Category Archives: Rector’s Reflections

Sue Mann

30th January 2021

Well, it’s the beginning of February and I wonder how many of us have kept our New Year’s resolutions!
I must admit I did write rather a long a list, which is probably not such a good idea, but one thing I included, was to make sure I go for a walk every day; I love walking but sometimes it is so easy to get buried in tasks which need doing that it is the walk that gets shelved.
To hold myself accountable and in order to achieve something too, I decided to sign up for a virtual long-distance footpath. As a Third Order Franciscan, I chose St Francis Way which is 312 miles (503 km) long and travels through an ancient Roman road from Florence to the Vatican, following in the footsteps of Saint Francis across the Italian countryside. I will be doing actual walking but obviously not in the original places! I have completed 8.9 miles, so have a long way to go yet. 8 weeks is the target time!! As I walk, in addition to praying for everyone here in the Benefice, I am reflecting upon the work of St Francis and what God might be saying to us today, particularly as we consider how he might be calling us to be church in the future.
Francis was born in Assisi in 1182, to the son of a wealthy cloth merchant, Pietro Bernardone, and his wife, Pica. He was baptized Giovanni (John) but soon gained the nickname Francesco, because of his father’s close trading links with France. Francis’ early years were not especially religious. He was a leader among the young men of Assisi, enjoying a good social life, with singing and partying. Francis did not want to follow his father into the cloth trade; he wanted to be a knight. So, at the age of twenty he joined the forces of Assisi in a minor skirmish with the neighbouring city of Perugia. He was captured and spent a year in a Perugian jail, until his father ransomed him. This
became the first of a series of experiences through which God called Francis to the life which he finally embraced. One of these experiences, at San Damiano, led to a rift with his father. Francis, in response to a voice from the crucifix in this tiny, ruined church, began to rebuild churches; when he ran out of money, he took cloth from his
father’s shop and sold it. His father disowned him before the bishop of Assisi, and Francis in his turn stripped off his clothes, returning to his father everything he had received from him, and promising that in future he would call only God his Father.
In the story of St Francis, we see him, with his followers, physically rebuilding a church but his ‘rebuilding’ of the church became so much more than this; it drew people into a life of commitment to God and it embraced those on the margins.
There are many on the margins today and some people, for various reasons, have felt hurt or excluded by the Church and this must sadden God deeply. At the end of January, I attended a Zoom training where we, as Christian leaders, considered the necessary rebuilding in terms of the hurt that has been caused by the Church in the area of sexuality. Within the Church there are variety of opinions, depending upon a person’s interpretation of Scripture, but the way in which these views have been expressed has, at times, been insensitive. A working party has been meeting, praying, sharing and reflecting upon the best way forward, resulting in the publication of a book and short course called Living in Love and Faith. At our training day, we explored the resources and considered how these might best be used within the Church to help us all progress in a loving, compassionate way. The material has been sensitively produced and includes some very moving videos clips and I do encourage you, when this course is
offered, to take part if you are able.
Peace is born of Love
Love is born of understanding
Understanding is born of Listening
Listening leads to Justice and Peace
Take care and God bless,
PS. If anyone is interested, I have a DVD about the life of St Francis and would be very pleased to lend it to anyone who would like to watch it; it may be something to do during lockdown

Sue Mann

24th December 2020

Happy New Year!

I hope that, despite Tier 4 restrictions, you were able to experience something of the light of Christ this Christmas. And I am sure that we are all joining together to pray that 2021 will see the light at the end of the tunnel with regard to the Covid-19 pandemic which swept across the world in 2020.

One piece of exciting news we received at the end of 2020 was that a new Bishop of Chelmsford has been appointed, Bishop Guli Francis-Dehqani.  We look forward to Bishop Guli beginning her ministry amongst us later in the year. Currently serving as the first Bishop of Loughborough, she is married to Lee, a priest in the Church of England, and they have three children, the eldest in his final year at university and twins studying for their GCSEs.

Bishop Guli was born in Iran and moved here in 1980, following the Iranian Revolution and her brother’s resultant murder. Originally with refugee status, she has lived here for 40 years and begun her working life at the BBC World Service Radio before being ordained.

When asked in an interview by Bishop Peter about what sort of Bishop we can expect, Bishop Guli  reflected upon some of the words of St Ignatius: ‘Bishops are best when they are silent…’ By this she was conveying her desire to be a ‘listening’ bishop; a bishop who gathers the stories of the people and who prays for wisdom and compassion as she seeks to respond.

