Sunday, 16 September 2018

Norwegian celebration

This weekend has been a special time of celebrating the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Norwegian Seamen's Mission in Rotherhithe (left).

The origin of the mission was in an evangelical revival that took place in the Church of Norway in the 1860s which led to attempts to minister the Gospel to Norwegian seamen around the world, including London.

The Surrey Docks closed in 1972, but the Norwegian Church continues to serve an ex-pat community of around 20,000.

Torbjorn Holt of the Norwegian Church in Rotherhithe
Last night there was a celebratory dinner at Southwark Cathedral, which included our own bishop, Christopher, the Bishop of
Bergen, and clergy from both churches.

Aswell, as speeches by several of those present, there were toasts to friendship and co-operation in the Gospel, as well as a toast, (proposed by Bishop Christopher) 'to the King of Norway and the Queen of England.'

Today there was a service of thanksgiving at the Norwegian Church, followed by a wonderful lunch, and, in keeping with the Norwegian theme,  a concert of music by Greig.

Congratulations to our Norwegian brothers and sisters on your 150th anniversary. We love having you in our deanery.

Saturday, 15 September 2018

Bermondsey Street Festival 2018

The Bermondsey Street Festival is getting bigger every year. Today there were hundreds of stalls, several live bands, and thousands of people thronging Bermondsey Street and Tanner Street Park.

It was good to see St Mary Magdalen Church well involved with a barbeque in the churchyard (I can testify to the excellence of the Jerk Chicken), a bouncy castle, various sideshows and, in the church, a concert by the children of Boucher CofE school.

Also taking part were such varied community groups such as Surrey Docks Farm, the Cathedral, and the LibDems!

A great community event.

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Norwegian matters

To the Norwegian Church (left) in Rotherhithe for a gathering of Area Deans from the Diocese of Bergen  and our own Diocese of Southwark, which is twinned with that Norwegian Diocese.

Here in Bermondsey we enjoy having the Norwegian Church in our deanery.

Our links with Scandinavia go back to the days when many ships from that part of the world called at the nearby Surrey Docks.

The docks are long gone but the Norwegian Church continues to serve the ex-pat population in London and Southwark Park, just across the road, is the centre of the London celebrations of Norway's national day.

Like the Church England, the Church of Norway is a church of the Reformation . It is a Lutheran Church and, until recently, a state church with the monarch as its head. To this day the clergy are paid by the state, rather than by the Church, as is the case in England. (The English clergy were interested to hear their Norwegian brethren are paid about twice as much!)

In the Norwegian Church Lounge, a gathering of deans
There are other big differences too. Area Deans in Norway are like line managers for the clergy in their deanery.

In England, the Area Dean is a first among equals, and the clergy gather as colleagues together for fellowship rather than to receive directions from the Area Dean.

All in all, a fascinating afternoon, seeing some of the differences between our two churches, but recognising that the thing that unites us is our common faith in Jesus Christ.

May God strengthen and revive his church in Norway and in England.

Sunday, 9 September 2018

In the open air

It was our last open air service of the year, but it was good to be together as St James and St Anne's churches to praise the Lord together in St James's Churchyard and hopefully share a bit of Christian cheer with our neighbours.

The musicians from the Rhema Assembly Church, with whom we share the church building, contributed a beautiful song that enriched our worship and testified to our shared faith in Christ. Thank you, Pastor Danny, for organising that.

It was good to have our new curate, Jacob Mercer, preaching on Luke 4.16-21, the occasion when Jesus read from the prophet Isaiah ('the Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has chosen me to bring good news to the poor....'), and then said 'This passage of Scripture has come true to day in your hearing.'

Jesus was the one who had come as the king, and suffering servant, who gave his life for us on the cross, who brings good news, release for captives, and recovery of sight for the blind. He is the man who can put Bermondsey right, and put each one of us right, as we turn to him.

It was good to praise him in the open air and to conclude together singing about the greatest day in history ('Death is beaten, you have rescued me, sing it out Jesus is alive')

Saturday, 8 September 2018


Congratulations to Frankie and Sean, married at St James this afternoon.

