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!).

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A sermon from our Rector for the First Sunday of Advent

Today is the first Sunday of Advent and I want to explore the beginning of the Christmas story.

In fact it is the Psalm of this first Advent Sunday, Psalm 80 that really speaks of the beginning of the Christmas story. In the first verse the Psalmist speaks of God as Shepherd and remembers the great forefathers of yesteryear Joseph, and Benjamin. And then the refrain, repeated through the Psalm is poignant.

'Turn us again, O God; show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.'
They long for God again, as a shepherd to his people; and that longing went on for centuries, ' long will you be angry at your people’s prayer
Turn us again, O God; show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.'

That is the true background to the Christmas story, the centuries of longing by the people of God to be connected to God again.

Much later on in the story, when Jesus is in his thirties and explaining to his disciples about his second coming, to restore the world to goodness and love, Jesus says to the twelve sets of eyes looking at him:

'Therefore, keep awake - for you do not know when the master of the house will come'

And so we turn to that other beginning of the Christmas story, the one that involves Mary and the angel.

At what is known as 'the annunciation':

"God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee,to a virgin named Mary."

Mary was a young girl, probably early teens. She lived in a small village in a rural backwater. But she came from a family with priestly connections. Zechariah and Elizabeth, her relatives, were both descended from priestly lines. They knew scripture and it is highly likely that living in that wider family Mary did too. God was part of her heritage, as was the hope and longing of the ancient prophets like Isaiah who said:

'O that you would tear open the heavens and come down,'

This was Mary's background longing, made sharp by living in a country and a time ruled by unsympathetic Roman powers.

But I think that particular day, the day the angel came, Mary was not turned to face him. She was going about her own domestic business.. .and then, suddenly, there was this angelic stranger!

In Middle Eastern culture a guest is a sacred opportunity to be hospitable. It would have been instinctive for Mary to greet the angel and as it were, ask him in.

'Keep awake!' Jesus says to us: 'Notice where God is.'

And initially Mary may not have appreciated the nature of this stranger, not until he had started the conversation...

Gabriel appeared to her and said, 'Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!"

Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean.

Gabriel greeted her, and she paused, trying to work out her hospitable and appropriate response.

God waited.

The angel replied, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God."

She was free to accept or to refuse, this was her human choice.

Mary responded, "I am the Lord's servant."

For Mary, though initially taken unawares, had other words of the prophets deep within her:

"Yet, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter;"

"Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.
The people who walk in darkness will see a great light."

And there, in front of her, was this bright shining angel, dazzling in his intent.

"Turn us again, O Lord God of hosts; show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved."

This is the beginning of the Christmas story and for us this Advent it can also be a beginning of the next part of our lives. For annunciations are part of all of our lives, should we notice them.

What does the Psalmist say to us? Effectively he says: 'Don't miss the boat of annunciation':

"Turn us again, O Lord God of hosts; show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved."

My Advent book this year is written by a nun who is currently a hermit. She is Maria Boulding. We may not think we have had anything like an annunciation but:

'Keep awake! Notice where God is.'

For God is there with each of us, often revealing small signs of goodness and light, and we need to train ourselves to see them. The sign of God's goodness may come in nature.
Maria says:

"Creation is shot through with the self gift of God."

Or we may notice the love of God in the words a friend or stranger says to us; or in an action done to us or for us.

One of the reasons that people become monks or nuns is so they can dedicate their entire life to training themselves to notice God, for we miss God so easily. But we can train ourselves to notice.

'Turn us again, O Lord God of hosts; show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.'

Sometimes we may only be aware of a spark, but we can ask God to kindle in us a flame of hope, from small sparks.

These days we are fed a lot of negativity and fear. We know through our media what powerful people are thinking and feeling; we know what is happening all over the world, but rarely are we fed the good. So we start to think there is no good. And that is complete rubbish! There is great hope, great humanity, great acts of compassion and selflessness and courage going on all over the world too. For every situation of desperation there will be good people in action, because the Spirit of God is alive in the world, the go-between God is out there, between idea and creativity, between word and action, between despair and hope, fusing the two, inspiring, strengthening, bringing perspective, freedom and life.

Some days or weeks we may feel we only know one side: despair, thirst, confusion, darkness: and these are part of the Advent of our lives. Maria Boulding tells us that they are half of the experience that cries out to God. Because confusion is an experience of understanding, darkness an experience of the lack of light, despair the body's understanding that there is hope.

She goes on to remind us:
"Where human sources were at zero but there was unconditional faith, God worked his wonders. Mary was powerless and poor, but she listened to the word of God... she welcomed the word and gave it life within her life."

So keep awake, this Advent. Notice where the angel is standing, know the love and purpose of God for good in your life, and in that of your neighbour.

Bless you

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Last updated 18/01/2018
Events page updated.
Services in the Benefice during January and February.