in Asia. For further details and registration form see attached flyer or contact  

Quiz evening at 7.30 on Friday 18 November to support Tearfund’s work in Zimbabwe.  At the Labour Club in Felixstowe. £5 to include supper. For more information contact Sue Young (as below).  

This is an occasional newsletter emailed to those in Suffolk who are interested in world development issues. If you would like to be put on the mailing list for future newsletters, please contact Sue Young

Faith in Maintenance

Faith in Maintenance provides training and support for the thousands of volunteers in England and Wales who help to maintain our historic places of worship. They run free training courses and you can reserve a place online for the next course in this diocese on 13 October 2011 at All Saints' Wickhambrook.

Please see the Diocesan website page

The Children’s Society

For a number of years Ruth Castles was our Benefice Co-ordinator for the Children’s Society and we are most grateful for all that she did.  Ruth has now moved into Bury and so we urgently need a new Benefice co-ordinator. This only really involves work twice a year – receiving the collection boxes once a year, counting the contents and sending it off, then returning the boxes. The other thing is ordering materials and publicity for the annual Christingle service. Please think and pray about whether this is something you could take on and, if you can, please let me or a Churchwarden know as soon as possible.

Samaritan’s Purse – Operation Christmas Child

Samaritan’s Purse – Operation Christmas Child – Shoebox Appeal Operation Christmas Child is the world’s largest children’s Christmas project, bringing joy into the lives of underprivileged children since 1990. Please consider supporting the Shoebox Appeal. Information leaflets, containing full details, are to be found at the back of all the churches. Please then pass your completed Shoebox to me or to a Churchwarden for passing on to me. The deadline for handing in the completed Shoeboxes is the Benefice Service at Ousden on 30th October, as they need to be taken to a collection point at
the beginning of November.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Rector's View - September 2011

Dear friends,

At Harvest time I would like us to think about the rainbow. The Bible tells us that God gave us the rainbow so that we would remember that as long as the Earth remains we will always have seedtime and harvest time. In other words, God makes sure that we always have food to eat, and enough of the right kind of food to eat, so that we remain fit and healthy.

Perhaps you are thinking, that if this is so, why are there millions of people in our world today who don’t have enough to eat, and who don’t have the right kind of food to eat, and who don’t remain fit and healthy. What is God doing for them? What does His promise mean to them?

The answer lies in the way in which God works. There is enough food for everyone in the world! The problem is that fewer than one-third of the world’s population consumes more than two-thirds of its resources.

God does help those who don’t have enough to eat – through us! We have more than we need and so we can share with those who don’t have enough. In this way we show, in a very practical way, that we are grateful to God for all of the good things he has given us to enjoy. It also shows that we care about those who are not so fortunate. It shows that we, as Christian people, take our stewardship of God’s good things seriously and that we are keen to pass on God’s love and care to those in need. We know God as Father. It is totally inconceivable that God would want some of His children to starve to death, while others have too much.

God is generous to us – in return we need to be generous to others. We have many opportunities to do that, amongst these are the Christian Aid harvest appeal, for those whose harvests have failed or who have had very poor harvests. I know that we all struggle to raise funds to meet our outgoings, so perhaps we could consider just giving a part of our Harvest Festival collections to the Christian Aid harvest appeal? The great thing about Christian Aid is that they ensure that the right kind of help is provided. Christian Aid is not about handouts. It is about restoring self-worth and human dignity, of both the person who gives and the person who receives. Christian Aid funded projects work by meeting with local community groups, or with individual families, and looking at what skills the people have and agreeing on what income-generating work they might take up. The funding is there to provide start-up costs for necessities such as machinery or seeds. They also help to look for markets for the produce. When we buy fair trade products, now available in supermarkets, we help at the other end of the production line, ensuring that the producers receive a fair return. On the first Saturday of each month, at 10.00am, we have a fair trade shop and coffee morning in the Benefice Hall next to Wickhambrook church. Why not come along and enjoy the opportunity to have a chat over a cup of coffee and also take a look at the range of lovely fair trade goods, which are available to buy?

