Category Archives: Rector’s Reflections

Sue Mann

29th March 2021

Recently, after some prayer and thought, I phoned two people up to ask them if they would consider doing something. Each of them responded by saying that they had been praying, asking God to open a door, that the timing was just right and so they said ‘yes.’

It is important that we spend time drawing close to God in prayer and that we not only speak but listen so that what we do is of God rather than out of a sense of guilt or obligation. It is said that it is no coincidence that God gave each of us one mouth and two ears!

Before lockdown, many of us were so busy! We live in a world where we often glorify the act of busyness but sometimes when we are rushing around, we push out that still small voice of God when, actually, what we need to say to God, in the words of Samuel in the Old Testament, is ‘Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.’

Julian of Norwich said,

‘…for that is what obedience is, listening, discerning and acting upon what one hears, through the motive power of love. St Benedict makes clear that obedience is a mutual exercise. We listen to God, we listen to each other, and to what the Spirit is saying to this little monastic church, from the least one in the community to the abbot.’

We are so glad to be back in church for Easter Day. And, although we have been worshipping online for the past year, the last Easter Day Service in church was two years ago and so it will be a joyous occasion, on April 4th, when we gather together. But we, as a church, need to be mindful about rushing back into everything just because that is how we did it before. We need to listen to God, to what the Holy Spirit is saying.

During lockdown, I have had the opportunity to listen to many different views about church services.  We also sent out a service questionnaire and with my colleague Max and with the support of the PCCs, we have adopted a new service pattern in the hope of engaging with as many people as possible in a manageable way. The new service plan can be found in the HOBNOB magazine. I believe it is an exciting time with new opportunities to embrace. Had we been asked 18 months ago to adopt the technology and different ways of worshipping many of us have now grown used to, most of us would have balked at the idea. But we have done it and I really believe that the Holy Spirit is calling us now into a new season which will incorporate some of the old and combine it with some new. Of course, as with any change, we will meet some challenges but we will continue listening to God as we go along and will make tweaks where necessary.  I invite you to come with us on this journey; a journey of listening, of hope and of discovering God afresh; a journey following God into the unknown, confident that when he calls us into pastures new, he will never let us go. After all, he is a God who loves each one of us so much that he was prepared to die on the cross for us, so that all of our sins and wrongdoing can be washed away for ever and so that each one of us can have a relationship with him. And, to finish, just to let you know, If you would like to find out more about Christianity or do a refresher course, we are hoping to hold an Alpha Course online in the near future. If this is something that you would be interested in please do let me know.

I look forward to seeing you soon.

With love and prayers for you all.

God bless,


Sue Mann

1st March 2021

This month I would like to begin by congratulating Bulphan Church on gaining the Eco Church Bronze Award.

Eco Church is an award scheme designed to motivate and resource churches in England and Wales to care for God’s earth as part of their everyday work and witness.

Churches complete a survey which is divided up into the following categories:

  • Worship and teaching
  • Management of church buildings
  • Management of church land
  • Community and global engagement
  • Lifestyle

Hopefully, you will have been reading the Eco Church articles that Lynda Robertson has been posting monthly in the Hobnob to help us all to think about green issues. Lynda is going to write a more detailed explanation of the Eco Church criteria, and how the process of awarding churches works, next month.

This Lent some of us have been doing a course called ‘For such a time as this’ about environmental issues and we have been looking at the impact of climate change through the lenses of Christians from different parts of the world, including Asia, the Philippines, the West Indies, Mozambique, South India and Japan. We have had some really interesting discussions and, as part of the course, members of the group have set up their own Lent boxes. Each week we have been given challenges to raise money to put in our Lent boxes. For example, one week we were encouraged to reduce energy consumption in our homes and for every action we took, such as turning the thermostat down 2 degrees, we were asked to put £1 in the Lent box. On another occasion, every time we used a plastic bottle, pot or bag, we fined ourselves 20 pence to put in the pot. All money raised will go to the Green Schools Programme and the wider work of the Church of South India, through USPG, an Anglican Mission Agency that partners churches and communities worldwide in God’s mission to enliven faith, strengthen relationships, unlock potential and champion justice.

As part of the course we have also shared ideas. Some people have been to to assess their own carbon footprint. One group member shared that the average carbon footprint in the UK is 6.50 tonnes of CO2 emissions per person, the average worldwide is 5 tonnes and the worldwide target is 2 tonnes! Most of us are not there yet but it is something to aim for.

It would be interesting to hear what other things you have been doing for Lent….

And, of course, as we come out of the wilderness of Lent, at the beginning of April, we pray that we will also begin to come out of the wilderness of the lockdown that we have all been experiencing for the past year.

Please know that you are all very much in my prayers.

Take care and God bless,


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,