Report from the Youth Group

On Sunday 7th April the Youth Group went to Clip ‘n Climb! Twelve brave young people faced the daring heights, clipped themselves on to the ropes and reached for the top. There was some competition along the way, and not every climbing wall was as easy as it seemed to be… We had a fun afternoon of climbing and chatting!


Whisky with Ice

A warm welcome met those of us who braved the icy January evening for this year’s New Year Revels. The first half of the evening was arranged and compered by Nick Warburton (who told some dreadful cracker jokes) and included readings illustrating the theme, beginning with Pepys’s diary account of the Great Fire of London, which contrasted with Scott’s diary account of sunrise in the Antarctic. We were then treated by the most junior performers of the evening (Tom, Hannah, Noah and Charlotte) who read three poems, my favourite of which was ‘Christmas Thank yous’ by Mick Gower – how to thank your grandparents, aunts, friends or siblings for presents you really didn’t like or want. What talent, too! The future of performance in St Mark’s is in good hands.

Jane Bower’s two Ruth Draper monologues had us rolling in the aisles. First she was in a very posh American restaurant, entertaining three friends who were on different diets (cold boiled turnip, raw carrot with the green tops left on, and eleven squeezed lemons at each meal) – while she herself ate three large chocolate eclairs. The second, ‘A Class in Greek Poise’, gave us visions of green bloomer-clad ladies exercising by walking over imaginary green fields, holding a lily in the air with one hand while dragging a lamb behind with the other. Can we please have a class in Greek Poise led by Jane as one of the Community Centre classes next year?!

A superbly dramatic portrayal of The Firebird story set to Stravinsky’s music then followed, in which ‘The Horse of Power’ was played by a certain bearded, be-spectacled member of the choir, whose loud harrumphing neighs would certainly have terrified the reception class at Newnham Croft if it had been part of ‘Open the Book’! Further poems, including a very funny tongue-twister on the making of mittens for Hiawatha, were interspersed with a bawdy traditional Irish folk song from Sam, and two musical treats by the choir. The first of these was a set of Health and Safety Regulations in the event of a fire in church  – sung in the style of a psalm, with audience response, “On discovering a fire, raise the alarm by shouting FIRE!” They followed this up with ‘Smoke gets in your eyes’.

After hot mulled wine and tasty nibbles, we settled down to Grantchester, a murder mystery written by Debbie Pullinger. The new whisky-drinking, female vicar was severely tested on the second day of her incumbency at Grantchester when she discovered the body of Neil the verger in the church. Was it the revenge of jilted lover – or was it because he had “strayed to the dark side” by becoming the handsome male lead in the dreaded St Mark’s production down the road? Needless to say, the vicar was aptly aided in her sleuthing by a rain-coated detective, before riding her bike (actual bike riding on stage!) to St Mark’s. She solved the mystery – only to discover that it was all a ploy to test her crime-solving ability, and that Neil was in fact alive and kicking. After the denouement and a toast to the new vicar, a spluttering Archdeacon fell to the ground – the vicar’s next murder to solve? A vastly clever and highly entertaining end to the evening.

“Dear, oh dear. An unfortunate start, some might say.”
“Oliver Whitworth, Churchwarden and erstwhile actor, always at your service.
“Right. Newnham, here we come!”
Was it Mrs McGraw’s sloe gin?

Valerie Keeble



Mr Darwin’s Tree – review

MDT Pic (1)

Murray Watts’ play Mr Darwin’s Tree, performed at St Mark’s on the 2nd and 3rd of November, had its audience gripped from its quiet opening – a man walking on and responding to bird song – to its thoughtful, heartfelt conclusion. It was simply but effectively presented – a flexible, interesting set with good sounds and lighting by Richard Peroni.

It is, as Murray Watts himself says, a play and not a lecture or a debate, so it presents the man (Charles Darwin) as a living character who shares with us both his inner wrestling about faith and love and his joyful wonder at the world.

At the heart of the play is Darwin’s relationship with his wife Emma. She was a convinced Christian and he, driven by an apparently unquenchable scientific curiosity, became increasingly agnostic.