Every year we celebrate Harvest Thanksgiving but, when our abundant harvest makes us so grateful that we want to reach out to the hungry and thirsty, then we are truly thankful.

With every blessing.


Rev'd Stephen Abbott

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Historic Churches Trust Cycle Ride

The annual Historic Churches Trust Cycle Ride takes place on Saturday 10th September. It’s a fun and healthy way to raise funds
for your parish church and for other historic churches. Please consider if you could participate as a cyclist, walker or church sitter and/or by sponsoring one or more of our cyclists, walkers or church sitters.

Howard's Retirement as Organist

The Benefice Service at Lidgate on 25th September will be our Benefice celebration for Back to Church Sunday, when we encourage people who used to attend church, and those who have never attended, to come to church. Please think and pray about who you could invite. Further details and invitation cards will be available at all churches from the beginning of September.

This service will also be Howard Sheppard’s last service as an Organist in the Benefice. Howard has served the churches of the
Benefice faithfully for over twenty years and has now decided to retire at the tender age of 93! Please join us to say a heartfelt
thank you to Howard.

A note of thanks

On a personal note, we would like to say a heartfelt thank you to everyone who made the Benefice service at Wickhambrook on the 14th August so very special. The service, especially the music, was wonderful. Even more uplifting was the obvious love and warmth from our many friends in the Benefice. The lovely and very generous presents were a delightful, and much appreciated surprise, as were all your cards and greetings. Thank you all so much, we feel privileged to be here.

Stephen & Anne

Monday, August 1, 2011

August News letter

Dear friends,

The last few years have seen an extraordinary revival of interest in the beliefs and practices of the first Christian communities in the British Isles. People hunger for a rhythm of worship which has roots, which reflects the human concerns of our time, yet also lets heaven into our everyday world - an expression of Christianity which enables them to enjoy God's presence, to experience awe and to express spontaneity, variety and local colour.

Celtic Christianity brings us back to our common Christian ancestry and heritage and cuts through the numerous divisions and barriers that have been created by Christians over the last thousand years or so. It offers a simple, yet deep, approach to prayer and worship.

Worship was central to the life of the Christian communities which flourished in the British Isles between the sixth and tenth centuries AD. These communities went about their daily tasks conscious of God's presence and blessing in even the most mundane aspects of life. They steeped themselves in the language and images of the Psalms. They regularly met together to praise God, to express their deep penitence to Him for their failings, and to ask for His protection in a dangerous and threatening world. Their worship was characterised by simplicity, freshness, rhythm and brevity.

Celtic spirituality can refresh our ways of coming into God's presence and speaking with Him. It naturally and powerfully finds the presence of God in all things - the reality of His protective power and enfolding love, the blessings of creation, the closeness of the angels and the hosts of heaven, and a real sense of the communion of saints.

Celtic Christianity has become an important part of my own spirituality and discipleship and I have been associated with the Iona Community for many years. I find Iona refreshing and invigorating - if you ever get the chance why not visit Iona? There are also a good number of books about Celtic Christianity. If you would like to find out more, I would be happy to recommend some further reading.
A Celtic Benediction

Deep peace of the Running Wave to you.
Deep peace of the Flowing Air to you.
Deep peace of the Quiet Earth to you.
Deep peace of the Shining Stars to you.
Deep peace of the Son of Peace to you.

With every blessing.


Rev'd Stephen Abbott
On a personal note...

Anne and I celebrated our Silver Wedding Anniversary when we were on holiday in Jersey last month. We would very much like to have a further celebration with our friends in the Benefice, now that we are home.

I am very pleased to say that Archdeacon John Cox has agreed to Celebrate and Preach at the Benefice Service at Wickhambrook on 14th August at 10.00am, during which we will also renew our Wedding vows. It was Archdeacon John who brought us to this Diocese, when he interviewed me for the Incumbency of Brandon in 1996.

Everyone is warmly invited to join us for this joyful occasion and for refreshments in the Benefice Hall afterwards. Hope to see you there.

Stephen & Anne

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Suffolk Open Churches Week (6-13th August)

Every time I pass a church
I pay a little visit
So when at last I’m carried in
The Lord won’t say ‘Who is it?’

