Thursday, 23 November 2017

When the governors came to school

It was Governors' morning today at St James's School, we toured both sites, visiting classes and participating in assembly - where, in Key Stage 2 ('the juniors'), the children had the chance to quiz the governors on their views.

Here (above) is St James School Chair of Governors, Simon Hughes, getting stuck into some thorny maths problems in Key Stage one.

There was really good work going on in every class. It was a most encouraging morning and made us all once again feel very thankful for our excellent teaching and support staff that make St James the school that is.

Back at the KS1 site in Old Jamaica Road it was great to see the newly-astro-turfed playground (above), which not only looks great, but offers a much more child-friendly play surface. I am told the incidence of grazed knees has dropped dramatically.

This is quite a contrast with the drab expanses of tarmac that I remember from London school playgrounds in the 60s and 70s, so is the equipment available for play -  being made full use of by the Reception children today (left).

With 85 per cent of our parish living in flats, these open areas for recreation and play are a crucial enrichment for our children at St James, and it is heartening to see them looking so good.

Also heartening was my meeting yesterday with the Junior Faith Group at Key Stage 2.

Drawn from the top two years of the school, these lively enthusiastic youngsters, have come up with a whole raft of exciting ideas for Advent and for the school end of term service, so watch this space...

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

What's brewing in Bermondsey?

Some satisfied customers (left) at Bermondsey Brew, St James's Monday afternoon Community Cafe.

Bermondsey Brew was the brainchild of St James members, Marian and Parisa, to provide a meeting point for people who are around during the day.

Delicious home made cakes, tea in proper tea pots, nice coffee, and toys for the kids, makes for a warm and welcoming environment, for a growing number of people, some now regulars, and some just popping in for the first time.

In the summer, lots of parents bring their kids to play in the churchyard after school,  and many other people are just passing through - now there is a friendly welcome in church for them.

And not just that, someone to talk to, and even pray with.

So if you haven't yet been - do come along to Bermondsey Brew on Mondays between 2.30pm and 4.30pm.

Monday, 20 November 2017

God bless the Platinum couple

The Wedding Register from Westminster Abbey for 70 years ago today.

Today the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh reach a milestone that few couples ever reach: their platinum wedding anniversary.

This afternoon at Bermondsey Brew we got talking about the royal marriage. 'What was the secret of their success' we asked ourselves.

Then we had the answer: they kept their promise.
There's a great prayer in the marriage service that I love. It begins 'Blessed are you, O Lord our God, for you have created joy and gladness, pleasure and delight, love, peace and fellowship' and then goes on to pray for the couple in these words: 'Let their love for each other be a seal upon their hearts and a crown upon their heads. Bless them in their work and in their companionship; awake and asleep, in joy and in sorrow, in life and in death. Finally, in your mercy, bring them to that banquet where your saints feast for ever in your heavenly home.'

That's a great prayer for any couple and its a great prayer to pray today for our Queen and her husband. May God bless them richly.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

When the bishop's life changed

Bishop Karowei, the new Bishop of Woolwich, came to Bermondsey today to speak at the Men's Breakfast.

Sadly, I couldn't be there as I was speaking at a men's group in Derbyshire, but here is Paul's account of the bishop's talk:

"He told how at the age of 18 he thought he had everything in life all worked out. Then something happened that changed his life completely. 

He met a girl and wanted to go out with her. 

They first become friends and then she asked if she could introduce him to her best friend. Thinking this would bring them closer together he agreed. 

The best friend was Jesus. She shared with him from John 14 where Jesus says he is ‘the way truth and the life’. This brought him to realise that he needed to put his trust in Jesus rather than in himself. From that point on his life was changed forever. 

One of the questions that was asked was “did he marry the girl”? The bishop said the funny thing was that after she shared the verse from John with him he never saw her again"

Friday, 17 November 2017


Congratulations to our friend Henry Whyte, former vicar of St James, presented with the Lancelot Andrewes Medal for Godly Service and Zeal for the Gospel by Bishop Christopher.

Warm congratulations, Henry, from all of us in Bermondsey on a well deserved recognition of your many years of service to the Gospel. (Photo tweeted by Good Shepherd, Lee).

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Having a laugh

According to the BBC website Greggs have apologised for substituting a giant sausage roll for  the baby Jesus in a new style nativity scene (left).

For a minute I had to check it wasn't April 1st.

Christian tweeters are said to be in uproar but I like the laid back response of the Evangelical Alliance who said they were 'not too outraged.'

Greggs apologised for 'giving offence', but perhaps they have just given us all a very big laugh.