Mr Darwin’s Tree was at its most touching – and sometimes its most funny – in bringing us close-ups of Charles Darwin with his family – with his gruff father, with his beloved daughter Annie and, of course, with Emma. In a sense, it’s as much a play about love as it is one about science, although the science – that unquenchable pursuit of the truth – is also woven into its fabric.

The play doesn’t preach or tell us what to think; rather it encourages us to empathise with the man in his anguish and his delight in the world.

It’s impossible to talk about Mr Darwin’s Tree without acknowledging the power and precision of Andrew Harrison’s performance. He told us the story – and played all the characters. Sometimes, with incredible deftness, he handed over a book or a letter and you could almost swear you saw two people making the exchange. And when he walked on and listened to the birds singing, you could see the birds as well as hear them.

Nick Warburton

God’s grandeur at Little Gidding


It is easy to find God at Little Gidding. He is in the beautiful little church and the tiny peaceful graveyard. He is in the garden, now full of autumn colour. And He is in the high (for Cambridgeshire) fields and the wide skies. The world, at Little Gidding, is ‘charged with the grandeur of God’.

For our group from St Mark’s on Saturday, God was also in the dancing wind and the warm sunshine – a gloriously unexpected summer day in mid-October.

We gathered for a day of quiet contemplation and some gentle instruction on the theme of Jesus’ teachings from St John’s Gospel.

‘I am ….’ Each short session was followed by some quiet time to sit, think, walk, pray, read.

Lunch, as usual was nourishing and convivial, and the cakes, as ever, did not disappoint.

Hilary Murray


Mr Darwin’s Tree

Mr Darwin's Poster

We are delighted to announce that St Mark’s will be bringing two performances of the highly acclaimed play, Mr Darwin’s Tree, to its church stage in November. Written by Murray Watts (yes, there is a connection to our own lay reader, Andrew Watts) this show was commissioned by the think tank Theos in 2009 for the bicentenary of Darwin’s birth and premiered in Westminster Abbey.

Andrew Harrison’s compelling 75-minute solo performance focuses on the relationship between the agnostic Charles Darwin and his Christian wife, Emma, and takes us on a fascinating journey through Darwin’s life and though some of his own exploration of questions of science, faith, love and human destiny.


The Saturday matinee performance will be followed at by a Q&A with Andrew Harrison and Denis Alexander, of the Faraday Institute of Science and Religion.

Book early to avoid disappointment!

St Mark’s Church
Friday 2 November 8 pm • Saturday 3 November 3pm
Saturday 4.30pm Q&A with guest panel – open to all

Tickets £10 (Under 18s free)
from John Brady 01223 353668 /




A new monthly service for Sunday evenings

BS logo

Life for many of us – for me, certainly – is full of distraction. Every day is filled with competing claims on my attention. If I want to be still and know that God is God, it can be hard to find the space for it. And when I do manage find some, it can, sometimes, seem strangely empty

The idea of the Breathing Space service is to offer a worshipful, shared space, in which to reflect, to gather ourselves before another busy week, to connect with ourselves and with God. Each service will explore a theme through some readings, some reflections, some guided prayer or meditation, some music, some silence. It will be unashamedly eclectic, drawing on various Christian prayer traditions, on practices from Celtic spirituality, and so on. We will explore some different ways of praying, of attuning ourselves to God, of responding to God. Some things may be familiar; others may be new. The invitation is simply to come participate, but only as you feel comfortable. There will be some structure – we all need a bit of structure – but there will also be room to breathe.

Paradoxically, perhaps, it’s about drawing aside so that we can better find God in the midst of life, within our own experience.

Breathing Space is something I’ve been thinking about for some time now, and I am very grateful to Rachel for being brave and gracious enough to let me try it out. I am also grateful to her for the title. I was struggling to find one, but the moment she said ‘Breathing Space’, the words seemed to settle in. A different quality of space was exactly what I had in mind – to create some conditions and then to see what they invoked. Breath, meanwhile, is brilliant word that takes us both in the direction of the spirit – it’s synonymous with the word for ‘spirit’ in the Bible – and roots us in the body. Equally, if all you want to do, or if all you can do at the moment, is to come and simply breathe – that will be absolutely fine.