(Spotted in the church of St Peter and St Paul, Bergh Apton, Norfolk)

Open Churches Week is an annual event celebrating the rich heritage of Suffolk’s magnificent churches

For more information please see

Stansfield Pet Service

Why not join us for the Pet Service at Stansfield church on Sunday 31st July - 11am. Pets services are always fun and a light hearted way to show how important your pets are to you.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

July News Letter

Dear friends,

The word "holiday" comes from the Old English word for "Holy Day". It was a day off work to join in festivities and other celebrations of a special day in the Church's calendar - a Saint's day or other occasion. Nowadays the dictionary defines a holiday as "an extended period of recreation, especially away from home or in travelling; a break from work." Nonetheless, the spiritual dimension is still there, if we think about it - the origin of the word "recreation" is, of course, "to create again; renew".

Whether we are fortunate enough to be looking forward to a holiday away from home, or enjoying periods of recreation whilst staying at home - now called a "staycation", the opportunity is the same - the chance to relax and unwind, to have a well-earned break from the daily routine, to "re-charge our batteries" and to start again refreshed and renewed. But does it always work out that way? While we are away from home, away from all the pressures of daily life, we feel back in control. We may think that we have rediscovered our true selves. But when we arrive home to the bills and the deadlines perhaps it all seems like a dream. It was great whilst it lasted, but back to earth nothing has really changed.

As Christians we encounter God in the midst of our daily lives, amongst all the challenges, frustrations and disappointments, as well as in the more joyful times. Situations are not changed by escaping from them, but by seeing God in them and by discovering His will and purposes, for ourselves as well as for the people amongst whom we live and work. When, with God's help, we see with the eyes of Jesus, we become aware of how we must respond and we move forwards in hope and trust. One thing is clear - God gives us new opportunities every day to know Him and to serve Him.

Holidays are indeed great fun and a welcome and necessary time of rest and relaxation. But true RE-CREATION comes only by living each day consciously in the presence of God.

Children And Young People In The Church

We were all very sad when the Jam Club (Jesus and me) collapsed, due to a lack of both children and helpers. The Jam Club met on the first Sunday of each month at 9.30am in the Benefice Hall next to All Saints' Church, Wickhambrook. It was a lot of fun and enjoyed by those who attended, both children and adults. The children ranged in age from three to ten. A theme for the day was chosen with activities, songs and games linked to it. The children joined the congregation towards the end of the service for a blessing and to show them what they had done that morning in the Jam Club and the congregation loved to see them.

We would love to relaunch the Jam Club, to which children and leaders from all seven parishes in the Benefice would be most warmly welcome. If you would be interested in your children attending the Jam Club would you please let me or a Churchwarden know, so that we can assess likely interest? Similarly, if you would be prepared to be a leader or helper please let us know. As well as leaders, (we can provide resources and materials to help you plan the sessions) we need people to help set up the Benefice Hall - this includes putting the tables up, preparation with the arts and crafts, helping during Jam Club itself, and assisting with refreshments afterwards. This is for about two hours, from 9.00am - 11.00am. If we had enough people it wouldn't even have to be every month. Children are not only the Church of the future, but a much valued part of the Church today. What a joy it would be to have children involved in the life of the Church again. Please help, if you can.

With every blessing.


Rev'd Stephen Abbott

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Christian Aid Week Donations

This year the Bansfield Benefice and the Churches Together for Wickhambrook and Kirtling donated £322 to Christian Aid to assist with their work.

Friday, June 3, 2011

June News letter

Dear friends,

One of the most important festivals in the Church's year falls in June this year. I thought it would be worthwhile this month to say something about it and why it is important.

Sunday 12th June is Pentecost, still known to many people as Whit Sunday. Pentecost is, in fact, a much older term, which has recently come back into use. It comes from a Greek word meaning the "fiftieth day" - being the fiftieth day since Easter. Compared to Christmas and Easter, Pentecost has often been regarded as a bit of a Cinderella festival. Actually it is a very important festival. It commemorates the day; ten days after Jesus withdrew His physical presence to Ascend to Heaven, when the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples to strengthen them and to guide them to live as Christians. It is for this reason that Pentecost is sometimes called the Church's birthday. The Holy Spirit came to them and transformed them from a group of timid and cowardly people, concerned with saving their own skins, to an effective Church, boldly proclaiming the Gospel without fear or favour. We read about it in Acts chapter 2.

