CMS Link Visit @ Beccles, Suffolk ❤️

Charming, quaint, quirky, peaceful and popular are all words you find on tourist websites used to describe the lovely Suffolk town of Beccles ~ all true of course, it’s a really great place! According to Trip Advisor, the top No. 1 attraction of ‘THE 10 BEST Things to Do in Beccles – 2022‘ is, guess what, the most unlikely sport of parachuting ~ not the first thing that came to mind when I arrived in Beccles on Saturday for my CMS Link Church Visit over the weekend – I wouldn’t like to try, even off the bell tower, the highest building in the town…

When I ask my London friends if they’ve heard of Beccles – yes they have – and what comes to mind, they mention ‘cakes’, though the cakes turn out to be Eccles Cakes, which are actually from Lancashire. Beccles and Eccles sound just a bit too similar, I guess! Of course, Beccles does have plenty of delicious cakes, biscuits and flans, and we enjoyed some of them on Saturday night at our Bring and Share evening. Check out this delicious and very beautiful cherry flan, yum yum!

My first challenge on Saturday though was just finding the town! The satnav took me on the scenic route across Suffolk which wound on and on, while signposts along the way all gave distances to Norwich, Ipswich, Lowestoft and then Diss ~ Beccles hardly gets a mention until you’re nearly there. Apparently only one of the main roads into the town has a large ‘Welcome to Beccles’ sign ~ though there’s another smaller one for those arriving by boat…

Yes, my conclusion is that Beccles is a very modest town, almost shy in fact, and happy to sit quietly on the River Waveney, marking the border between Suffolk and Norfolk, and the people who have chosen to live there seem to enjoy that quietness too. Saturday afternoon was certainly quiet (I hardly saw anyone!) but it was also sunny and bright and I could wander around taking photos of the streets and quayside…

I had the honour of staying with Barry and Faith Darch, long-time members of St. Michael’s Church, Beccles, where Faith is a lay reader and also in the bell-ringing team. Barry is serving as Mayor of Beccles this year, so I was delighted to have a tour of the town hall on Sunday morning, including a visit to the chamber, where the Beccles Town Council meets, and also to see the chains that the mayor and mayoress wear on special occasions. Despite all the grandeur, they are very down-to-earth, humble, kind people and such wonderful hosts!

On Saturday night, we met at St. Luke’s Church, Beccles for food – and sharing about Taiwan. It was freezing outside, their first frost of the winter, but inside it was lovely and warm. I was very warmly welcomed by the rector, Rev. Rich Henderson, in charge of Beccles Parish, which now has 5 churches; fortunately he is helped by a wonderful team. Keith is the chair of the mission committee, and on Saturday, he and Rich kindly presented me with a new and very large Chinese – English Bible, a gift from Beccles Parish. Thank you!

We had a fun evening – and check out all the amazing food….

And so to Sunday, which was St. Edmund’s Day, November 20. St. Edmund, who died on November 20, 869, was King of East Anglia, and is also the patron saint of plagues and pandemics. The tradition is that the St. Edmund’s flag is flown from all towers in Suffolk on St. Edmund’s Day, and so I accompanied Barry the Mayor to the town hall to meet Tom, the official flag-raiser – and to find the St. Edmund’s flag….

And as the flag went up, we went up to see Faith and the bellringers in the tower, where they ring every Sunday morning. Very impressive…

And so to St. Michael’s Church for the 11:00 service, where we had coffee before and after the service ~ it was great to see so many of those who had come the night before, and who I have known for many years. That includes Bishop Gavin Reid and his wife, who retired to Beccles many years ago – they had come straight from taking a service in a nearby village, and also Rev. Peter Langford, famous for cycling from Lands End to John O’Groats to mark his 75th birthday, then again for his 80th, then again for his 85th – and next year he’s 90, and thinks he may try again! Such energy! I see I mentioned them in my blog post after my previous visit to Beccles in October 2018 (see here). Also, Rachel, retired from CMS after serving many years in Asia, and now living in the area, lovely to see her again. Anyway, I did the sermon – and took a lot of selfies with lovely people…

As we came out of the church, there was this horse and cart driving around Beccles, what a great sight…

Faith and Barry kindly cooked us a splendid Sunday lunch, and then we went off to Bungay to visit an elderly church member in a care home there. Afterwards we walked around Bungay Town – it has lots of old houses painted in beautiful colours, and the ruins of an old castle…

And finally back to Beccles, where the St. Edmund’s flag was still flying, another great sight!

So a big thank you to Rich, Keith, Barry, Faith, Rachel and everyone in Beccles Parish for such a fantastic weekend, and such a warm welcome. It was great, and your ongoing support is so much appreciated. Thank you, and thanks be to God for all His many blessings! ❤️

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