Thursday, 11 July 2019

Sharing the good news

When we travelled to Sheffield in 1999 to see our new Church Army evangelist commissioned by the Archbishop of Canterbury to serve on the St Helier estate in south London where I was the vicar, I never dreamed that twenty years later we would be sharing a meal, together with our wives, in the shadow of Tower Bridge, celebrating a partnership in the Gospel that began in St Helier and, wonderfully in the plan of God, has continued in Bermondsey.

It's amazing to think twenty years have gone so quickly but its been good to thank God for those years, to thank God for Paul and Mandy and to thank God for Church Army, that amazing Good News organisation in our Church that does so much to bring the Gospel to the people of Britain.

What I particularly remember from the two services we attended in Sheffield was at the second one at the Church Army College, the candidates knelt to sign their contract.

At a time when clergy were becoming a bit choosy and picky about where they served, it seemed to me that the Church Army were standing for something more - sacrifice, commitment, laying your life before the Lord.

I have noticed that quality in a lot of CA staff, alongside a great passion for the lost and for the outsider (and those who live in the tougher, less glamorous places), and that's why I love the CA so much.

More ordination photos

Some more photos of Saturday's ordination, thanks to Harry:

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Synod observer

To the University of York (above) for the July meetings of General Synod, the Church of England's 'parliament'.

Synod began its five day session on Friday but I was only there from Sunday afternoon because of the ordinations on Saturday hosted by St James.

Before a convivial supper with the Southwark reps on Sunday night (left), there was a Southwark moment, when a motion that orginally came from Battersea Deanery on helping refugees, was brilliantly presented by our own Nicholas Lebey. The Southwark motion was amended, widening its scope, then passed by a large majority.

Synod began on Monday with Morning Prayer, followed by a first look at a new Measure (i.e. a law passed by General Synod) which will enable our cathedrals to be governed more effectively, and then the approval for new rules which will simplify the administration of faculties (a sort of ecclediastical planning permission).

After lunch we turned to matters financial, hearing of plans to use the Church's money for the best possible effect on its mission, agreeing the budget for the Archbishops Council, and authorising expenditure of £47millions for central church costs, including training of new clergy.

Next up was a presentation on the fifteenth anniversary of the Mission Shaped Church report and the many thousands of fresh expressions of church that have come into being during that time. Exciting stuff.

After all that excitement there was just time to consider the '55th Report of the Standing Order Committee' (ie all about the rules for governing synod) before Supper and the end of the synodical day. How we have enjoyed all their reports! The 56th report could be a classic.

Tuesday began with an uplifting act of worship led by the singers and musicians of St Michel-le-Belfrey in York.

First up, was a debate about the report 'Setting God's People' and its focus on 24/7 discipleship for all God's people. Many good contributions and positive things being said.

Next was a bit more legislative business including simplifying the procedures for filling a clergy vacancy, followed by a very moving debate about Anna Chaplaincy. It takes its name from the 84 year old prophetess who witnessed the presentation of the baby Jesus in the Temple. It is part of a movement to provide chaplaincy, care, love, and welcome to older people in general, and dementia sufferers, in particular. Very powerful and very moving.

Farewells followed, and, after a closing prayer from the Archbishop of York, we headed home.

Synod meets again in February - in London.

Saturday, 6 July 2019

Ordained today

St James hosted today the ordination to the priesthood/presbyterate of five curates from the Woolwich Episcopal Area, including our very own Jacob Mercer.

Bishop Christopher, assisted by Bishop Karowei, the Bishop of Woolwich, led the service which included music from an expanded singing group led by Roger, and the organ played by Nick.

A veritable swarm of clergy. including the candidates, their training incumbents, and the other priests who laid hands on them at the ordination, descended on St James (above).

It was wonderful to host this joyful service, which spilled over into the Churchyard afterwards for photos and refreshments.

This was the second ordination for our curates. Last year they were ordained at Southwark Cathedral as deacons, this year there were ordained in the three episcopal areas of the diocese as priests.

Tomorrow, as a result of today's service, Jacob will preside at Holy Communion for the first time at St James, and next Sunday he will do the same at St Anne's.

'Priest are called to be servants and shepherds among the people to whom they are sent' says the Ordination Service.

'They are to proclaim the word of the Lord.....They are to be messengers, watchmen and stewards of the search for his children in the wilderness of this world's temptations, and to guide them through its confusions, that they may be saved through Christ for ever.'

We pray for Jacob, Timmy, Chris, Raymond and Christopher as they seek to do this in the power of the Holy Spirit.

One nice touch was the goody-bag provided by the Diocesan vocations team for children, which included a kind of ordained teddy bear  as a souvenir of the occasion:

Tuesday, 2 July 2019


Wow! Time flies. I can hardly believe it but today is the 30th anniversary of my ordination in Southwark Cathedral.

New Rev outside the Cathedral, 1989
Happy memories today of St Luke's, West Norwood, where I was curate, of the parishes of St Helier and Holy Trinity, Redhill, where I have been vicar, of my present churches of St James and St Anne's, of my training vicar, Peter Ronayne, of many  colleagues and curates, and of the many friends from all those whose churches and of all the things we have shared together.

I think it was the News of the World that had the slogan 'all human life is here.' It's like that in the ordained ministry - you share with people their very best and very worst times, their greatest successes, their disappointments, their secrets, their greatest fears, and their greatest hopes - and what is privilege that is.

And the best of all, those moments when the penny drops, the eyes of the blind are opened, and people step from death to life by the grace of God.

The Ordination Service says 'Because you cannot bear the weight of this ministry in your own strength but only by the grace and power of God, pray earnestly for his Holy Spirit. Pray that he will each day enlarge and enlighten your understanding of the Scriptures, so that you may grow stronger and more mature in ministry, as you fashion your life and the lives of your people on the word of God.'

That's a good prayer to come back to today and it's a good prayer for all of us as we seek to share the 'unsearchable riches of Christ.'

Thursday, 27 June 2019

EMA (2)

Final day of the three day Evangelical Ministry Assembly in its new venue of Westminster Chapel.

This year's theme has been 'preaching the cross' and the talks have been of a very high standard, a great stimulus and encouragement to pastors in the local church to 'preach the word' and lift up the name of Jesus. Excellent.

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

At the EMA

To Westminster Chapel with Jacob and Paul for the Evangelical Ministry Assembly (left), a wonderfully encouraging annual conference which I have attended every year since 1990.

As well as a chance to meet old friends, the EMA is a great opportunity for spiritual refreshment and encouragement in the crucial matter of preaching and teaching God's word in the local church.

A highlight today was a wonderful lecture on the life of ministry of Billy Graham, with some stirring singing of songs made popular in that great man's crusades: Blessed Assurance and How Great Thou Art.

In the afternoon, I went to a seminar (pictured below) for those of who have been in preaching ministry for 20 years or more which was full of practical wisdom and encouragement.

A great EMA day, roll on tomorrow....

Monday, 24 June 2019

Estates evangelism

To Bishopthorpe Palace, the home of the Archbishop of York, for a meeting of 'Diocesan Focal Leads' for estates evangelism.

Following the General Synod motion on evangelism on local authority estates, each Diocese with a high proportion of estates was asked to nominate a 'Focal Lead' to advocate for estates evangelism in the diocese.

I have been asked to do this for Southwark diocese by Bishop Christopher and so I joined with other focal leads from across the country for this day conference in York.

The Church of England has set itself the target of a living Christian community on every social housing estate in the country. Its a huge challenge but a wonderful goal.

Today we heard some inspiring stories of estates evangelism up and down the country, giving much food for thought.

A print out was produced for each Diocese of every parish with 500 or more units of social housing. In Southwark that comes to 193 parishes. To quote Jesus, the harvest is large, we need to pray for labourers in the harvest field - and a new passion to take the Gospel to what are often overlooked and neglected communities.

Congrats Graham

Congratulations to Bermondsey's own resident bishop, Graham Kings, pictured here yesterday at St Anne's, who today celebrates the tenth anniversary of his consecration as a bishop in Westminster abbey on 24th June 2009.

Graham was first of all, Bishop of Sherborne, in the diocese of Salisbury. He moved to Bermondsey in 2015 when he became the Mission Theologian for the Anglican Communion.

Then, after a spell as priest-in-charge of St Matthew's at the Elephant, he took up his present role as assistant bishop and Adviser on World Mission in our diocese.

We are delighted to have Bermondsey's resident bishop in our congregation at St James and we send him our warmest congratulations on this latest milestone in his ministry and his service of the Gospel, the Church and its Lord.

Sunday, 23 June 2019

Farewell Simon

It was a fond farewell to Simon Lewis on his last day at St James as our honorary curate.

Simon's 'day job' is to be the leader of the Anselm's Community at Lambeth Palace. On Sundays he has been with us at St James and St Anne's, preaching, leading services and being involved in other church actitivies.

He has now successfully completed his curacy (a kind of training posts) so today was the day to say a fond goodbye to him and pray for him as he goes forward in God's service.

It's not completely farewell, as Simon will be giving us a guided tour of Lambeth Palace and telling us about the work of the St Anselm's Community for our deanery social next month.

Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Footwashing in a upside down kingdom

School assembly at St James's School today and in our cycle of readings we had come to the occasion, recounted in John 13, when Jesus washed the disciples feet, and the disciples were astonished that the master took the place of a servant.

We recalled the footwashing that we had at an end of term service in church looking at the events of Maundy Thursday.

It was the Junior Faith Group who had the idea for a re-enactment of the foot washing.

'Who should have their feet washed?' I asked them. 'The children' they replied.

'Who should do the footwashing?' I asked them. 'Mrs Willis' they said.

So that's how our headteacher came to wash the feet of the Junior Faith Committee in church in front of the whole school.

It was a reminder of the way - as one of the children at assembly today put it - Jesus flipped everything over - and turned things upside down.

Sunday, 16 June 2019

Confirm, O Lord

Three candidates from Holy Trinity, Rotherhithe and three from St James & St Anne's were confirmed tonight at St James by Bishop Graham: "Defend, O Lord, these your servants with your heavenly grace, that they may continue yours for ever, and daily increase in your Holy Spirit more and more until they come to your everlasting kingdom. "

Decision day

We had planned an open air service in the Churchyard for this morning but the weather had other ideas.

So we were inside for the main part of our service, with a large congregation overflowing into the galleries, but after the baptism of the three childrem Albert, Greysen, and Sophia at the font, we all went outside for the baptism of Temitope in the pool, before returning inside the church for the rest of this very special service.

Following on from Pentecost last week, Jacob preached on Peter's sermon from Acts 2 which ends with this challenge so appropriate for today: 'Each of you  must turn away from your sins and be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ, so that your sins may be forgiven and you may receive God's gift, the Holy Spirit. For God's promise was made to you and your children and to all who are far away - all whom the Lord our God calls to himself.'

Today's candidates and their families

Saturday, 15 June 2019

In Cambridge

To Jesus College, Cambridge, as the guests of Adrian and Marian, to see the college where among notable old boys is Adrian himself, my late father-in-law, and no less a figure than, Thomas Cranmer, reforming archbishop and author of the Book of Common Prayer.

Cranmer's portrait (right) hangs at the front of the college's dining hall, twinned with a portrait of King Henry VIII, under whom the archbishop served.

In the same hall is the Latin text of Psalm 133.1, How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity, a fitting aspiration for an academic community that bears the name of Jesus, as it meets to dine together.

The shepherd's son

Eddie Scrase-field, vicar of St John's, Blackheath, was the speaker at today's men's breakfast at St James.

Eddie's dad was a Latin American ballroom dancer who decided to become a shepherd, running a sheep farm in Scotland, and providing his son with a wide range of shepherd-related sermon illustrations for the future.

Eddie had the benefit of growing up in a Christian family and being a believer in Jesus from a very early age.

When he was 18 and about to go to university, his mum gave him a gift of a Bible. In it she inscribed a verse from Psalm 119 that, in the years that followed, has been a guiding principle in his life: 'How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word.'

Monday, 10 June 2019

Remembering Lesley

Lesley's funeral took place today in St Anne's, the church where she had been a member for many years.

A real Bermondsery girl, she went to Tower Bridge Primary School - where at the age of 5 she met the life long friend whose tribute to her was read out today - and loved Pie and Mash from Manzie's.

She was reknown for her kindness, care, and compassion and the number of people who were present at a funeral today was a testament to that.

She was a devoted Christian who told her friends that Jesus was real and that what he said was true.

We shall miss her.

Thy kingdom come

To All Saints, Peckham, yesterday evening for the concluding event of Thy Kingdom Come for the churches of the Woolwich Episcopal Area here in south-east London, a service of thanksgiving and praise for Pentecost Sunday, led by the All Saints team, with Archdeacon Alistair preaching on Acts chapter 2 about the events of Pentecost, when the Spirit was poured out, God's message was proclaimed in a multiplicity of languages, and more than 3,000 were added to the group of believers that day.

It's about that - the power of the Spirit changing lives - new believers beeing added to the Church, that Thy Kingdom Come has been about, a great worldwide wave of prayer for lives to be changed by the Gospel.

Friday, 7 June 2019

Run to Do Good

St Anne's Hall this week has hosted the 'Run to Do Good initiative' which involved a group of volunteers from City businesses running to Bermondsey from City Hall and then making 130,000 poppies for this year's British Legion Appeal. Fantastic.

Thursday, 6 June 2019

Trusting on D-Day

From Twitter, in the midst of the D-Day celebrations, a reminder of Bishop Maurice Wood, formerly principal of my old theological college, who went ashore in the first assault wave on D-Day as chaplain to the Royal Marine Commandos. When he found any of his men wounded on the beach he used to say to them quietly: 'Trust in Jesus. Trust him all the way.'

A great man of God.

Saturday, 1 June 2019

Thy Kingdom Come (2)

Our Thy Kingdom Come prayer walk set off from the Blue today to pray for the people who live on the four squares estates (left) and the area around St Crispin's Church.

On the way we stopped at Southwark Park School to pray for the children who go to school there and to other schools in our two parishes.

We admired the frieze (above) in this London School Board school building of 1873 showing a teacher surrounded by children and various learning educational implements such as a globe, an abacus, a set square, a slate and various books - a great reminder of the Victorian vision for bringing education to London's poor.

We started off our walk gathering around the newly refurbished lion (the symbol of Bermondsey) at the Blue. 

It was good to recall that Jesus is described as the lion in the book of Revelation, and to hear his command to take the Gospel to every nation: 'Go, then, to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples' (Matthew 28.19).

As we prayed for that great work of mission, we especially prayed for Bermondsey that God's kingdom will come among us.