Advent & Christmas Services 2018

#FollowTheStar logo version 1 RBG

#FridayFacts – Here are the details of our Advent & Christmas Services – don’t forget to put some in your diary! (All at St. Mary’s unless indicated otherwise).

And why not go to to sign up for a daily email to take the life-changing Christmas journey. Each one includes a picture, a short Bible passage, a simple prayer and an action to reflect on.

6pm Sunday 23/12 – Carol Service – traditional Christmas Carols and readings.

5pm Monday 24/12 – #FollowtheStar to Bethlehem in this family friendly Crib Service at St. Michael & All Angels Copford.

11.30pm Monday 24/12 – Christmas Eve Midnight Mass at St. Mary’s Layer Marney with Christmas Carols.

9am Tuesday 25/12 – Christmas Day Communion.

9.30am Sunday 30/12 – 1st Sunday of Christmas – 5 Parishes Communion at St. Mary’s Layer Breton.


Eyes down (October 2018 article)

hands using mobile phones

Reverend Lydia Smith writes ….

Listening to the news this morning, I heard about a suggestion that road signs be placed at pavement level, so that phone-using pedestrians wouldn’t miss the edge of the pavement.  Shaun Helman, of the UK based Transport Research Laboratory has suggested there could be text walking lanes and pavement level lights to guide people at pedestrian crossings.

Although it was a fun item on a relatively quiet news day, the message struck a chord.  Not so much on the merit of the ideas, but because it reminded me that we are still accommodating ourselves to this change in how we live.  Hence the debate in schools as to whether smartphones should be allowed.

This revolutionary bit of technology is a fact of life now.  Smartphones bring many benefits: you can keep in touch, celebrate the good moments, listen to music and play games all on one tiny device.  And – for those with a commuter in their household – phones can remove the great uncertainty about where the train carrying your loved one has got to: the Find Friends app has made life much simpler at the Vicarage.

But still, as we learn how best to deal with these constant companions, some of us may need a reminder to look up from our phones every now and then.  And not just to make sure we attend suitably to road traffic.

As summer turns to autumn, why not make some time to look away from the screen and appreciate the people near you and the world around.  Harvest festivals in our churches are great chance to notice and give thanks for the beautiful place we live in.

Best wishes




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Pets at home (September 2018 article)

winnie and billy

Reverend Lydia Smith writes …

The Foreign office cat, Palmerston, has his own Twitter account and a substantial Wikipedia entry.  Then there’s Gladstone, resident feline at the Treasury, whose social media presence is via Instagram and the 10 Downing Street cat, Larry, who could be seen on Google Street View, asleep near the doorstep of his home (the photo has since been updated: it’s now a rainy day, and of course the cat is nowhere in sight).

The vicarage cats, by contrast, have a rather lower public profile.  Billy and Winnie have taken very well to life in Layer but have shown no interest in sharing their opinions or photos of their dinner with a wider audience.  And we don’t love them any less for that.

Companion animals are wonderful: for start they are good for your health (studies have shown that pets are good for lowering blood pressure and reducing anxiety amongst other benefits).  But there’s more to the relationship than that.  For many of us, a pet is part of the family, particularly important as a comfort to us during challenging times.

St Francis of Assisi’s poem, The canticle of the creatures, affirms the connectedness that we have with animals and with all of creation.  Through the hymn, he writes of elements in the natural world – sun, moon, stars, water – as brother or sister.  And he encourages all the fellowship of creation to praise God.  We still sing his words as a hymn today: it begins All creatures of our God and king, lift up your voice and with us sing.

We’ll be celebrating our animals and giving thanks for all they are to us at a Pets Service on 19 September in St John’s Church at 10.30am.  Please come with your animals: cats to centipedes, spaniels to stick insects are all welcome.  And after we’ve blessed the creatures, there’ll be brunch for us humans to enjoy.


Best wishes



Point of View (August 2018 article)

earth rise enhanced-buzz-wide-23388-1338324625-21

Reverend Lydia Smith writes …

Last week I climbed the tower at St John’s Church Layer de la Haye. It was an interesting journey, to say the least.  Up the narrow spiral stairs to the ringing chamber, where the bell ropes hung, ready for action.  Then a few more steps, until we reached the bell loft: here the stairs ended and the ladders began – all 3 of them.  Up close and personal with the bells and the original medieval frame, this was a great opportunity to see what generates the sound of ringing on Sunday mornings.

But that was not why I was there – instead it was to see the view from the top.  From the tower at Layer Church you have a 360-degree view over the countryside.  There’s Abberton reservoir nearby and beyond it the river Blackwater and the Dengie peninsular.  There were fields laid out with the blue flowers of flax beginning to show, along with trees in full leaf, distant buildings, the snaking black tarmac of roads and the slowly turning white blades of wind turbines.

It’s much noted that when astronauts on the Apollo space missions first saw the earth from space, they found their understanding of the world and themselves changed for good.  They found themselves drawn into a deeper appreciation of the planet and a desire to care for the world and its people.  The phenomenon has even got a name: overview effect.

But you don’t have to go into space for a transforming perspective shift. You can gain it from the window of a plane as you head off on holiday, from the top of a tall building, or even just at ground level.  Looking intently at such a view takes us out of ourselves, gives us a sense of the wider landscape of our world or our neighbourhood, and perhaps a better sense of our place in it.  It can help us to love where we are better and to be thankful for it.  One of the poets who contributed to the book of Psalms puts it like this:

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established;
what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?

The writer reflects in wonder at whole of creation – earth and the other planets, plant and animal life and humans.  And on the privileged position of people in this greater view of things – beings whom God has formed and loved.

The poem ends as it began, in praise and thanksgiving: O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!


Best wishes




If you’d like to see the view I began with, Layer church tower is open on Sunday afternoons in August – see for details.


Independence Day (July 2018 article)

Reverend Lydia Smith writes ….

Looking out of the kitchen window this morning I enjoyed the sight of a young bird hopping enthusiastically behind its parent.  It was nearly adult – capable of finding some good things to eat from the lawn – but clearly wasn’t entirely self-sufficient.  It was intent on keeping up with the parent bird, who would stop every now and then to feed it a delicious grub or similar.

Our elder daughter is another not-quite-adult.  Back from uni, she’s about to start a rather more grownup life at work, or so the plan goes.  But – as the press has reminded us – things are not so easy for this generation of young people.  Whether they are graduates or not the likelihood is that my daughter’s generation will stay with their parents for quite a while.  The cost of buying or renting a house has risen faster than incomes and young adults, who are often at the lower end of the salary scale, tend to be hardest hit.

Back at the Vicarage, we older adults (and the cats) will have to adjust to sharing our space with her… and she will have to adjust to us…We enjoy having her home, but not all families find this a good experience.  You may have read about the New York couple who won a legal battle to have their thirty-year-old son evicted from their home, after he refused to leave.

Independence is usually something highly prized in our culture: whether we’re talking about young adults or much older people, the aspiration is for us to stand on our own two feet.  But Christian thinking offers a rather different view of what it means to be human.  Reflecting the nature of God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – we affirm our interdependence with each other and our dependence upon God.  So, while we rightly hope our children will eventually leave the nest, we also remember those bonds that hold us together are deeply valuable and last a lifetime.


Best wishes




Picture of starling fledgling by Jacob Spinks from Northamptonshire, England (starling fledgling) [CC BY 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons