The Six Parishes of the Saxon Shore Benefice

"The United Benefice of Hunstanton St. Mary with Ringstead Parva St. Andrew,
Holme-next-the-Sea St. Mary the Virgin and Thornham All Saints,
with Brancaster St. Mary the Virgin, with Burnham Deepdale St. Mary
and Titchwell St. Mary, with Choseley",
which is the official name of this Benefice, is rather a mouthful and so the name
"The Saxon Shore Benefice"
was chosen for these churches on the north west Norfolk coast.

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Our Rector

Contact details:
Rev. Susan Bowden-Pickstock
The Rectory,
Broad Lane,
PE31 8AU

Tel: 01485 211180

The Revd Susan Bowden-Pickstock is the Rector of the Saxon Shore Benefice of six Churches here on the north Norfolk Coast.

Photo - Susan Bowden-Pickstock
She is an ordained Pioneer Minister in the Anglican Church. This is a relatively new type of training which combines traditional theological training with an emphasis on relating to our current culture and helping church and community to meet. Susan grew up in rural villages in East Anglia, and has been a person of strong faith sinc small child:

          ‘I remember a conversation under cherry blossom when I was about 5 when it all made
          sense in my head that God was there, and I was loved, and that was that.’

Her previous working life includes ten years as a Registered General Nurse: journeying from Guys Hospital in London, to Papworth, Newmarket, Addenbrookes, and finishing as a GP Practice Nurse in Cambridge. She then worked for fifteen years within the BBC in local radio as a ‘Faith and Ethics Producer.’

Photo- Susan Bowden-Pickstock

Susan is married to Philip and they have four children at various stages of secondary, university education and employment: careers are currently being formed as a chef, in psychology, in medicine, and in any and all water sports and computer games…. Family life has been the greatest joy, in all its wonder, muddle and chaos.

She has always taken Iranaeus seriously when he said ‘The glory of God is a human being fully alive.’ and cannot resist the challenge to explore a new dimension of living. She therefore also has RHS qualifications in general horticulture, as well as an honours degree in Literature and Religious Studies. Her childhood dream to be an author was fulfilled in writing a book on horticulture and spirituality called ‘Quiet Gardens: the Roots of Faith?’ and hopes one day to write more.

She has taken a few random opportunities in life including exercising racehorses at Newmarket, Photo- Susan Bowden-Pickstock sailing on a tall ship out of Stockholm, spending time with monks in Rome, travelling with the family to Australia, Canada, Scandinavia and Italy and gaining (with a team of others) a Chelsea silver-gilt medal.

Susan enjoys almost anything but particularly, cooking and eating, gardening, hill climbing, horse-riding, cycling, swimming, reading, cinema, theatre, and photography.

Photo - Susan Bowden-Pickstock

She would like to own a giraffe (but only on a plot of land big enough, of course!).

A blue line!

A sermon about remembering from our Rector

What do we remember when we remember the First World War?
We remember lines of marching soldiers, crowds of brown serge uniformed men piling onto trains at London stations, cheerful, kissing their girls goodbye, We remember lines of trudging soldiers the other end on narrow rural roads of france keen as mustard to put their training into practice:

Counter-Attack by Siegfried Sassoon
We’d gained our first objective hours before
While dawn broke like a face with blinking eyes,
Pallid, unshaven and thirsty, blind with smoke.
Things seemed all right at first. We held their line,
With bombers posted, Lewis guns well placed,
And clink of shovels deepening the shallow trench.

We remember their bravery, their working together, their holding things together, even advancing occasionally. this is what the propaganda of the day wanted everyone to remember..

Things seemed all right at first. We held their line,
With bombers posted, Lewis guns well placed,
And clink of shovels deepening the shallow trench.
The place was rotten with dead; green clumsy legs
High-booted, sprawled and grovelled along the saps
And trunks, face downward, in the sucking mud,
Wallowed like trodden sand-bags loosely filled;
And naked sodden buttocks, mats of hair,
Bulged, clotted heads slept in the plastering slime.
And then the rain began,—the jolly old rain!

This month and this year we remember the soldiers of WW1 and we remember the mud.
I came across an essay by Matthew Leonard, a conflict anthropologist, you can read his whole essay online, it is about the mud:

"Aside from the danger of enemy attacks, soldiers in the trenches faced other challenges.
The intense and mechanical destruction of Belgium and Northern France in the First World War created a new and terrifying landscape that had hitherto only ever been imagined or seen in medieval visions of hell: one of mud and death unlike anything ever seen before. The resultant mudscape became the landscape in which the war was fought and lived. Almost every painting, photograph, poem, diary or book about the First World War involves mud. It is as much a part of the war as artillery or trenches, barbed wire or machine guns, hopelessness or heroism.
The trenches of the Western Front were always "muddy"', even when it was dry. In Flanders the landscape is predominantly flat and the water table is high. Even in summer after only a few feet of digging the water appears. Further, the mud was not just wet earth, but a combination of many of the unpleasantnesses of war. This lack of understanding contributed to the disorientation of British troops arriving in France and Belgium: having trained for war in the sterile environments of Salisbury Plain and other simulated battlegrounds, they were simply not prepared for the world in which they found themselves. The reality was that there was an enemy other than the Germans: the "Slimescape" of the frontlines a combination of mud and slime, a Landscape created by modern industrial weaponry. It rapidly became apparent to new arrivals in the trenches that surviving the onslaught of the landscape would be as challenging as surviving the weaponry of the enemy. The earth was churned up so ferociously that it took on the form of a sea of mud that seemed to have no beginning or end."

Attack by Siegfried Sassoon
At dawn the ridge emerges massed and dun
In the wild purple of the glow'ring sun,
Smouldering through spouts of drifting smoke that shroud
The menacing scarred slope; and, one by one,
Tanks creep and topple forward to the wire.
The barrage roars and lifts. Then, clumsily bowed
With bombs and guns and shovels and battle-gear,
Men jostle and climb to, meet the bristling fire.
Lines of grey, muttering faces, masked with fear,
They leave their trenches, going over the top,
While time ticks blank and busy on their wrists,
And hope, with furtive eyes and grappling fists,
Flounders in mud.

Matthew Leonard continues:
"Life in the trenches was a surreal experience. men reduced to living like animals beneath ground in trenches and dug-outs in a world of mud: the landscape permeated the troops lives the mud was experienced.[it] did not just make life virtually unbearable – It killed as well.
Jack Dillon, a Lewis Gunner at Passchendaele described it thus, "The mud there wasn’t liquid, it wasn’t porridge, it was a curious kind of sucking kind of mud. When you got off track with your load, it 'drew' at you, not like quicksand, but a real monster that sucked at you"
Paradoxically the landscape that engulfed so many could also return them to the surface. Men who had been suddenly buried by explosions could be rescued from the ground, pulled up from the slime to safety, resurrected: symbols of destruction and death turned to symbols of life and hope.
The mud of the Western Front hugely affected how the war was fought as well as how life was experienced by the men in the front lines. It affected every aspect of a soldier’s life. The landscape was felt, tasted and smelt. It was lived on and in and became a living object that the soldiers grew to understand and admire as well as dread and hate."

The Redeemer by Siegfried Sassoon
Darkness: the rain sluiced down; the mire was deep;
It was past twelve on a mid-winter night,
When peaceful folk in beds lay snug asleep;
There, with much work to do before the light,
We lugged our clay-sucked boots as best we might
Along the trench; sometimes a bullet sang,
And droning shells burst with a hollow bang;
We were soaked, chilled and wretched, every one;
Darkness; the distant wink of a huge gun.

The padres of the first world war had the toughest time. as Carol Ann Duffy says in her poem for Remembrance Day 'Pages of the sea' - "The end of God in the poisonous, shrapneled air."
After all, how can you talk about God, when all around you is this living hell? all around you is this surreal sea of mud and death?
But we can talk about God, the war didn’t come from God, it came from man. And God talks powerfully to the experience of mud.
For the experience of mud is one of losing our feet, not having solid ground to stand on. The slimescape of mud of northern France became worse, an active force of evil, sucking men down. Whether we become physically mired in mud, or just feel as if that is the situation, so it is then we need to be reassured. When all around is even a slippery hell, the bible reminds us that God is a Rock.

5 Wait on God alone in stillness, O my soul;
for in him is my hope.
6 He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my stronghold, so that I shall not be shaken.

6 times in 6 verses the Psalmist today reassures us that trusting in God is solid ground.

7 In God is my strength and my glory;
God is my strong rock; in him is my refuge.

God is a Rock, a refuge, a stronghold.

8 Put your trust in him always, my people;
pour out your hearts before him, for God is our refuge.
9 The peoples are but a breath,
the whole human race a deceit;
on the scales they are altogether lighter than air.
12 Steadfast love belongs to you, O Lord.

The soldiers we remember today would have known 'the whole human race a deceit;' they lived at the sharpest end of reality, but they continued to fight for good. They held letters of love, some their bibles and prayer books, in their top pockets.
We remember their extraordinary courage, in the midst of their extraordinary fear, we remember their steadfast love of what is good.
We pray Gods grace on them and on us, that our sometimes muddied lives may too, overall, be meaningful, being grounded on Gods love for us, the eternal Rock.

Jesus says:
'Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. 2In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.' 18 'I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. because I live, you also will live.'

Bless you

          Susan Bowden-Pickstock
          Rector of the Saxon Shore Benefice
          Ordained Pioneer Minister

A blue line!

Last updated 04/12/2018
Services in the Benefice during December.