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My Suffolk Weekend: Frances Ward, Dean of St Edmundsbury

PUBLISHED: 13:29 24 March 2011 | UPDATED: 19:04 20 February 2013

My Suffolk Weekend: Frances Ward, Dean of St Edmundsbury

My Suffolk Weekend: Frances Ward, Dean of St Edmundsbury

For Frances Ward, the new dean of St Edmundsbury, weekends are a mix of work and relaxation

For Frances Ward, the new dean of St Edmundsbury, weekends are a mix of work and relaxation

If EADT Suffolk readers want to be lulled into a nice, relaxing mood as they contemplate their own weekend ahead in this wonderful county of Suffolk my Saturday and Sunday may sound rather frantic.

We moved last August from Bradford, that northern post-industrial city, and the delights of this countryside and the warmth of the people have made us so welcome. My husband Peter, who is a paediatrician at the West Suffolk Hospital, and our two children (out of four who remain at home): Theo (18, on gap year) and Hugh (13) who has settled well at Culford School. Im the new dean at the cathedral, and weekends are not at all relaxing, but rather full of exciting things to do, with the worship of God at the heart of everything.

My Sundays begin early (Ill return to Saturday in a moment. Most mornings I go for a short jog with our dog Phoebe only 20 minutes, out along the Lark river and back along the Linnet, on the circular path around No Mans Meadows but enough to get the heart racing. Then our quiet and thoughtful 8 oclock Book of Common Prayer Communion Service which I love. Ill lead the worship once a month or so, but I go anyway. It gives me the chance to begin Sunday in the presence of God, enjoying our beautiful cathedral in peace and tranquillity. The day unfolds from then- either preaching or leading at the 10 am full service which is always uplifting and thought provoking. Then the mood changes again with choral evensong at 3.30 with sublime music and the Magnificat, one of my favourite canticles. Usually therell be some entertaining that we offer; a sherry party at noon. At the moment were inviting people in groups depending on what their names begin with - this Sunday its people whose name starts with D, E, or F.

On Sunday evenings we tend to take it easy as a family in front of the fire, perhaps catching up on the episode of Hustle from the Friday evening before.

Saturdays begin in a similar way, with a jog and morning prayer at 8.45, but then anything can happen, usually including a wander around the town market, buying fruit and veg at a fraction of supermarket prices. If Im preaching on Sunday the sermon may need polishing.

Last Saturday we went with an old friend to Lackford Lakes. What a fantastic place! Great views of all sorts of ducks, and it was lovely to see Hugh with a pair of binoculars, identifying gadwalls, and Egyptian geese, cormorants, pintails. We even saw a pair of redpolls, which I havent seen since I was a teenager. We didnt see a kingfisher most disappointing. But then I did see one on the Lark recently which was thrilling. That flash of blue!

Most Saturday evenings, theres a concert in the cathedral. Always worth attending for the excellence of the music whether its the Suffolk Sinfonia, or the St Edmundsbury Male Voice Choir singing evensong at 5.30 pm. Last Saturday finished with a tremendous flourish an evening of songs to say farewell to Canon Michael Hampel, our residentiary canon who is off to St Pauls Cathedral in London to be in charge of all the worship and music there. With friends he performed William Waltons Facade: a fascinating piece from 1922 with words by Edith Sitwell. And then sketches by his colleagues which teased him unmercifully, particularly his love of Strictly Come Dancing!

No weekend is the same here at the spiritual heart of Suffolk in this ravishing cathedral. I cant think of anything else Id rather do, or a place in the country Id rather be. So much to explore; so many people to get to know better: its a delight to spend all my weekends here in Suffolk!


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