The difficulty a lot of people have is that they find it difficult to believe in something, or someone, they cannot see. But on that basis they shouldn't believe in wind, electricity or gravity! We cannot see those things, but we know they are there by the effect they have - for example wind filling the sails of a yacht or turning the sails of a windmill; electricity powering a light bulb or giving someone a shock; gravity stopping us from floating about and coming down to earth with a bump! Fair enough, you might say, but how do we see the effect of the Holy Spirit, so that we know that He is there? Well, in a number of ways.

Firstly, as mentioned above, we have the transformation of the disciples and the birth of the Church. The disciples were united in purpose as one body. They all understood each other, even if they didn't speak the same language. Still, today, when we see barriers broken down, old grievances reconciled, past wrongs forgiven, love conquering hatred, hope overcoming fear, often against all odds and expectations, we see the Holy Spirit at work. Sometimes He breaks into our world like a mighty rushing wind - I believe we can see His hand in the destruction of Apartheid, the pulling down of the Berlin Wall and movements for peace, justice and democracy around the world. Equally wonderfully, sometimes He comes as a gentle breeze, transforming the lives of individuals, families and communities. For me, the best "check-list", is still that given by St. Paul, in Galatians 5 : 22 - 25. Here he describes "The fruit if the Spirit" - if someone is open and receptive to the Holy Spirit and have welcomed Him into their lives, then the Holy Spirit will bring forth fruit in their lives. Paul lists these as "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control". When someone has welcomed the Holy Spirit into their lives the results are as obvious as a windmill driven by a strong wind.

We will be celebrating the feast of Pentecost with a service for the whole Benefice on Sunday 12th June at 10.00am at St. Mary's church, Lidgate. If you are free, why not join us for this special occasion?

With every blessing.


Rev'd Stephen Abbott

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Fund Raising - Lent Lunches

Many thanks to everyone who supported the Lent Lunches. The sum of £140 was donated to the Churches Together charity - The Bethlehem Arab Society for Rehabilitation.

Monday, May 2, 2011

May News Letter

Christian Aid week always falls in May each year. Not only is it the single largest expression of practical love and compassion to the poorest most struggling members of the human family, but it is also the principle way in which the churches work together for the good of others. These are two ways in which we can know that we are doing the will of our Lord.

Locally we will be celebrating with a united service at Wickhambrook Methodist church on Thursday 5th May, beginning at 7.30pm. This will be preceded by a ‘bring and buy’ sale, beginning at 7.00pm. Everyone is, of course, very welcome. The theme of the service will be the excellent work being done by Christian Aid and its partner organisations in Nicaragua.

We are often tempted to think that the problem of world poverty is so vast that we can’t possibly make a difference. But if we make a difference to one person or family, then we have made a difference.

Gustavo Adolfo Talavera is a coffee farmer and community leader in Jinotega, Nicaragua. He is one of the founding members of a cooperative which has been selling coffee through Christian Aid partner Soppexcca (pronounced so-pecks-ka) for over 12 years.

He says: "I don’t know how to read or write and I did not want my children to be like me. I did not have the opportunity to go to school, so I tell my children to study and do what I couldn’t. We fight so that the new generation, the children, are able to steer this boat."

Gustavo is illiterate. But he wanted his children to be educated. There was no school in the village so school lessons were held in his front yard with the children sitting on the ground. When it rained, they got soaking wet. This happened for many years. And then Soppexcca, funded by proceeds from Christian Aid Week, came along. It gave the community a better price for their coffee, helped them improve the quality of what they were producing and, crucially, pooled their efforts as a community to start building a school. That was nine years ago. Farmers started producing high-quality coffee and began receiving a higher price for their coffee beans. Their quality of life improved and an end to poverty came into sight. They ploughed their profits back into their own community and not only managed to build the school Gustavo dreamt of, but a health centre as well.

