Beccles in Suffolk is not just beautiful, it’s also busy, though you wouldn’t think so if you looked at the roads at a weekend – all empty! But relaxing in the restaurants, climbing up the tower, and out on the boats at the quayside, there were lots of people. And this past weekend it was very blowy and blustery too ~ real hold-onto-yer-hats weather. Ah yes, I love a bit of fresh air!
Beccles is a charming old town (town sign photo above shows Queen Elizabeth I granting the town charter in 1584), full of quaint houses and lovely people, and this past Saturday the sun was out, the sky was blue, and it was perfect for a walk around: and so, welcome to beautiful Beccles!
I’ve been supported by the Beccles Parish of St. Michael’s – that’s the church in town, and St. Luke’s on the outskirts, for many many years. My previous visit to Beccles was in February 2015 (see that report and photos here), when it was very cold and instead of meeting in the church, we met in the nearby Waveney Centre, which overlooks the River Waveney, down below. Great views of the river around the town, and boats all over…
Beccles was once a river port, which explains why the church tower is built at the wrong end of the church, to stop it falling off a large cliff down near the river. The Beccles Bell Tower is 30 m (97 ft) tall, free-standing, and was sold to the district council for the price of one penny. So the council own it and on Saturday it was open to the public, £2.50 entrance fee to climb the 120+ steps to see a glorious view over the town and river.
St. Michael’s Church is a huge building, with large noticeboards of all their mission activities. This church is VERY supportive of CMS!
Since my last visit, sadly, we’ve lost Guenever who was the former leader of the CMS mission support group, but we give thanks to God for her life and ministry over the years. Her son, Philip was ordained a few years ago, and now serves in a parish not far from the town. Since my last visit also, Beccles has a new vicar, Rev. Rich Henderson, who was once the curate, so I’ve known him for many years too. He is assisted by 3 (yes, three!) curates. Wonderful! He also has a whole group of retired clergy living in Beccles who help out, and one lovely retired bishop, Gavin Reid, who was running the parish during the interregnum when I was last there. One of the retired priests, Peter Langford has famously just completed the Lands End to John O’Groats cycle ride – aged 85, and it’s his 3rd trip, his first was to celebrate his 75th birthday, his second at 80, and now his third at 85. His son kept a daily blog of the ride, see here. Amazing! This is Rich and Peter…
Many thanks to Keith for his welcome and hospitality, and taking me around from place to place. We started off on Saturday evening with a ‘bring-and-share’ evening at St. Luke’s Church, and I showed everyone my powerpoint about Taiwan. What a great evening, and wonderful food!
On Sunday, I shared a little in an interview at the morning service at St. Michael’s Church. The church is currently focusing on the theme of ‘Extravagant Welcome’ and has a sermon series on ‘Hospitality, Inclusivity and Diversity’. So on Sunday, I also had the chance to hear a great sermon on Inclusivity from Ben, one of the curates.
This is Anne (below right, with me), a long-time and very faithful CMS supporter, who many years ago taught in Uganda; and Keith, and his double, Ray (below left) ~ and no they’re not related!
On Sunday evening, there was an informal and very moving service, and I gave the sermon. These lovely people who came along deserve a medal, some were hearing me speak for the third time in one weekend ~ and they were still smiling!
And on Monday, the sun long gone, replaced by drizzle and fog, and Keith led the way as I said goodbye to Beccles and we headed over to Norwich to join the Norwich CMS Prayer Group (kindly invited by Louise Wright, former CMS mission partner in DR Congo – in the middle below) ~ where I had the chance to share about what’s going on in Taiwan. My first visit to that group – thanks to them all for their warm welcome and their great prayer support for CMS!
So a big thank you to Rich and Keith ~ and all the great people of beautiful and very blustery Beccles. I received a wonderful welcome from one and all, and am grateful for many many years of prayer and support for me and CMS. Thanks be to Almighty God for providing such faithful supporters and friends. And to finish, some of Keith’s plants that grace his garden – beautiful!