Bishop Peter also asked Bishop Guli what her priorities are. Although she doesn’t come with a grand plan, she expressed 3 broad areas of focus.

  1. For the Church to become more outward facing:
  • to challenge the unjust structures in society and to be prepared to meet Christ in the unexpected places.
  • to become less anxious and to sit light to internal differences and to think and speak well of one another.
  • to become more diverse so that all are welcome and for us all to be open to the possibility of being changed so that, together, we can be transformed by Christ.
  • Commitment to the wellbeing of clergy and lay leaders so that they can cultivate communities where all of God’s people can flourish.
  • Commitment to safeguarding.

In her spare time, Bishop Guli enjoys music, being with family, walking and relaxing with friends. In response to Bishop Peter’s last question about which football team she supports, she correctly answered by saying that whilst she has been a lifelong supporter of Leicester, she looks forward to being a West Ham Supporter!

You can hear this interview and find out some more about Bishop Guli by clicking on the link below.

As we excitedly await the opportunity to meet Bishop Guli, please do pray for her, her husband, Lee, and their children, Gabriel, Eleanor and Simeon  as they prepare for this new chapter in their lives.

With love and prayers,


Sue Mann

27th November 2020

This year there has been a lot of waiting: waiting for the next Government briefing; waiting for a period of lockdown to end; waiting to find out whether the vaccine will work, when the vaccine will be available and who will be able to have it and, ultimately, waiting for an end to the coronavirus. And, in Advent, we now enter a period of waiting in the church calendar. Not only are we waiting to celebrate the birth of Christ, albeit in a very different way this year, we await the second coming of Christ too, although none of us know when that will be.

The past few months have been tough year and for some this has meant family illness, bereavement, job loss or being furloughed. And, alongside the suffering, have come many questions. As Christians we are not exempt from suffering, and our life isn’t always comfortable, but God has promised to walk alongside us. He also calls us to challenge things and structures that need challenging.

As we light the Advent candles in the approach to Christmas, we think of love, joy, hope and peace. I believe that whatever the circumstances we do have a hope and that this time has caused all of us to reflect and, perhaps, to become more outward looking.  My prayer is that when Covid-19 is something of the dim and distant past, all the good that that has come out of it, such as maybe a heightened awareness of the needs of others, support for the poor and marginalised, will continue to flourish, develop and grow.

Over recent days I have been reading a book entitled ‘Against the Grain’ written by Garth Hewitt, a singer, songwriter, priest, author and activist. It is a mixture of stories, theology, wisdom, music and humour underpinned by a desire to make a difference in the world, God’s difference. And I would like to share with you a prayer that I found at the end of the book, the source of which is unknown, but which I have decided I am going to use in my personal reflection throughout the period of Advent.

Make a difference in the world

May God bless you with

discomfort at easy answers

half-truths, superficial relationships,

so that you will live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger at injustice,

oppression and exploitation of people,

so that you will work for

justice, equity and peace.

May God bless yob you with tears to shed for those who suffer

from pain, rejection, starvation and war

so that you will reach out your hand to comfort

them and change their pain to joy.

And may God bless you with foolishness

to think that you can make a difference in the world

so you will do the things which

others tell you can’t be done.

Christmas is going ahead. We will be celebrating the birth of Jesus; Jesus who came to change the world and who is in the midst of this with us. I pray that you will have a blessed and joyful time. And please know that my prayers are especially with those of you for whom this will be your first Christmas without a loved one.

Take care and God bless,


Sue Mann

31st October 2020

Thank you, so much, for all your harvest gifts and thank you to those of you who have managed to fill a shoebox for our Link to Hope appeal. Your generosity is greatly appreciated.

As I write, we are approaching All Saints’ Day and Remembrance Sunday, for which our services, this year, will be very different from past years but, hopefully, thought provoking and meaningful. Infact, much of what we are doing in church is simplified at the moment and whilst sad that we are unable to accommodate as many people as we would like in services, the simplicity can sometimes draw us back to why we are there in the first place, to the God we worship, and to our dependence upon him. I have recently presided at a few simple weddings with only a handful of people and, in many ways, the minimalistic approach has helped us all to focus upon God and his desire to be an intrinsic part of our lives.

Last month we held our first Forest Church. We were all there in simplicity, in the elements, the wind and a few drops of rain but warmed by a fire and the knowledge that God was with us. The next one will be at Bulphan Churchyard on Saturday November 14th at 4pm. Do come  along if you are able and remember to bring something to sit on!