Now the children in Gustavo’s community are looking at a future where poverty doesn’t define their lives. For example, Gustavo’s daughter and other young people in his community now go to university, and his niece Martha is being trained in the Soppexcca youth-movement programme. She is taught to protect the environment, to learn new skills, to take control of her future and to be part of a community working its own way out of poverty. This is what Christian Aid Week can achieve. What we can achieve.

This year the Archdeacon’s Visitation will be held at the Cathedral at 7.30pm on Thursday 12th May. During this act of worship the Archdeacon, acting on behalf of the Bishop, will formally admit the Churchwardens to Office. This service is always an uplifting occasion and it would be very good indeed if members of our congregations were able to come to the service, to which you are warmly invited, to support the Churchwardens with your presence and with your prayers.

Usually quietly and behind the scenes, the Churchwardens do an enormous amount for us and for the Church as a whole. They not only look after the church and its contents, they also have legal, spiritual and pastoral responsibilities. They are actively involved in the whole life and work of the church and without them I cannot imagine how the continuing life of our parishes would be possible at all. We are very fortunate to have excellent wardens and I would like to express my grateful thanks to them all for their hard work and dedication.

With every blessing.


Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter Day

On Easter Day we had a glorious service at All Saint' church Wickhambrook. Over 130 people were in attendance to enjoy the service and celebrate Christ's triumphal resurrection. The Benefice choir performed two anthems, the new Easter candle was lit and the church looked lovely with all the flowers for the occasion. Easter eggs were given out at the end of the service and people stayed to chat over coffee, tea and refreshments in the Benefice Hall. And throughout the weather was glorious with so many spring flowers in bloom in the churchyard.

A very special day. Happy Easter.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday Walk of Witness

Every Good Friday churches from the Wickhambrook URC and Methodist community join up with the RC church in Kirtling and Anglican churches of the Bansfield Benefice for the Good Friday Walk of Witness from the URC to the Methodist chapel in Wickhambrook. This year the weather for this Churches Together event was lovely. Please see the photos from teh walk at

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

April News Letter

Holy Week And Easter

Palm Sunday commemorates Christ's triumphant arrival in Jerusalem riding on a donkey, a beast of burden, to the cheers of the crowd. Palm Sunday, this year, falls on 17th April. There will be a Family service at All Saints' Church, Wickhambrook, beginning with a procession with Palm Crosses from the Benefice Hall at 9.30am. There are also services at 9.30am at Denston, Cowlinge and Lidgate. Services later in the day are at Ousden at 11.00am and at Stradishall at 6.00pm.

Holy Communion will be celebrated at 10.00am on Monday and Tuesday of Holy Week - 18th and 19th April, at All Saints' Church, Wickhambrook.

Maundy Thursday is the Thursday before Easter. Christians remember it as the day of the Last Supper, when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples in the upper room and established the service now known as the Eucharist, or Holy Communion. The night of Maundy Thursday is the night on which Jesus was betrayed by Judas with a kiss in the Garden of Gethsemane. The word "Maundy" comes from the command given by Jesus at the Last Supper, that we should love one another. The service for Maundy Thursday, 21st April, will take place at 7.00pm at Ousden Church. This will be followed by the Watch of the Passion for one hour. People gather, for as long or short a time as they wish, to remember, in prayer, the agony of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane on the eve of his brutal death for our sakes.

Good Friday is the Friday before Easter. It commemorates the execution of Jesus by crucifixion. Good Friday services, on 22nd April, begin with the Churches Together United Walk of Witness, with readings, prayers and hymns, setting out from the URC at 10.00am and walking together to the Methodist Church. Then there are two devotional services later in the day - "An Hour at the Cross" at Stradishall at 2.00pm and then "Stations of the Cross" at Lidgate at 6.00pm.

