Wedding Exhibition – next Friday to Sunday

Our Wedding Exhibition opens this Friday in St Mary’s Church Easthorpe.

Come along and see wedding dresses from the last few decades. We’re open Friday 14th & Saturday 15th June, 10am till 5pm and on Sunday 16th 10am to 4pm, closing with a short service to celebrate marriage and for couples to renew their marriage vows, followed by afternoon tea.

Refreshments are available all three days and donations go to the church spire restoration.


Monthly Men’s Pub Lunch


We meet at noon on the 1st Wednesday of each month at one of three pubs – the Fox or Donkey & Buskins in Layer de la Haye or the Hare & Hounds in Layer Breton. We’re a friendly lot and welcome newcomers from Layer de la Haye, Layer Breton, Layer Marney, Easthorpe, Copford and nearby villages. So why not get in touch and come along to try us out?

Over an hour or so around 15 to 20 of us enjoy a pub lunch, a drink and each other’s company. It’s simple, totally informal, no strings and we each pay for our own orders.
The remaining dates and locations in 2019 are: 3/7 D&B, 7/8 H&H, 4/9 D&B, 2/10 F, 6/11 D&B, 4/12 H&H.
By the Sunday before please let (07814 116 590) know if you are coming so he can confirm numbers to the pub, and for the Fox and for the Hare & Hounds also let him have your pre-orders for lunch.

Circles of influence (June 2019 article)

tree rings

Rev Lydia Smith writes …

By the time you read this we may well have already completed the yearly Rogation walk and service, a gentle stroll through the fields and lanes of our small area of North East Essex. But you don’t have to walk to far to notice that, even after a few days of rain, the ground is dry.  We do live in the drier part of the country, it’s true, but we can see this frequent dry weather not as a constant but a sign of climate change.  A recent study by NASA looked at the evidence in tree rings as well as meteorological records and data about human-generated emissions of greenhouse gases.  Tree rings’ thickness vary according to how wet or dry each year was, providing a natural ancient record to supplement more recent human written and recorded data.  And the tree rings show it is dry weather that has increased over the past century.

This is just one study amongst many – we hear about them almost daily – but such news doesn’t seem to be changing our behaviour.  Declaring a climate emergency, as our MPs found time to do recently, is a good start, but without any further action it’s merely a gesture.  And even if the government does act, there is still the need for all of us to make significant changes in how we live.  When I think about my life: the heaps of plastic packaging, my use of the car as my main form of transport, catching a plane to go on holiday, I know that this is not sustainable.  We can all make choices about what we eat, how we travel and how we use energy in our homes.

For me, these choices are inspired by the Christian view of the world as made and given by God, a gift not to be squandered, but to be treasured, and carefully passed down the generations.  Further, the created world is a sign of who God is – God may be known through it.  Saint Basil the Great, who lived in the 4th century, reflected on this: a single plant, a blade of grass or one speck of dust is sufficient to occupy all your intelligence in beholding the art with which it has been made. 

If you do read this before 2 June, why not take some time to contemplate the countryside around and join in the Rogation walk.  It starts at 8.30am at St Mary’s Church, Layer Marney, for breakfast and a short service, walking on to Layer Breton church for coffee and ends in the church at Layer de la Haye with Holy Communion and a spot of lunch.  It would help to know numbers for catering purposes, so please call Rosemary (01206 734769) if you’d like to come.  Park at Layer Marney Church, and there will be transport at Layer de la Haye to return you to your vehicle after lunch.

Best wishes



Being Human (May 2019 article)

Rev Lydia Smith writes …

“What is honour compared to a woman’s love? What is duty against the feel of a newborn son in your arms … or the memory of a brother’s smile? Wind and words. Wind and words. We are only human, and the gods have fashioned us for love. That is our great glory, and our great tragedy.” 

The lines come from one of the fantasy novels of George R. R. Martin, best known in their TV serialisation, Game of Thrones, the final season of which is currently airing.

The novels and TV series are full of intrigue and violence that rather belie the philosophical tone of these words.  Yet these words – offered by the learned Maester Aemon (played in the series by the late great Peter Vaughan) – speak beyond the sword and sorcery into a better way.

It’s not so far from the Christian understanding of love… something that’s the best of us, something that we strive for.  St Paul, in his letter to Christians living in the Greek city of Corinth, writes one of the best-known summaries.  We often hear it at weddings: Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.  It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love like this is not just an emotion, but a way of life… it’s made up of lots of acts of commitment… Not always easy, when our partner persists in their irritating habits (of course we never do such things ourselves!), when our children resist our guidance or ignore our wisdom, when our old friends let us down.  Christians believe that God helps us by his spirit to be patient like this, to be kind, helps us not to insist on our way, but make room for what others want or think.  So that when we do love like this, it’s possible that it will not be our great tragedy, but simply our great glory.


Best wishes




Easter Week Services

Services in Holy Week

Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday
– 9.30am Morning Prayer at Layer Breton
– 7.00pm Compline at Layer Breton
Maundy Thursday
– 9.30am Morning Prayer at Layer Breton
– 7.30pm Holy Communion at Copford
Good Friday,
2.00pm Good Friday Service at Layer Breton
Easter Eve (Saturday)
6.00pm Easter Fire – Service of Light at Layer Marney. Family Friendly service. We begin with a BBQ, then, holding candles, we bring the light into a darkened church. Ends by 8.00pm. For catering – please let Julia know if you plan to come, 01206 330235

Easter Sunday

St John the Baptist, Layer de la Haye
– 10.30am Parish Communion – Led by Revd Julia Russell Grant
– 12.30pm Baptism of William Hook-Child – Led by Revd Lydia Smith
St Mary, Layer Breton – 9.00am Holy Communion – Led by Revd Kit Gray
St Mary, Layer Marney – 9.00am Morning Prayer Led by Revd Julia Russell Grant
St Michael & All Angels, Copford – 10.30am Holy Communion – Led by Revd Lydia Smith
St Mary, Easthorpe – 9.00am BCP Communion Led by Revd Lydia Smith
Graphic by Chris Kennedy from

Egged on (April 2019 article)

Rev Lydia Smith writes …..

As I write, the papers are talking up the 20th series of Midsomer Murders.  The UK’s most dangerous villages – a rural hotspot of crime and misdemeanour – are back on TV.  By the time you read this, you may well have watched several of the episodes already.  In one episode, committed fans of the show are invited to look out for hidden references to what happened in the previous 19 series.  In the industry, these planted clues are called Easter eggs, presumably because – like the seasonal chocolate delights – you have to hunt for them.

The story of Jesus, by contrast, is not one that’s hidden by the writers who put together the gospels.  Rather, they make it clear from the very beginning that the direction of travel for Jesus is towards the cross and from the cross to resurrection.  Or that’s how it seems in hindsight – but the gospel writers also show how people at the time don’t see it like this.  Everyone – from the political and religious leaders through to the ordinary bystanders – is surprised at what happens.  Though Jesus warns his disciples, those closest to him, even they do not really understand what he’s talking about.  On that first Easter Sunday, the women who come to the tomb looking to anoint his body for burial are met by angels, saying ‘Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.’  Only then do they understand the clues, find the Easter eggs.

In solidarity with those women, we’ll be remembering the events of the first Easter in our churches in the coming weeks: following Jesus’ journey to the cross during Holy Week and celebrating his return to life on Easter Sunday.  Through all of this, as we call to mind these events long past, we bring them into the present, allowing them to give meaning and shape to our lives today.  Allowing them to bring life and hope for now and for the future.


Wishing you a joyful Easter



To be a pilgrim (March 2019 article)

Rev Lydia Smith writes …

Pilgrimages are becoming increasingly popular again – from the big international routes like the journey through Europe to Santiago de Compostela (often known as the Camino – the way) to the path from London via Watling Street to the shrine of Thomas à Becket in Canterbury.  Originally about religious devotion, people now make pilgrimages because the long walk is an interesting challenge, or because it’s a good chance to take some time out and reflect.

Devoting time to reflection doesn’t need to involve a very long walk – this is also what Lent is for.  It comes around every year, with its traditional focus is on prayer, self-denial and almsgiving, all of which sound quite medieval.  But we could put it in more modern language and call it an opportunity to detox (that’s the self-denial bit), to reflect (prayer) and to attend to others (almsgiving).

In the ancient days of pilgrimage, you’d wear special clothes and – on the way home – a souvenir badge to show where you’d been.  This picture is a badge from Canterbury, showing the head of Thomas à Becket.  Now, if you’re travelling in Spain and Portugal, you can often spot pilgrims following the Camino from their hi-vis vests, a practical choice when walking along busy roads.  Our Lenten journey begins in church on Ash Wednesday, where we are marked as pilgrims through Lent with an ashen cross on our foreheads.   The action is accompanied by some challenging words: turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ.  Lent is the time when we turn away from indulging ourselves and towards a better way.  That could be turning away from chocolate and towards fruit and exercise or giving up meat and taking up being vegetarian or vegan.  If you want some help in taking a Lenten pilgrimage, the Church of England is offering daily reflections via email or an app for your phone – sign up for Lent Pilgrim at

What’s happening in our churches in Lent this year? We begin the season with an Ash Wednesday service on 6th March at 7.30pm at St John’s Church Layer de la Haye.  Then there are also Lent lunches on Wednesdays in Layer Breton where after a soup lunch we’ll be taking a pilgrimage through the Beatitudes, Jesus’ teaching on what it means to live in God’s kingdom.  Contact Lydia (01206 738759 email: or Julia (01206 330235 email: if you’d like to come.

Best wishes for a good Lent




Image from Museum of London [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Seen the Light? (February 2019 article)

Reverend Lydia Smith writes …

There’s a day for celebrating or raising awareness of everything now – and often a card to go with it.  There’s even Send a Card to a Friend Day, which manages to combine both concerns (7 February, in case you needed to know, possibly sponsored by Hallmark or Paperchase).  But have you ever heard of National Sickie Day?  It falls on the first Monday in February – this year it’s the 4th – and is the day when the highest number of workers call in sick.  Why? Well by then the Christmas and New Year break has been forgotten and it’s a long wait until the next bank holiday.  And, of course, there’s lots of illness about and perhaps the additional worry of an unhealthy bank balance, all of which conspire to make the office quite unappealing.

Even though we know it’s starting to get lighter, February is not a particularly cheery month.  So perhaps it helps that February begins with an ancient festival of light – Candlemas.  This was a time to celebrate the light that candles gave.  The candles to be used in church for the coming year would be blessed and people would place lighted candles in the windows of their homes.  Coming halfway between Christmas and Easter, Candlemas is a day when, even though the nights are still long, we can begin to look forward to longer days ahead.

The bible story that is most closely connected to Candlemas is that of the meeting between the infant Jesus, brought by his parent to the temple in Jerusalem, and the prophets Simeon and Anna.  It’s Simeon’s words as he meets the child and his parents that sum up the moment and give us the link.  In his prayer (which we often call the Nunc Dimittis), he describes Jesus as a light that will show God to all people.

We’re inviting you to join the celebration of Candlemas in our churches in two ways.  There’s a traditional church candle blessing service at St Mary’s Layer Marney at 4pm on 3 February.  And, earlier that day, combining Candlemas with a newer tradition, we’re holding a Christingle service at St John’s Layer de la Haye at 10.30am.


Best wishes