God is with us in whatever we face at the moment.  But God also calls us to act on his behalf. At a recent clergy study day led by Bishop John, our Area Bishop, we were reminded that, although we are in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, which we are all hoping and praying will come to an end soon, this doesn’t mean that all crises are over; far from it. We are currently also in the middle of an ecological crisis, an equality crisis, a refugee crisis and a homeless crisis, to name just a few. So even when the coronavirus subsides, as Christians and churches, we have a responsibility to work to end all suffering.

With regard to the climate crisis, the Church of England is aiming to be Carbon Neutral by 2030 and our churches in this Benefice have also signed up to become Eco Churches. One of the ways in which we are working towards this is to use less paper. As a result, you will soon be receiving a letter asking if you would consider receiving our online version of the Hobnob magazine instead of a paper copy. Our online magazine has been developed by David Mortimer and Ron Porter and is looking great. If you haven’t yet found it, you can find it at We fully understand that some people need to receive a paper copy because they have no access to technology and that some copies are put in local hostelries and surgeries etc, but please, if you do have access to technology, do consider the future of our planet, the beautiful world which God has given to us and our responsibility to preserve this for our children’s children, when you make your decision.

We are also in the process of considering our service pattern for the future in order to engage with as many people as possible and a questionnaire has been devised to be sent out to everyone on our database. The first one sent out had some problems so is going to be reissued very soon, using a different provider. If you receive this questionnaire, please could I ask you to take a couple of minutes to fill it in. In order for it to serve the purpose for which it was intended, it is important that as many people as possible complete it.

Thank you for your continued help and support and, as always, please be assured of my prayers for you at this time and do let me know of any pastoral needs.

Take care and God bless,


Sue Mann

24th September 2020

During lockdown, the Southend Boys and Girls Choirs, along with past members, gathered online to record the song ‘We are One,’ by Brian Tate, to raise money for NHS charities. The words are:

When we walk, when we sleep, when we rise, we are one.

When we laugh, when we sing, when we cry, when we run, we are one.

And we shall love one another with all our hearts,

And we shall care for each other with all our soul & our might.

When we stand, when we fall, when we rise we are one.

We are one in the cold, in the heat, in the dark, in the sun, we are one.

When we’re hurting one another, that’s the way we hurt ourselves.

With our sisters and our brothers, we will rise.

And we do, and we try; we must live or we die.

We will reach, we will climb, we will rise, we will fly, we are one.

And these words shall be forever within our hearts.

And we shall teach them to our children and remember them in our lives.

When we walk, when we sleep, when we rise, we are one.

When we laugh, when we sing, when we cry, when we run.

We are strong, we belong, we are one!

It was a great opportunity for these young people to engage and work together in a really positive project.

I have noticed over the past couple of months, in some instances, morale begin to wane as, understandably, people acknowledge the reality of the fact that there is not a quick fix to the coronavirus. And, at this time, it is so important to remember that, as a global and local people, we are one. This isn’t to deny our unique God-given characteristics as individuals, communities and churches. But we are facing challenging times and the way we will get through it is to recognise our connectedness and our interdependence.

For priests, especially when faced with difficult decisions, it can sometimes be a lonely road, particularly when people grumble that things aren’t as they would like them to be, or as they once were. It is, of course, crucial to ask questions and reflect, and sometimes this means all of us being prepared to be challenged about our own views or ways of doing things, in order to grow and move forward. That is part of being a Christian and a church. But it is also important, as people of God, to aspire during these times to be a ‘can do’ people. Most of us are encouraged and energised by having ‘can-do’ people around us; I know I need such people to support and assist me in my role. If we remain a ‘can do’ people, we will be a ‘can-do’ church as I hope we have been through the past few months.

I believe, with God’s help, we can work together, as one, to be a ‘can-do’ people, locally, and globally. In this Benefice we have provided 1.5 tonnes of food to the foodbank since March and I am hopeful that we can increase our donations this month when we would, otherwise, have been having Harvest collections at church. Let’s aim to collect the same amount of, if not more, food this October than before. We have also been having some discussions recently about our church governance structures which have resulted in some very honest, challenging and, sometimes, painful discussions, but which have culminated in some very positive mutual support as we find  new ways of being community and working together. Can I encourage you all, as we move forwards in these unprecedented times, to remember that God calls us, to work together as one, as a ‘can-do’ church, in the power of his comforting, challenging and ‘can-do’ Holy Spirit.

With love and prayers for all of you.

God bless,