Holy Saturday, or Easter Eve, is the day before Easter Sunday - the day of the entombment of Christ. It is the Lord's Day of rest, when Christ's body lay in His tomb. The Easter Vigil, also called the Great Vigil of Easter, is a service held in many Christian churches as the official celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus. On Easter Eve, 23rd April, we return to Lidgate Church, where we celebrate the Easter Vigil starting at 8.00pm. This is a service rich in symbolism and drama, as we rejoice that Jesus has burst from the tomb. We start with a new fire in the darkness of the churchyard to bless the Paschal Candle, and then we enter the Candlelit church, before we build up to the blaze of the church lights, which herald the Resurrection.

Easter commemorates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is the most important Christian festival, and the one celebrated with the greatest joy. Easter Day, 24th April, is the Sunday of Sundays. We joyfully celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord and Saviour, and the new life, which he brings to us.

The Benefice shares in the glory of the Risen Christ with a Eucharist at All Saints' Church, Wickhambrook at 10.00am. There is also an evening service at Denston beginning at 6.00pm.

Everyone is most welcome to attend any or all of our services.

With every blessing for a holy and joyful Easter,


Thursday, March 3, 2011

Lent Course - Rich Inheritance - Jesus' Legacy Of Love

Our Lent Course this year is entitled: "Rich Inheritance - Jesus' legacy of love" We shall meet on Mondays 14th, 21st, and 28th March and on Mondays 4th and 11th April at 7.30pm in the Benefice Hall. Everyone is very welcome.

Jesus didn't write a will. He left no written instructions. He didn't seem to have a plan. At the end, as he hung dying on the cross, almost all of his followers had abandoned him. By most worldly estimates his ministry was a failure. Nevertheless, Jesus' message of reconciliation with God lived on. It is the central message of the Bible. With this good news his disciples changed the world. How did they do it? What else did Jesus leave behind his physical presence - what is his 'legacy of love?' This course addresses these questions.

The course booklet, written by Bishop Stephen Cottrell, includes questions aimed at provoking wide-ranging discussion.

The participants on the course CD are RC Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, Writer and lecturer in Biblical studies, Paula Gooder, and author and public theologian, Jim Wallis. Dr David Hope introduces the course and Methodist minister Inderjit Bhogal provides the Closing Reflection at the end of each session.

There will also be the opportunity to chat informally over tea or coffee. Please consider joining us, if you are able to.

Monday evenings at 7.30pm in the Benefice Hall, next to All Saints' Church, Wickhambrook.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Children's Society Fundraising

It is that time of year when the Children's Society Boxes are handed in and the monies counted. This year the Bansfield Benefice's 18 Children's Society Box holders raised £400 for the Society.

Well done to them and many thanks to Ruth (Volunteer Parish Co-ordinator) for her organisation of this fund raising project again this year.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Ash Wednesday Service - 9th March 2011

Why not join us for the Ash Wednesday service at All Saints' church Wickhambrook.

The service draws on the ancient Biblical traditions of covering one's head with ashes, wearing sackcloth, and fasting.

In Ash Wednesday services churchgoers are marked on the forehead with a cross of ashes as a sign of penitence and mortality. The use of ashes, made by burning palm crosses from the previous Palm Sunday, is very symbolic.

God our Father, you create us from the dust of the earth.

Grant that these ashes may be for us a sign of our penitence, and a symbol of our mortality.

The minister or priest marks each worshipper on the forehead, and says "remember you are dust and unto dust you shall return", or a similar phrase based on God's sentence on Adam in Genesis 3:19.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Children's Society Fundraising

Over the Christmas period the Bansfield Benefice has been successfully raising money for the Children's Society. The Carol Service at Wickhambrook raised £65 and the Carol Service at Stansfield raised £225. The Christingle Service at Ousden in January raised £100. Many thanks to everyone for your kindness and generosity to this very worthwhile cause.

Our final fund-raising event is the Annual Box Collection. This will be completed by the end of February, and the Benefice co-ordinator for the Children's Society is hoping the Box Collection for this year will raise £400.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Christingle Service - St Peter's Ousden - 4.00pm (16th Jan 2011)

Local children and their families will be taking part in The Children's Society's Christingle service at St Peter's Ousden - 4.00pm (16th Jan 2011) . Money raised will help runaways and children forced from home to have somewhere safe to go and someone sound to turn to. If you would like to join in this magical candle-lit church service or want more information please contact the Rector.