Every blessing to you both in your new life together.

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Getting ready for Discipleship Explored

To join our Discipleship Explored course, starting at St James on Wednesday 26th September at  7pm, please contact the church office by clicking on this link

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Building on the Rock

Just along the road from us in our neighbouring parish of St Mary, Rotherhithe, is the old building of the church school with these wonderful statues of eighteenth century scholars, a boy and a girl each holding a book.

The book, of course, is The Book, the Bible, and it is a reminder that Christians were in the forefront of providing free education for poor children, centuries before the state took over that role.

Peter Hill founded his school, which still bears his name in 1613, two and a half centuries before free education for all was provided by Act of Parliament in 1870.

The significance of the Bible in the hands of the children was two fold. Christians wanted children to be be able to learn about God's world, and by learning to read, to be able to read God's word for themselves.

The tradition of Church education continues not only in Peter Hill's School, the parochial school of St Mary, Rotherhithe, but also in our own St James's School, founded in 1841, which started back for a new term today with a service in the church.

All bright and bushy tailled, refreshed after the holiday, children and teachers poured into church today to sing God's praise, to pray for the coming term, and to hear God's word.

Some of the key stage 1 children helped me act out the story of the wise man who built his house on the rock, and we thought about the difference it makes when you build your life - and your school - on the solid rock of God's Word in Scripture.

The house on sand (left) and the house on the rock.

It was a good start back to a new term.

Sunday, 2 September 2018

Discipleship Explored

Discipleship Explored, an eight week video based course starts at St James on Wednesday 26th September at 7pm.

Each session includes a meal. 

Discipleship Explored helps followers of Jesus turn up the gospel soundtrack to their lives.

It goes beyond simply teaching the right moves - go to church, pray,read the Bible, share the gospel - and focuses on the music which drives discipleship: the love of Christ. The greatest love anyone can ever know.

This eight-session journey through Paul’s letter to the Philippians is ideal for believers at any stage of the Christian life. It features brand-new documentary-style films and inspiring real-life stories from around the world, Bible studies and weekly reading plans.  

Contact the church office to book your place on the course.

Monday, 27 August 2018

Dragon video

A three dimensional model of the St James dragon was made by the restorers during the recent retoration of the weathervane - and here is a video displaying it to its full glory.

Saturday, 25 August 2018

Archdeacon & the dragon

The Bridge, newspaper of the Diocese of Southwark, carries an article on its front page of its September issue about Archdeacon Jane Steen's visit to see the Bermondsey dragon.

You can read it here

Friday, 24 August 2018

Wedding bells

Congratulations to Barry and Harriet, married today at St James.

Every blessing to you both and to all the family.

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Joy on the radio

Fergus Carr, the architect of our proposed new joyslide for the 21st century and local historian, Graham Taylor, have been interviewed on BBC Radio London about our plans for the new slide.

You can listen to the interview here. Go to 1:36:12

Updated details of the joyslide project see here 

Monday, 20 August 2018


Above: the newly restored ceiling of the portico of St James, revealed as the first tranche of scaffolding comes down.

Sunday, 19 August 2018

Church in the mists

In the height of summer it's hard to rememer what the winter is like, but here is an atmospheric shot sent in by a blog reader of St James on a foggy November morning

Thursday, 16 August 2018

The man with the knowledge

As the son of a black cab driver, I always enjoy meeting cabbies or cabby's families at weddings or funerals that we take as a team here in Bermondsey.

Clearly over the years Bermondsey has produced a lot of cab drivers.

At funerals, John 14.1-6 ('in my Father's house are many mansions') is a favourite bible reading for funerals.

'I'm going to prepare a place for you' says Jesus to the disciples and, then; 'you know the way to the place where I am going.'

This puzzles Thomas who says 'Lord, we do not know where you are going so how can we know the way'

That produces Jesus's magnificent answer to Thomas and to us: 'I am the way, the truth and the life.'

