Friday, 20 April 2018

The message of Easter & a broken egg

Today we have been judging the entries for the St James School Easter Egg competition.

Over the Easter holidays the children have been decorating eggs and on Tuesday at assembly we will be presenting prizes for the most attractive design and the best representation of the meaning of Easter at Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2.

Here are a few of the beautiful designs the children have made.

One egg didn't quite make it to the judging but there is a story about that which I will tell at the end of this post, but have a look at some of the eggs first:



The egg that didn't make it got broken in school. Instead there was a note that said 'Simeon broke my egg but I have forgiven him.'

It was a shame the egg didn't make it, but that the author of that note, one of the younger children in the school, had really got the true meaning of Easter.  Brilliant.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Tower repairs

Work has started on a £347,000 project which will see the stonework of St James's tower repaired, the clock repaired and redeocarated, and the dragon weathervane, repaired and regilded.

The work will take 20 weeks complete.

The massive job of scaffolding the tower and the portico began today.

We are delighted to have secured funding of £237k from HLF together with a contribution of £57,000 from St James PCC.

During the course of the works there will be two open days for the public to find out about the works, an opportunity to climb to the very top of the tower, and a chance to meet the famous Bermondsey dragon close up (when it comes back down to the ground before going off for repair).

Watch this space

Monday, 16 April 2018

The cloth and the fish finger

It was back to school for St James's School today and we started the term off with our beginning of term Easter service.

First I needed to gather my props. Ideally I needed a piece of grilled fish but on this occasion a fish finger had to do, and I needed the cloth from the empty tomb in the church narthex.

A fish finger and a cloth?

The cloth was all they found when they went to the tomb on the first Easter Day. The cloth had been used to wrap the body of Jesus in, but, as the angel explained to the woman, Jesus was not there, he had been raised.

There was no body, just the cloth there in the tomb.

As for the fish; later that evening Jesus appeared to the disciples. They were terrified. They thought it was a ghost. Then Jesus said 'have you anything to eat?'

They gave him some grilled fish (fish finger, in our retelling of the story), and he ate it. They knew he was not a ghost but a real live human being in a newly resurrected body.

So, I said to the children, remember the cloth and remember the fish. Together they tell us that Jesus was alive. He had come back from the dead. He is alive forevermore.

That's the best news of all, and we celebrated it in the song that the whole school has been learning: celebrate Jesus is alive.

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Welcome Jay

To Southwark Cathedral for the installation of Jay Colwill as Canon Missioner (fourth from left in the photo).

A huge crowd from Jay's old parish of Christ Church, Orpington, came to give their support this afternoon as Jay was formally commissioned by the Bishop of Southwark, for his new work of encouraging mission and evangelism across the Diocese.

An added bonus so far as we are concerned is that Jay and his family are living in one of the canon's houses in our parish. We were delighted that they could all worship with us at St James on Easter Day and I am thrilled that Jay has already discovered the delights of the Servewell Cafe in West Lane, so a big welcome to our new parishioners, and may God bless you in your new home, and in your new work for him.

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Solved: the mystery of the Bermondsey dragon?

A visitor to the church, with a bit of help from Google, may have solved the mystery of the Bermondsey dragon.

The famous golden weathervane on the top of St James's belltower has puzzled people down the generations, but now Mark M has discovered an intriguing link with the City of London, just across the river.

The City's coat of arms shows a
shield with the cross of St George, supported by two dragons (famously defeated by the saint).

This has led to the dragon itself being seen as a symbol of London, and to it being immortalised in a least one City church, namely, St Mary-le-Bow, whose dragon (below) bears more than a passing rememblance to that of St James. Incidentally, it also has two red crosses of St George painted on it, confirming the link with St George and the City coat of arms.

Whether the founders of St James had a link with St Mary-le-Bow or whether they were city businessmen wanting to make a link with the City of London across the river, it looks like that the dragon of St James is a link to the City, and via the City, to St George, and via St George, to the triumph of good over evil and as such it begins to make a bit more sense as a symbol on top of a church.

The City's motto itself is instructive: Domine Nos Dirige, or, Lord, Guide Us

Very soon St James's dragon will be coming down to ground level for a few days before it goes off for a bit of refurbishment before being put back in place on a newly repaired tower.

Watch this space to find out when you can come and view the dragon close up and hear BermondseyVicar's sermon on the dragon from the book of Revelation.

Finally, here's a picture of the dragon when it came down for a wash and brush up in 1925.

Monday, 9 April 2018

Easter joy

The Orthodox churches really like to make something of Easter. They like to make as much noise as possible as they celebrate the resurrection of Christ.

And in the St Nektarios Greek Orthodox Church in London, Father Chris Christodoulou likes to proclaim the resurrection in his own special way: (Perhaps something to think about for Bermondsey next year).

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Justin's journey to faith

Moving testimony from the Archbishop of Canterbury about the night he became a Christian:

Sunday, 1 April 2018

Easter joy

In the Narthex of St James the empty tomb and the cross proclaimed the essential message of Easter in the words of Jesus from Revelation 1.18:  'I was dead but now I am alive forever and ever' .

Inside a packed congregation sang the Easter hymns and songs, considered the evidence for the resurrection in a you-the-jury presentation of the events of the first Easter Day, and shared in Holy Communion, remembering the Lord who was dead, is now alive and, is indeed with us by his Spirit.

Just before that, a special moment was the admission to communion of Sasha, Soul, Caleb, Rebecca, Romeo, Arabella, and Banji (pictured below).

All seven have taken part in our admission to communion course, alongside David & Jessica from St Anne's who will be admitted on Sunday 22nd April.

Admitted to Communion on Easter Day
Congratulations to them all. May God bless them as they go on trusting and serving him.

With mums and dads
Cutting the cake

Pie & mash to replace dragon?

The golden dragon that has puzzled generations of Bermondsey people could soon find a new home, and the church could have a new Bermondsey-themed weather vane.

No one really knows why the weather vane of St James is a golden dragon, flying high above Bermondsey, but now that the dragon is to be taken down for conservation purposes, some local people think it is time for the dragon to find a new home in a museum.

With the dragon safely ensconced in its new residence a new. more fitting weather vane can be fitted to the church tower. A golden cross would be an obvious, if unoriginal, solution.

Bermondsey activists suggest something with more of a local flavour.

Fashioned in gold, and mounted on top of the bell tower, Bermondsey's favourite meal would look resplendent in its new home:

Saturday, 31 March 2018

On Good Friday: The Cricketer and the Policeman

At the open air service on Good Friday at the Blue, I spoke about two men who had been in the news this week.

The first, Aussie cricket captain, Steve Smith, who had tearfully confessed to ball tampering live on national TV, breaking down in tears when he thought of the effect the scandal had on his family, not least his dad who was standing beside him.

The Australian PM has branded the team a national disgrace, and abuse has been heaped upon them from all over the world.

Today's Times reported Smith saying he would regret his actions for the rest of his life and that he hoped in time he could earn forgiveness.

For Steve there is some real good news - and how I pray God brings some Aussie Christian across his path to share it with him - he doesn't need to earn forgiveness.

Indeed, he never could even if he tried, but, here's the real great news: Jesus can wash his sins away.

And when the God who made you says your sins are forgiven, they are. Forever.

The second man, Arnaud Beltrame, swapped places with a woman held hostage by a terrorist, and
paid with his own life.

The President of France described him as a hero, but the French Ambassador to the UK, went further.

He told the BBC that Beltrame was a Christian martyr.

Beltrame grew up as an atheist but became a convinced Christian in his thirties. The chaplain to the French police said that Beltrame radiated his faith. and lived it out in his life, including that day just a week ago, when he gave his life to save another.

The Ambassador made the link with the words of Jesus from John's Gospel: 'Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.'

That's right. That's what Beltrame did, and his inspiration was his Lord and Saviour who did exactly this on the cross.

That brings us back to Good Friday at the Blue and the wonderful Good Friday message of hope: whatever you have done, God can wipe away your sins COMPLETELY.

And all that is because when we were hostages to sin, death, and the devil, Jesus swapped places with us.

Our God, clothed in human flesh, took our place to set us free.

Greater love hath no man than this. God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life.

It really was a good Friday, when Jesus achieved that for us.

Friday, 30 March 2018

Holy Week in Bermondsey

Here's part of the great team from St Anne's who hosted our Maundy Thursday Lord's Supper celebration for St Mary Magdalen, St Anne's and St James.

St Anne's Hall was packed for this well loved annual event where we sat down for a meal together in the context of a celebration of Holy Communion.

The Bible tells us that the Lord took the bread and said 'This is my body which is for you' and then, after supper, he took the cup and said 'This cup is God's new covenant, sealed with my blood' (1 Corinthians 11). We followed the same pattern, sharing the bread at the beginning of the meal, and sharing the wine 'after the supper.'

Like the first disciples we then 'sang a hymn and went out' (Mark 14.26).

It was, as always, a very special occasion 'on the night he was betrayed' when he was 'at supper with his friends.'

Starting off with a family service in St Anne's, we walked to the Blue, meeting the group from St Mary Magdalen on the way for what I think must be the wettest Good Friday Open Air event on record. It poured

Charlie from St Mary's led the service - you can just about see him through a sea of umbrellas - and I preached, and three people, Friday from St Mary's, Ruth from St Anne's, and Sir Simon Hughes from St James shared what Easter meant to them.

It was great to be out in the Blue Market, at the heart of Bermondsey, proclaiming the message of Christ crucified, that God God loved the world so much that he gave his only son so that whoever believes in him may not die but have eternal life.

After all that, with the rain lashing down, and the temperature reducing, it was time to walk to St James.

The Good Friday meditation followed at 2pm, but first was the welcome sight of hot steaming pans of sundry home made soups, and our traditional St Mary's-St Anne's-St James Good Friday fellowship lunch.....

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Dancing, remembering, praising God

It was one of our best school services ever, all planned by the Junior Faith Group.

Paul told us about the events of the first Maundy Thursday, with the members of the JFC taking the place of Jesus and the apostles at the last supper.

The JFC led the prayers. The winners of the Easter poem competition read their winning entries. Key Stage 1 gave us a reprise of two of their songs from their brilliant Bible Stories end of term production, and then the whole school joined in our final song, Lord of the Dance, complete with dancing by some of the key stage 1 children, sendinh us out on high note to the holidays and the celebration of Easter.

Thank you to all the children and teachers who made this wonderful end of term service possible, and now for some dancing...

And finally, here is the Easter song we started with today, which we will sing on our first day back:

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

In the midst of the war, prayer

Sunday March 23rd 1941 and servicemen crowd into St James's Church for the National Day of Prayer, called at the height of wartime hostilties.

Many of the men are from the Home Guard Unit of the Southern Railway, The photo features in a book about that unit shown to me today by Peter on a funeral visit. I am grateful to him for this fascinating insight into Bermondsey history and the reminder that as the bombs rained down on London, a nation prayed.

Monday, 26 March 2018

The cross and the tomb

Children from the reception classes and years 1 and 2 from St James's School came to church today to learn about the Easter story.

Nearly two hundred children, a class at a time, came to learn about the cross and the empty tomb (we had constructed our own version in the church narthex), and then took part in a craft activity, involving an ingenious combination of paper folding and tearing which produced, much to the children's delight and surprise, a cross, which they could take home as a reminder of the day.

Revealed: the cross

The visits were the idea of the Junior Faith Group who have helped plan our end of term service in church on Thursday.

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Ride on, ride on in majesty

It was Palm Sunday at St James, the clocks had gone forward an hour but the church was quite full, the palm crosses were ready to be distributed to the congregation, and Ivan, Reader in training on placement with us from Holy Trinity Rotherhithe, was all set to deliver his Palm Sunday sermon, and then to round everything off nicely we ended with a spot of proleptic singing.


Two definitions from the online dictionary give a clue: (1) the representation of something in the future as if it already existed; (2) the use of a descriptive word in anticipation of it becoming applicable.

Our proleptic song was 'The Greatest Day in History.' We shall sing it next Sunday, too ('The greatest day in history, death is beaten, you have rescued me. Sing it out: Jesus is alive. Life eternal, you have won the day') but we ended on it for Palm Sunday (a) because every Sunday is a celebration of the resurrection and Jesus is already risen and (b) because even as we travel through Holy Week, reliving the events of betrayal, mocking and death, we know that Jesus will live again because God has said so.

Even in the depths of Holy Week we can sing the song proleptically 'in anticipation of it becoming applicable.'

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Do this in remembrance of me....

Here are six of the nine young people from St James and St Anne's who are going to be admitted to communion during the Easter season.

They are all in year 5 and above and they are part of the first tranche of baptised youngsters to be admitted to communion before confirmation in our benefice.

They've been taking part in a preparation course after church and on Easter Day (at St James) and on Sunday 22nd April (at St Anne's) our candidates will be admitted to communion, and from that day onwards will be able to receive the bread and wine of Holy Communion as we 'do this in remembrance' of Christ.

In due course, they will come to Confirmation and make for themselves the vows that were made by their parents on their behalf at their baptism as infants.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

At the men's breakfast

Andrew Cannon (left) was the speaker at today's Men's Breakfast at St James.

Andrew is currently a student teacher, previously he headed up the London City Mission's work here in Bermondsey.

A full cooked breakfast was followed by Andrew's stimulating talk. He shared a bit of his own story to faith and then encouraged us to get involved in communicating with people in our culture who might be yearning to know the reality of God, without necessarilly even knowing that is what they are yearning for.

He encouraged us to feel confident in the truth of the Christian faith, and to see that it stood up to examination and questionning, as well as fulfilling people's deepest longings.

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Singing the Bible

They took some of the greatest stories of the Bible: Noah, Daniel, Jonah, and Joseph.

Then they told them to us in word and song, at this afternoon's wonderful production at St James's School by years 1 and 2.

Everyone loved it.

Afterwards one of the mums told me she was so pleased that her daughter was learning all these stories from the Bible.

Here are a couple of clips (firstly from the story of Jonah; secondly from Joseph) - excuse the wobbly camera work.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Faith group

To St James's School for a meeting of the faith group.

The Faith Group is a committee of the school governing body and it has a special brief to oversee the Christian character of the school.

At our last meeting we were reviewing the school's Religious Education programme, today our focus turned to collective worship and to a review of our Collective Worship Policy.

The policy says 'worship is essential to the life of our school and plays an important part in the fulfilling of our role and mission as a Church of England school.' What we call 'assemblies' are more properly called 'acts of collective worship' in a CofE school.

It is excellent that each school day can start with an act of worship, as we recognise God's presence with us ('The Lord is here: His Spirit is with us') as we hear from his word, the Bible, and as we pray to him our loving creator and heavenly father.

Penny, Paul and I lead the assemblies on Tuesdays; on other days they are led by the senior leadership team, or by class teachers if there is a class assembly that day.

Then we have our special whole school services in church - the next is on Maundy Thursday (planned jointly with the Junior Faith Group), the last day of term.

With nearly 600 children in the school, our services in St James's Church are the only time that the whole school can meet together., and that makes them extra special, as does the various ways the children themselves are involved in singing, dancing, reading and planning the service.