It may not be for everyone, but if it sounds at all interesting to you, then do come along. You will be most welcome.

The monthly informal service – with the invitation to bring readings and music on a theme – will continue on fourth Sundays.

Breathing Space will be at 8 o’clock on the second Sunday of each month.

NB There will be no service on 11 November, as St Mark’s will be joining with members of the German Lutheran church for a special Service of Peace and Reconciliation. The next Breathing Space will be on 9 December.

Debbie Whitton Spriggs

St Mark’s Summer Fete

We had a wonderfully sunny day for our fete on 23rd June. Many thanks to all who took part – attending, buying things, taking part, helping, running stalls, setting up and clearing away, contributing gifts and prizes. We had a great day and raised just over £3,000.

100th Anniversary Weekend

The second weekend of May marked one hundred years of the establishment of St Mark’s Newnham as a parish.  We enjoyed a weekend of celebrations, with a wonderful display in church about the history of the church and parish, an amazing gala dinner on Saturday night and then Sunday Celebration services with Bishop Stephen, the Bishop of Ely.

The wonderful display was up in church for three full days and took us through the last 100 years plus of the church, vicarage, community centre, magazines, youth work and people.  Thanks to those who worked so hard to put it together.

In the evening, we had an amazing gala dinner in the community centre.  Our wonderful catering team of volunteers cooked a three course meal for around 65 of us.  It was delicious, and a joy filled occasion. We were delighted to welcome back three previous vicars from St Mark’s who shared some of their memories by was of after dinner speeches.

On Sunday, the 8am service at Newnham was cancelled and we were all invited to the 8am service at Grantchester, remembering that St Mark’s had originally been a daughter church and part of Grantchester Parish.

Bishop Stephen came to lead our worship and celebrations beginning with an 8am Book of Common Prayer Communion service led by our vicar, Rachel, with Bishop Stephen preaching.  Following this we had a wonderful breakfast of Bucks Fizz, coffee and croissants, thanks to folk from Grantchester. We were delighted to have 50 people in church! Around twenty of us then walked with Bishop Stephen across the meadows to St Mark’s for the 10am service, where around 120 people gave thanks for the life of our church and parish and shared in worship and communion together.  The celebrations were topped off with some fabulous cake and coffee.

It was wonderful to mark 100 years of the parish of St Mark’s, to remember the historic link between Grantchester and Newnham and to celebrate our current partnership.


Celebrating our parish centenary

Centenary Poster reducedThe story of St Mark’s actually began well over 100 years ago. In 1871, a wooden building was erected on the current site, to house a mission church belonging to the parish of Grantchester. Some forty seven years later, St Mark’s – now enjoying more permanent, brick-built accommodation – finally became a separate parish.

Countless lives and events have contributed to the story of St Mark’s and its wider community over the past 100 years. This small exhibition will tell some of that story, and reflect on the many changes that have taken place over that time. Some things, of course, don’t change – as evidenced by this heartfelt offering from the parish magazine in 1910:

Year in, year out, all sorts and kinds
Of questions agitate us;
But none concern us more than this –
The Heating Apparatus
St Mark’s District Magazine, 1910

And there’s plenty more where that came from. Admission is free – so do come along!

“A Christmas experience which is not cosy or commercial” The Frozen Fields by Nick Warburton – REVIEW

By Jane Bower

‘This is the story of a journey. It’s very old. And happening now. The story starts before the journey….’

A play by Nick Warburton, a performance by St. Mark’s, music by Janet Wheeler – any one of the three gets my interest. All three together and I booked immediately.

I don’t like plays, books or television programmes, at Christmas or at any time, which provide everything whether I need it or not, until I feel like a torpid uncle on a sofa, turkey dinner on lap. I like to puzzle, to work; I like my mind to be active, not passive. I knew this production would get me exploring.