Re-Dedication Of The Hall

The Bansfield Benefice Hall was re-dedicated on the 9th January 2011 following the benefice service in All Saints' church. The money for this project was donated from a bequest made from the Will of Mrs Freda May Fenton. A dedication plaque was unveiled in the Hall by Freda's niece, Mrs Diana Clarke, following a short speech in which she talked about the life of Mrs Fenton and her affection for Wickhambrook village and its church. She went on to say how much Freda would have appreciated her legacy being used for this purpose. In addition to financing the hall refurbishment the legacy paid for the relaying on the church car park, hymn books and charitable giving. Over 50 people attended the ceremony inside a packed hall on a bright winter's day.

Val Pillar's Organist Retirement Presentation

The Benefice service at All Saints' Wickhambrook saw two special events: the re-dedication of the Benefice Hall, after the service; and during the service, a presentation to Val Pillar who has retired as a Bansfield Benefice Organist after 15 years. Val served many of the churches within the benefice in all types of weather and on a number of occasions battled through the snow from Clare to play for a service in the middle of winter. The Benefice will miss her greatly and her talents as an organist.

By way of a "Thank You" the Benefice got Val a specialist book token and flowers to mark the occasion. Fittingly Val was presented with the gifts by Sue Long who co-ordinates the Organist rotas for the benefice. Val joined everyone in the Benefice Hall after the service to enjoy the refreshments laid on for the occasion and to chat with her many well wishers.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Rector's View - January 2011

Dear friends,

"He was born under a lucky star", we say when we meet someone who is very fortunate in some way or another - for example, if someone is very gifted musically.

Great people usually do not want to clasp on to their talents exclusively - they are to be used and shared.

It was nearly a century ago that a great musician made a crucial decision. Sir Henry Walford Davies gave up the somewhat sheltered life of a composer and the fame of public performances, to bring the riches of music to the general public. He had a great gift for this. Radio was fairly new, bringing with it new opportunities. Walford Davies used it to bring classical music to a huge new audience. Ralph Vaughn Williams, his friend and fellow musician, said of him: "He went out to people to show them what he had learnt about eternity and beauty."

The feast of the Epiphany, which we celebrate on 6th January and for the following weeks, reminds us that Jesus went out to the world of humanity. He was shown, at birth, not just to Jewish shepherds but to the Magi, representatives of the whole world. God's purposes are seen - he wants to share the love and compassion of Christ with the whole world, represented by the wise men.

On the feast of the Epiphany we celebrate this glorious truth. Non-Jewish wise men coming to worship and bring gifts to the infant Jesus. A glorious declaration that God's Son has come into the world for all God's children everywhere, as the Saviour of all. The Good News of God's love in Christ is freely offered to the whole human race. Whoever and wherever people are, they have simply to want and to trust in God's grace and it is theirs.

What can we learn from all this? What lessons are there for us, living 2000 years after these events took place? Finding Jesus today requires the simplicity of the shepherds and the enquiring minds of the wise men, open to awe and wonder. Possessing the scriptures and being religious is not enough if these two forces are not allowed to work their grace on the human heart and mind. Then may we use and share our gifts and talents for the good of others.

In the words of the Church's advertising campaign from a few years ago: "Wise men and women seek him still."

After the Toy Service at All Saints' Church, Wickhambrook on Sunday 5th December we were able to donate thirty five toys to Bury St Edmunds Social Services for needy children in their care. Very many thanks to all those who generously donated a gift and to Jackie Chester who delivered the gifts to Social Services.

Jackie says that when she delivered the toys to the family centre in Bury St Edmunds the lady who took them in was quite overwhelmed with the generosity of our small congregations.

She asked Jackie to pass on her thanks and told her it will make a real difference this year as they have families who have recently moved into the area with absolutely nothing.

Thank you everyone for promoting the true meaning of Christmas.

May God bless you and grant to you, and to all whom you love, a truly happy and blessed New Year.

With every blessing.


Rev'd Stephen Abbott