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|2028: All Saints, Saxtead, Suffolk, England
Photo: James Darwin
All Saints, Saxtead, Suffolk, England. The church is part
of the Benefice
of Framlingham with Saxtead.
Church of England, Diocese
of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich.
A small and simple 13th to 14th century church, flint-faced on
the outside with no tower. It is rectangular inside, quite
long and narrow, and light and airy. There is no rood screen
so it feels open-plan. In the nave there is a small organ,
oldish pews and a polished wooden floor. The chancel is filled
with 1920s choir stalls. There is some stained glass. The
building is set in a churchyard with many trees. In the porch
there is an old set of stocks on which is written "Fear
God and honour the King" and a whipping post. Did they
use these on badly-behaved children in the past?
There is a service every Sunday morning, usually a eucharist
at 11.15am, and occasional other services such as evensong
and memorial services. Other activities include quiz nights
and coffee mornings. There are also concerts: the choir stalls
are going to be removed soon to allow concerts and community
events to be held more easily.
Saxtead has a population of around 370. There is a large village
green and a restored windmill, one of many built in Suffolk
since the 13th century. The church is just off the busy A1120
road but set back in a tranquil oasis at the end of an avenue
of trees – a lovely peaceful setting, some way away from the
rest of the village. Unfortunately, the first sign you see
as you enter the churchyard is a warning about crime.
Celebrant: the Revd Mary Lamb, assistant curate. Preacher:
the Revd Michael Stedman.
The date & time:
8 August 2010, 11.15am.
What was the name of
Eucharist (Book of Common Prayer).
How full was the building?
Sparse – eight in the congregation, two clergy officiating,
and the rector was playing the organ. Somehow it didn't seem
empty, though, because it is such a compact building. I quite
Did anyone welcome you
Yes. Someone handed me the books as I came in and said, "Good
morning. I haven't seen you before – are you on holiday?"
This was a bit unnerving.
Was your pew comfortable?
Not particularly. There wasn't enough leg room for me and it
was quite shallow. No cushions.
How would you describe
the pre-service atmosphere?
Quiet and peaceful.
What were the exact
opening words of the service?
"In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit…"
What books did the congregation
use during the service?
Locally-produced leaflet of the Book of Common Prayer service, which was easy
to read, and The New English Hymnal (from which we sang two hymns). Also,
New Hymns and Worship Songs was given out, which
we didn't use after all.
What musical instruments
Small pipe organ.
Photo: James Darwin
Did anything distract
Looking around the building and wondering how they were going
to adapt it for community events. Plaster needing attention.
Unusually, the windows were low and you could look outside,
but I wasn't distracted by that. The Decalogue panels and
other decorations were too far away to read.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
If you were looking for a traditional Book of Common Prayer service, you wouldn't
be disappointed. It followed the pattern faithfully and I
felt a vague friendliness, perhaps because of using the service
leaflet instead of small print prayer books. The singing was
quiet and it appeared that the second hymn wasn't known well
by the congregation.
Exactly how long was
On a scale of 1-10,
how good was the preacher?
8 A retired priest who clearly had had lots of practice, and was competent and thoughtful.
In a nutshell, what
was the sermon about?
Healing and restoration. His text was Luke 8 (Jesus casts
demons out of a man and into a herd of swine). Mr Stedman talked about a deaf-mute character
called Looney Joe in Flora Thompson's childhood memoir of
rural England, Lark Rise to Candleford. He compared
him to the demon-possessed man. Since
the 19th century, our treatment
of schizophrenia has changed dramatically. It was much different
2000 years ago. When the man saw Jesus, he was in pain and
begged: "Don't torture me." Pain is often a part of healing,
like going to the dentist. There was a price for this restoration
to the community, just as we pay for the National Health Service.
Jesus told the man to give glory to God, not to himself, and
gave him a commission. There is always pain and a price to
pay for healing and restoration. You also see that in Gethsemane:
Jesus was in pain. Finally, Mr Stedman quoted from The
Meaning in the Miracles by Jeffrey John.
Which part of the service
was like being in heaven?
The general atmosphere was very peaceful and rural. Time almost
had stood still for a few centuries.
And which part was like
being in... er... the other place?
The uncomfortable pews and the feeble singing.
What happened when you
hung around after the service looking lost?
Not much initially, but I talked to a lady about their plans
for reordering the building. Apparently, they have concerts
in there and want to make it more suitable.
How would you describe
the after-service coffee?
How would you feel about
making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 =
2 I'd have to be thoroughly committed to the parish
church, and happy with the same Book of Common Prayer format every week (though
they do have evensong sometimes).
Did the service make
you feel glad to be a Christian?
On the whole, yes.
What one thing will
you remember about all this in seven days' time?
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