And much as I like a Greggs sausage roll, I'd rather have a saviour.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Lest we forget

Remembrance Sunday began with me leading an Act of Remembrance at the Queen's Regiment war memorial in Old Jamaica Rd (left).

We were joined by local residents, veterans, and a detachment of Army Cadets. Wreaths were laid by Sir Simon Hughes, Neil Coyle MP, and representatives of Southwark Council and the Army.

With St James's bells already ringing it was time to move back to the church for our main Remembrance Sunday Service, always well-attended by visitors, as it was today.

For both services I wore on my preaching scarf the badge of the Royal Naval Association (right).

As I explained to the congregation I do this for two reasons: firstly, when I was Vicar of St Peter's St Helier I was chaplain of the Carshalton branch of the RNA and I like to recall the comrades from those days; and, secondly, because my Dad (below) served in the Royal Navy during the Second World War.

Remembrance Sunday makes me think of him. He joined the Navy as a 17 year old in 1939 and served for the whole of the war on destroyers in the Pacific, the Atlantic, and the Arctic oceans.

He was awarded six medals by HM Government (including the Burma Star and the 1939-1945 star for those who served the whole war), and, after the fall of communism, one from the Russian government for British sailors who had served in the Russian convoys.

He virtually never spoke about his wartime service but, when I was 11, he gave me his medals.

Friday, 10 November 2017

Armistice at St James

With Armistice Day falling on a Saturday this year, we had our Armistice service for St James's School a day early, today.

The children stood, very respectfully, in silence for the two minutes silence before the Last Post and Reveille, and Paul spoke about the suffering of war and the great love shown by Christ in dying for us on the cross, quoting the words of John 3.16:

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Renewing the promise

Long term St James members, Abiola and Babalola, came to church today to thank God for their 20th wedding anniversary and to renew their wedding vows.

Here they are pictured with the cake in the brilliant Autumn sunshine before the service.

They recalled their promise to each other 'to have and to hold from that day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God's holy law.' 

Then they said 'today in the presence of our family and friends, we affirm our continuing commitment to this vow.' Then we showed our support for them, as we prayed for them and applauded them.

And here they are with the rest of the family: every blessing to them all

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Hooray for the vicar's wife

Martin & Kathe Luther
The Reformation celebrations have reminded me of our wonderful trip 'In the Footsteps of the Reformers' a few years ago, and of these Reformation beer mats which I have on my desk from a Wittenberg bierkeller.

Reformed monk Martin Luther had a great love for beer, the institution of marriage, and for Mrs Luther  in particular, of whom he memorably said 'I would not exchange my Kathe for France nor for Venice to boot.'

The ending of compulsory priestly celibacy was one of the immediate effects of the Reformation and many of the Reformers, like Luther, enthusiastically embraced the institution of marriage.

With a married clergy came clergy families and that wonderful person: the Vicar's wife.

On the same trip in the footsteps of the Reformers, I was delighted to see a whole exhibition devoted to the 'Protestant Vicarage' and to the contribution that clergy wives had made to church and nation since the days of the Reformation (see below).

It's an interesting thought that both the Chancellor of Germany, and our own prime minister, are  vicarage children.

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Oh, happy day

Today is Reformation Day, and Tim Farron MP, former leader of the LibDems, tweeted this comment 'Martin Luther's 'discovery' was that salvation is not down to how good or strong you are, it is down to how good and strong God is.  That's really good news.'

Spot on, Tim. 

When Martin Luther published his 95 Theses on October 31st 1517, five hundred years ago today (and probably posted them to this door in Wittenberg, pictured right), he sparked a spiritual revolution that changed the face of Europe, and eventually, much of the world.

There were some unhappy outcomes of the Reformation, not least a divided church, but at the heart of the movement was a rediscovery of the life-changing, liberating, gospel of grace.

It's all summed up in that great reformation word: ALONE.

We are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone according to Scripture alone for God's glory alone.

As Tim Farron so rightly said 'salvation is not down to how good or strong you are, it is down to how good and strong God is' and we have the Reformation to thank for bringing us back to this, to what Martin Luther called the church's 'true treasure,' 'the most holy gospel of the glory and grace of God.'

May it be ever treasured and widely shared, and to God alone be the glory!

Monday, 30 October 2017

Cycling for St Anne's

St Anne's churchwarden, Graham Russell, pictured (left), having completed on Sunday 148 miles of the outer circle of Regents Park, one mile for each year of St Anne's existence, and a total ride of 53 laps.

This was a sponsored ride in aid of St Anne's, and it is not too late to contribute to Graham's total. See his crowdfunding page here 

Congratulations Graham, and now for a well-earned rest....

