Friday, May 22, 2020

Catching the Fire: Online Celebration of Mission Across the Diocese 4pm on Pentecost Sunday

Main link for the streamed Diocesan Service on Pentecost Sunday (31st May 2020) is

This and other places where you can get the livestream can be found at

CHILDREN’S MATERIALS: There will be opportunities for children to engage in activities during the service.

Every blessing,

Sally Gaze, Archdeacon for Rural Mission
Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich

Friday, May 1, 2020

First months as Rector

I’ve been asked to reflect on my first two or three months as rector of Bansfield Benefice. I must say, I didn’t particularly feel like doing so because it’s not much of a job at the moment, with the churches being locked and my only good conversations being on the phone, but I suppose it’s important to reflect on difficult times as well as good ones.

My new role began in early February with the Bishop making me rector at a special service that was described by a friend as “great, really brilliant - a fine combination of the moving, contemplative and enjoyable.” Then followed five enjoyably hectic weeks of meetings, events (Stansfield parish lunch, Cowlinge village hall pancakes), visiting those who can’t get to church - basically on the go full-time for the first few weeks, in the expectation of reducing to my notional half-time hours thereafter. Those weeks were busy, interesting and fun.

Then came the sudden instruction for social-distancing in church services and the good-humoured adaptation to it by the congregation, thinking this was to be the new normal for a few months … quickly followed by the shift to churches being closed except for private prayer … then within days the heavy, heavy disappointment of churches closed altogether.

I don’t have a specifically Christian ‘angle’ on all this. Like many people I speak to, I’ve been aware how fortunate I am to have a garden and access to countryside for dog-walks, easy access to the supermarket and plenty of things to get on with at home; so fortunate to live alone at a time when many experience irritating or even violent relationships in their home.

So I didn’t notice the loneliness creeping up on me; the lack of motivation to make phone calls, write emails, attend to admin tasks, DIY or gardening. I was lucky, I told myself; of course I’m ok.

It was only when another lovely face-time chat with my son left me feeling sad for the rest of the day, that I realised I deeply miss the actual physical presence of other people and a hug from family or friend. There’s no substitute for that. Some of us simply live with this lack, this absence, for now.

I’m glad I’ve admitted to myself that it’s hard, because this admission honours the value of physical companionship and stops me lying to myself that it doesn’t matter. It does matter, I must treasure it, and I hope I never take it for granted again.

Here’s a prayer I’ve used at a time of bereavement, and I find it helpful now in this different loss, where the loss of physical presence, the absence of a hug, is pressing in. It’s best said outdoors.

O God, though you are unseen,
let me see you all around;
though you are silent,
let me hear you in the birdsong and the trees;
though you are untouchable,
let me feel your touch in those who care about me;
though you are unknowable,
O God, let me know your presence
amidst the mystery of loss.

Revd Eve Bell
Rector Bansfield Benefice

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Easter Lockdown Message

What’s been increasingly heavy on my heart this lockdown period is the reported upswing in instances of domestic violence facilitated by the increased stress of the current situation and the increased opportunity to express anger in secret violence. I can’t imagine how trapped I’d feel if I couldn’t escape, especially with no idea how long the lockdown will last.

I dislike the term ‘domestic violence’. Somehow the word ‘domestic’ makes it sound almost homely and minimises the reality of what happens. When I worked in prison, the correct words were used: assault, grievous bodily harm, rape, murder - words that convey the reality of crimes committed against your own family, though even these terms fail to convey the shattering betrayal of the trust we all need in our closest relationships.

I’m fortunate enough never to have experienced it first-hand myself, but have heard many personal stories from friends, colleagues, relatives and prisoners, male and female, starting with my friend and work colleague Tracy, when we were young adults. She returned from a week’s sick leave supposedly due to a very heavy cold, but told me she’d had to wait at home a week to let the bruising fade away on her face sufficiently to be covered by make-up. Something done in secret, that makes the recipient feel they, too, need to keep it shamefully hidden as if they share the blame, often because they’ve been told it IS their fault: that if their personality, behaviour or body was nicer, better, prettier, the violence wouldn’t have erupted.