It’s clear that St. Mark’s in Newnham feels the same, as the play was a commission for the church, which has a long history of using drama to explore faith issues, so devotedly sustained by the highly gifted Rex Walford and now being continued by those who learned from him. Award-winning playwright Nick Warburton, who has long associations with St. Mark’s, says the The Frozen Fields offers a Christmas experience which is ‘not cosy or commercial’; the theme is ‘a journey moving towards hope.’


The journey was not made solely in the story, but physically, by the audience, who were smoothly and expertly guided to five different locations in the church buildings, though interestingly they were never actually seated in the main sanctuary itself. The play’s title, and the concept, was inspired by the painting The Census of Bethlehem by Pieter Brueghel, which shows numerous busy people, all different, but all heading for the same destination. The scene is not of the real Bethlehem but of the snowy Dutch landscape with which Brueghel was familiar.

So it was in the play. Five characters are gradually introduced, from varied backgrounds, some clearer than others, and the puzzle begins. Small clues are fed in, small links established, the characters begin to relate to one another. Two strangers, a young girl who plans and is told that other plans may get in the way of hers, a traveller, a young man who gardens. The girl is told ‘Helplessness will become your gift.’ The traveller holds and names his few remaining possessions in a broken accent; we learn that he is travelling to be counted, registered. The young girl becomes pregnant; she and the young man have angry words. The two strangers interact with them all, questioning, advising, narrating.

There are few props – a box, a shawl – important, but just enough. Strong visual images punctuate the script like waterpaint illustrations: ‘ walls the colour of yellow dust’, ‘a blue slate sky’, ‘the thin bones and ribs of trees’, ‘pencils in a green cup, like flowers’. The music varied from peasant-style jigs reminiscent of the Breughel to restless sound effects questioning and echoing from the dark.

An able cast, a warmly welcoming atmosphere and a well-organised team made The Frozen Fields the experience I had expected. I left warmed by more than the mulled wine, and drove home for Christmas still reflecting, exploring, changed.






Sell-out at St Mark’s

All this week, Nick Warburton’s The Frozen Fields played to a packed house. The powerful, thought-provoking play brought in audiences from Newnham and beyond. Review coming soon.




A new play from Nick Warburton

FrozenFieldsWednesday December 13 – Saturday December 16 at 8.00pm
Saturday December 16 at 3.30pm

The Frozen Fields is new play from award-winning playwright, Nick Warburton, with original music by Janet Wheeler.

“Here the journey and the journey’s dreams begin”


Tickets £8 from John Brady: 01223 353668 OR email

Saturday evening – SOLD OUT

Friday and Saturday Matinee – A FEW TICKETS REMAINING

Our new music director

At the beginning of October, were were delighted to welcome our new music director, Rachel-Anne Minor. Rachel-Anne writes:

“I am so glad to be joining the church family here at St. Mark’s as your Director of Music! I recently graduated with my Master of Music from the University of Connecticut in the United States where RAM FullI spent most of my time with the Women’s Choir as their Graduate Assistant and main conductor, but enjoyed working with our elite ensemble, the Chamber Singers and our large auditioned ensemble, Concert Choir. I enjoy all types of choral music, but as a life-long Anglican I particularly enjoy English Sacred music. Both of my parents are Episcopal priests, and so I happily call myself a “Cradle Episcopalian”, and have sung in church from a young age. I came to Cambridge to pursue another Master of Music in Choral Studies over at the Faculty of Music, and hope to learn more about the impressive choral tradition here in Cambridge and in the UK as a whole. I hope to get to know everyone well here at St. Mark’s – and I hope to see some of you join us in the choir! Children more than welcome!”

Lent Series of Talks

A series of talks will be held in St Mark’s Church, each Wednesday evening in Lent.  Our theme this year is ‘Images of God’.  Please come along for refreshments at 7.30pm each Wednesday, talks will start at 7.45pm and will last about an hour, including space for discussion and questions.

13th March     The Divine Name     speaker: Richard Bauckham

20th March     God as Mother          speaker: Ally Barrett

27th March     God as Husband       speaker: Philip Jensen

3rd April          God as King               speaker: Alison Gray

10th April         The God of Sinai      speaker: Craig Bartholomew

17th April         Faces of Easter, a reflection     led by Eleanor Toye-Scott