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Reformation at the Cathedral

To Southwark Cathedral for this year's Clergy Study - on the Reformation.

2017 marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, that great spiritual movement, that led to the rediscovery of the heart of the Gospel, and the reform of the church, not least our own Church of England, where the great truths of the reformation remain enshrined in our 39 Articles of Religion and the Book of Common Prayer.

It was good and heart warming to be reminded of that by our second speaker, Ashley Null, which set us up nicely after lunch for a brilliant lecture by Prof Barclay on the gift of God's grace.

We even sang a hymn by Martin Luther. Excellent.

Professor John Barclay


Thanks to Parisa for this lovely photo of the weird sky over Bermondsey on Monday afternoon.

Monday, 9 October 2017

In Bermondsey, all is safely gathered in.....

St Anne's Hall was the venue for our International-themed Harvest Supper on Saturday.

National costumes, ethnic dishes, and songs and dances from across the globe, contributed to a fascinating and delicious evening.

Here is the Ugandan contingent in full flow, adding their contribution to Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Jamaica, Togo, and many other places:

Following the harvest services in both churches, it was the turn of St James's School to have their Harvest Service in church today.  I spoken on the verse from James 1, 'Every good and perfect gift' is from above, and I had some of the younger children open gifts, symbolising the gifts that God gives us in his creation (the rain, the sun, water, drink, each other).

Then with lots of gifts collected for Manna's work among the homeless, we heard details of the children who had been appointed to the Junior Faith Committee (to work with the governors' faith committee overseeing RE and collective worship), and to the Junior Leadership Team who represent children's views in the school. Well done to all of them.

Junior Faith Group members
Our team of head boys and girls who helped in today's service

Readers remembered

'Readers' are Church of England lay preachers and yesterday a whole bunch of them were licensed at Southwark Cathedral, including David McEvoy of St Alphege, Greenwich, who did a placement at St James during his training, and Jan Greaves, from my old parish of Holy Trinity, Redhill.

It was very special to see David and Jan licensed, and very moving too to hear in the prayers the name of our dear late lamented Trevor Knight (of St Peter's, St Helier), who this year went to be with the Lord.

Friday, 6 October 2017


To the Biscuit Factory to see Grosvenor's final plans for the £500m development of the site, which will provide a new secondary school, 1,350 homes for rental, shops, offices and up to 1500 jobs, as well as the refurbishment and re-use of 165 under-used railway arches.

Postives of the scheme will be new access to the Blue, better pedestrian routes through the site, and several public open spaces.

Its a huge project that will take the best part of eight years to build, once planning permission is granted.

You can view the exhibition tomorrow from 10am to 2pm - enter by the Clements Rd entrance


Coverage from the South London Press of the recent Anniversary concert at the Salmon Youth Centre and of the 50th Anniversary celebrations at St James

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Cherry Garden harvest

St Anne's Church has long had a link with Cherry Garden School, the special school in Southwark Park Rd, and for a number of years Paul has been a governor of the school.

Each year children, teachers, and parents come to St Anne's for their harvest celebration, in the week following the church harvest festival, bringing gifts for the Manna Centre and its work among homeless people, and it was good to welcome the children again this week (left).

And here from the school's Twitter feed........ 'we think Michael is perfectly cast in our harvest festival this morning. He is our jumping frog!'

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Better story

Yesterday we went to All Souls, Langham Place, just off Oxford Street, for the annual Evangelists Conference, which this year had the theme 'Better Story.'

It was subtitled 'new ways to tell the better story of the gospel in our narrative-soaked world.'

The conference considered the power of stories, including in advertising and political campaigning,  and then asked how we could communicate the gospel in story form, making the most of the compelling attention grabbing nature of stories and their emotional power.

The day ended with a kind of specimen sermon - based on the narrative of the crucifixion, that used stories and illustrations particularly well, kind of showing us how it was done. It was a really excellent conference.

LUNCHTIME TODAY saw the ministers of the Bermondsey Deanery Chapter (the ministers of the seven parishes of Bermondsey deanery), meet up at St Mary, Rotherhithe, Rectory for lunch with Bermondsey MP, Neil Coyle (right).

It was good to hear about Neil's work in Parliament and for his constituents here in Bermondsey, and his reflections on the recent party conference.

We discussed some of the key local issues - housing and crime (particularly moped based crime and that affecting mobile phones) seem top of the agenda at the present moment.

At a time when the world can be very cynical about politicians, it was good to be reminded once more of the thousands of public-spirited individuals, from all parties, who work so hard to serve the people of their area.