I don’t know if there’s something we, the Bansfield church community, could or should be doing to support those trapped in this way, in addition to caring about it and praying for them. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

What I DO know is that the Easter message of the resurrection of Jesus Christ demonstrates that God values the whole human person, mind and body. The pattern of Jesus’ resurrection is asserted as the pattern for all human beings; and, because it was as easy then as it is now for people to suppose there’s at best a dis-embodied after-life, the resurrection stories repeatedly stress the sheer solid body of the risen Christ, complete with hands, feet and digestive system. I like the phrase in one of Peter’s speeches where he says God raised Jesus and allowed him to appear ‘to us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead’. Sure enough, a body free from the same limitations as before, but nonetheless a real eating, drinking body (Acts 10.40-41).

This speaks to me of God not just caring about people’s psychological damage but also loving those battered, shamed, even murdered bodies of the lockdown period; not letting them be snuffed out permanently as if their bodies ultimately didn’t matter, but raising them to new, safe, life - both in this life, if the wider community has the will to ensure it, and in the resurrection life of the world to come.

Despite the seriousness of this message, I do wish you all a very Happy Easter! I do miss you an awful lot!


Eve Bell
Rector, Bansfield Benefice

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Eve Bell our new Rector - Installation

Finding someone new to fill the position of Rector is never an easy task, but at 7.30pm on Monday 3rd of February in Wickhambrook church the process was completed. The Institution, Induction and Installation of Reverend Eve Bell as Rector of the Bansfield Benefice was a joyous occasion bringing together many people: Mike, Bishop of Dunwich; David, Archdeacon of Sudbury; Stuart, Rural Dean of Clare; Joe, Dean of the Cathedral; Clergy who have helped out over the last two years; Clergy from the Catholic, Methodist and United Reform church and parish representatives from the seven churches of the benefice. Family and friends were also present, parishioners and Parish Council representatives from the seven parishes and Miss Towns, the headteacher of Wickhambrook Primary Academy, all helping to swell the throng in the church. But this evening, the star was Eve, beaming away and enjoying every moment of her big night.

The church was warm, always a good start, with candles adorning the sills of the windows to give extra atmosphere. The flower arrangements gave the final touch to the visual splendour of the church. Clergy were in their finery and specially printed souvenir service books distributed. All was now in place for the service to begin. Ken Ireland, our organist for the evening, introduced the processional hymn, a cue for the entourage of cross bearer, Clergy, fourteen wand-bearing parish representatives, the Archdeacon, Bishop and Eve to process to their seats. The service itself was a lovely affair steeped with symbolism demonstrating the importance of the role of Rector in our parishes. The language of the service and choice of hymns, all sung with gusto, added to the occasion. The final act of the installation was the presentation of “Cure of Souls” within our seven parishes, and thus we had our new Rector. The service concluded with the recessional hymn and then a chance for the assembled throng to meet, congratulate and chat with Eve our new Rector. To facilitate this a reception was laid on after the service boasting many types of finger food served with wine or soft drinks. The food was lovingly prepared by a band of wonderful helpers and the wine kindly donated by a generous benefactor which all served to round off a perfect evening. If you would like to see photos taken on the evening, Sam Sykes’ photos can be viewed via the benefice website -

At the beginning of the article I mentioned this process of installing a new Rector is never an easy one and in our case this took two years to complete. To keep the seven churches of the Bansfield benefice going all that time and to liaise with the diocese on many occasions created a lot of work for a number of individuals. I would like to thank on behalf of the benefice all those who helped and kept the benefice going during this interregnum, but would like to single out Hugh Douglas-Pennant for special mention for the many hours of work he put into this process. Without Hugh’s dedication the process would have been much more difficult. Well done Hugh - extra House points to Stansfield!