Annual service is held to bless the water at Sutton Staithe

Father Stephen Weston conducts the Theophany service at Sutton Staithe, celebrating the baptism of C

Father Stephen Weston conducts the Theophany service at Sutton Staithe, celebrating the baptism of Christ in the river Jordan. PHOTO: Nick Butcher - Credit: Nick Butcher

A small congregation gathered at Sutton Staithe, near Stalham, to celebrate the annual Theophany service marking Christ's baptism in the River Jordan.

Father Stephen Weston conducts the Theophany service at Sutton Staithe, celebrating the baptism of C

Father Stephen Weston conducts the Theophany service at Sutton Staithe, celebrating the baptism of Christ in the river Jordan. PHOTO: Nick Butcher - Credit: Nick Butcher

Held at midday today (January 8), a congregation of 16, attended the service led by Father Stephen Weston, the Antiochian Orthodox priest of Sutton's tiny 18 x 13ft St Fursey's Church.

Father Stephen Weston conducts the Theophany service at Sutton Staithe, celebrating the baptism of C

Father Stephen Weston conducts the Theophany service at Sutton Staithe, celebrating the baptism of Christ in the river Jordan. PHOTO: Nick Butcher - Credit: Nick Butcher

As part of the service, which was being held at the church for the fifth consecutive year, a carved cross was thrown three times into the water of the River Any while those standing on the bank of the River Ant participated in prayers and readings.

Father Stephen Weston conducts the Theophany service at Sutton Staithe, celebrating the baptism of C

Father Stephen Weston conducts the Theophany service at Sutton Staithe, celebrating the baptism of Christ in the river Jordan. PHOTO: Nick Butcher - Credit: Nick Butcher

The cross thrown into the river normally sits on top of the church altar for blessing the congregation and was tied carefully on to a piece of string, to ensure it was not permanently lost to the cold Norfolk waters during its own baptism.

Father Stephen Weston conducts the Theophany service at Sutton Staithe, celebrating the baptism of C

Father Stephen Weston conducts the Theophany service at Sutton Staithe, celebrating the baptism of Christ in the river Jordan. PHOTO: Nick Butcher - Credit: Nick Butcher

The ceremony marks the day of Theophany, celebrating the baptism of Jesus Christ in the River Jordan, and symbolises the holiness and importance of water.


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Father Stephen Weston said: 'It's a wonderful experience and joyful occasion. The liturgy itself is moving - you can't describe what it is like really, you have to experience it by being there.'

He added: 'When we throw the cross into the water it represents the sanctity of the water and how important water is during our baptism.

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'Afterwards we sprinkle ourselves with the blessed water to cleanse ourselves and we take it home for when we say prayers.'

St Fursey's Church was built by Fr Stephen, a former Anglican priest, in his garden in the 1990s and is believed to be one of the smallest working churches in the country.

It is named after Saint Fursey who came from Burgh Castle near Great Yarmouth in 630AD.

'When I built the church I never anticipated all this happening! People come from across the county to attend and they were amazed at the service saying they had never seen anything like this before,' explained Father Stephen.

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