When I've got a cab driver in the congregation, I say that a London cabbie always knows the way. He is the man with the knowledge.

He has toured the streets on a moped with a clipboard, subjected himself to dozens of verbal examinations, and is finally awarded his 'badge' when he has completed 'the knowledge'.

I can remember my dad doing the knowledge, with maps spread out over the kitchen table, the visits to the Public Carriage Office to be quizzed by the examiners, and the day he came home with his Badge (left), the license to ply for hire on the streets of London.

Just as you can trust a London cabbie to take you to your destination - because he has the knowledge - so you can trust Jesus, the Son of God with The Knowledge, to guide you to the Father's house.

The moral is simple: follow the Man with The Knowledge.

Sunday, 12 August 2018

Scriptural panels

As part of the restoration of the church tower and portico, we have received the go ahead to replace the currently veryfaded Scriptural Panels on the west front of the church, with brand new ones that will proclaim God's word to the hundreds of people who walked through St James's Churchyard each day.

The old panels were badly corroded and scarecely readable. Now the surrounding stonework is to be repaired and new panels installed.

The existing signs consist of two sets of Scriptural Texts, one written over the other. Rather than choose between them we have opted for two new texts. One declares who Jesus is 'I am the way, the truth and the life' ; and the other presents the invitation that he gives to all people to come to himself ('Come to me and I will give you rest'.

It is a happy thought that God's message will be proclaimed with fresh clarity from our building, once the restoration work is completed in the early autumn.

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

The secret of Bevin's success

On Tooley Street, close to the junction with Tower Bridge Road, is this statue of Ernest Bevin, a hero to the dockers who lived and worked locally in the heyday of the docks.

Bevin left school at 11 and went to work as a labourer. He was an orphan at 12, a union leader at 25, the founder of the TGWU at 41, a leading member of the wartime coalition headed by Winston Churchill at 59 (he served with distinction as Minister of Labour), Foreign Secretary in the Atlee government at the age of 64. He died in 1951.

When appointed to Churchill's government he was not actually an MP, but a vacancy was found for him and he was elected unopposesd to the constituency of Wandsworth Central. Years later the naming of Ernest Bevin School in Tooting (where I taught science in the early 1980s) commemorated his links with that part of London.

Bevin was renowned for his championship of working people, for his patriotism, and for his courtesy and respect towards all people. His biographer, Mark Stephens, believes one of the influences that most shaped Bevin were his deep Christian convictions.

At the age of 19 he was baptised by immersion in the Bristol baptist church where he was involved in visiting the sick, helping to run the Sunday school, distributing tracts and speaking at open air meetings.

As a 26 year old man Bevin wrote in his Bible:  'This evening Sept 18th 1907 I have resolved By the Grace of God to serve him where ever he may call me, may God keep me and guard me until he shall call me home.'His daughter recalls that the Bible in which he inscribed these words was kept by his bedside throughout his life and he read from it every night.

Was that the secret of Bevin's success - this unskilled labourer who became a world statesman?

Sunday, 5 August 2018

The dragon returns

The dragon, newly repaired and regilded, has returned to its traditional perch on the top of the bell tower. Our thanks to Dorothea Restorations for all their hard work and skill in repairing this Bermondsey landmark.

Thursday, 2 August 2018

Joyslide update

Great news! Our plan for a new joyslide for the 21st century has been granted planning permission by Southwark Council.

Southwark News this week has a story about the Joyslide, 'Ancestor of Man Responsible for Bermondsey Joyslide is bringing it back almost a century later', which you can view here

We are so grateful to architect, Fergus Carr (right), who has give so much time, energy, and creativity to this project.

Fergus is the great great grandson of Arthur Carr, chairman of Peek Freans biscuits, who was the orginator of the first joy slide.

Fund raising efforts continue for the slide. You can find out more about the project and how you can support it here

Congrats Simon

Congratulations to Sir Simon Hughes on his appointment as Chancellor of London Southbank University.

Read more about it here