Blessing of the waters at Sutton Staithe

The small congregation of St Fursey Orthodox Christian Community and Parish led by Father Stephen We

The small congregation of St Fursey Orthodox Christian Community and Parish led by Father Stephen Weston on the banks of the River Ant at Sutton Staithe celebrating Christ's baptism in the River Jordan.Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

A small crowd gathered to pay witness to an ancient tradition dating back thousands of years.

The waters at Sutton Staithe near Stalham were blessed on Sunday for Theophany, an annual service celebrating Christ's baptism in the river Jordan.

The service, which started at Sutton's tiny 18 x 13ft St Fursey's chapel, then moved onto the nearby River Ant at Sutton Staithe.

There a carved cross was thrown three times into the water while those standing on the bank of the river took part in prayers and readings.

Father Stephen Weston, was officiating at the ceremony.

He said: 'Water is essential for the physical and spiritual well-being and this ceremony shows how holy and sacred all water is.'

The cross used to bless the river water usually sits atop the altar inside St Fursey's, which is believed to be one of the smallest working churches in the country.

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The ceremony on Sunday was part of a year of celebrations which St Fursey will be holding.

On Saturday, January 16 they will be having a festival and feast in honour of their patron Saint Fursey, an Irish monk who did much to establish Christianity throughout the British Isles and particularly in East Anglia. He lived at Burgh Castle, near Great Yarmouth, in around 630AD.

From May 9 -13 members of the church will be embarking on a pilgrimage to Péronne in France where St Fursey is buried.

There will also be a festival to mark the 18th anniversary since St Fursery's itself was established in October.

Fr Stephen said; 'We are a small congregation but we are very friendly and we are also growing, we have new members joining us this year.'

The church is also looking to expand and at the moment is looking for land on which to build a new building in Stalham.

Do you know of a significant anniversary being celebrated in north Norfolk this year? Email tracey.grya@archant.co.uk.