Friday, 15 December 2017

A royal feast at Age-UK

Age UK's Yalding Healthy Living Centre in Southwark Park Road does a wonderful job of serving the older people in the community, and we are always delighted to be invited to the annual Christmas dinner and party, alongside the Pearly Queen of Bermondsey, Dee Russsell (pictured) and the Mayor of Southwark, and the many regular users of the centre.

A three-course slap up Christmas meal is served by volunteers from local businesses and, this year, another local business, made a gift of most of the food, and this year we rounded off the meal with some community carol singing, before the members got ready for some entertainment, and full buffet and dancing till late (these oldsters have got stamina)

It's always a very happy event, presided over by the centre's excellent staff.

Yalding is a life line to many people  and a real enrichment to our local community. So, thank you, Katrina and all your team for all you do throughout the year. (And thank you Paul for the photos).

Yalding chef, Ken, with the Pearly Queen

Thursday, 14 December 2017

O come all ye faithful

The last of our open air carol events took place outside St James yesterday evening (left), followed by mince pies and mulled wine in the church.

Now we move inside for Carols by Candlelight on Sunday at 6pm.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

St James's got talent

Just some of the talented performers at the St James School Christmas cabaret tonight, showcasing the dancers, singers, and instrumentalists from after school clubs this term. Well done to everyone who take part, and especially to Miss Jess for all her hardwork, in a show that ended with the whole cast, in seasonal mood, singing Silent Night.

You can listen to some of them here and here

Monday, 11 December 2017

Away in a tube station

'You've made my day' said a young commuter beaming. before filming us on her phone.

It was our annual carol sing to the commuters at Bermondsey Tube station.

We weren't collecting money, just spreading some Christmas cheer, and giving our leaflets with all the details of Christmas services at St James's and St Anne's.

Some people were too engrossed in the content on their phones to even notice us, but lots of others  smiled in appreciation or waved to us - and lots of people captured the scene on their phones.

Our thanks again to the staff at Bermondsey Station and to TFL for making it possible.

Next up: Outdoor carols in St James's Churchyard on Wednesday at 6.30pm.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Getting ready for the big day

St Anne's had its Christingle Service with Carols tonight, with a nativity play enacted by the Sunday School children.

It's always a popular service, the highlight of St Anne's year, and lots of people braved the snowy and icy weather to attend the service tonight.

Christingles are a great visual aid of the Gospel: the orange represents the world; the candle stands for Christ the light of the world; the red ribbon reminds us of the blood of Christ shed out of love for the world; and the four cocktail sticks and the fruit on them, reminds us of God's love in the creation, through the fruits of the earth and the four seasons.

It's a special moment when the lights are dimmed, the congregation circles the building, the Christingles are lit, and we sing together 'Away in a manger' and 'Silent night' and remember the true meaning of Christmas.

Earlier in the afternoon was the annual Old People's Christmas Party at the Salmon Youth Centre, when the young people waited on the older ones, and provided the entertaiment, which included (left) the traditional Bermondsey Waiters Song ('We are the Bermondsey waiters we are, we like to serve you like you was a star, with mince pies and Rosie, and plenty of cheer, just because its Christmas at this time of year').

And before all that, at St James this morning, we had the baptism of Ezra and Ethanuel, children of Ezekiel and Bola. This went nicely with the reading from Mark 1 about John the Baptist calling the people to be baptised and turn from their sins, to prepare to meet the messiah, Jesus Christ.

It was a great start to a busy day, on the verge of the Christmas celebrations which have now well and truly started.

Not in a stable, but surrounded by the family

I don't think its going to make much impression on your standard nativity play, but really there is not much evidence that Jesus was born in a stable, and that famous line 'there was no room at the inn' is almost certainly a mistranslation.

Sacrilege! I hear you cry, but its true.

There's no mention of a stable in either Matthew or Luke, but Luke does tell us that the baby was laid in a manger, and people have kind of assumed that this implies a stable (as it would do in Britain), especially after just being told by the same writer that 'there was no room for them to stay in the inn.'

Except the Greek word translated 'inn' in most English translations, doesn't mean 'inn' (there is another word for that). The actual word used is kataluma, which means 'the spare or upper room in a private house, where travellers received hospitality.'

To unravel the mystery, you need to understand what a typical home looked like in those days. There was one main room where the family lived and slept. At night the animals would be brought in to sleep in the same room as the family (hence the mangers).

The guest room was reserved for visitors, who every family was expected to welcome and offer hospitality to.

Here's what happened when Mary and Joseph turned up. The guest room was already full, so rather than being relegated to a stable (not even the animals slept there at night), the couple were welcomed into the main room with the rest of the family. And when the baby was born, the manger was the obvious place to lay him.

Theologian Ian Paul comments 'In the Christmas story, Jesus is not sad and lonely, some distance away in the stable, needing our sympathy. He is in the midst of the family, and all the visiting relations, right in the thick of it and demanding our attention.'

And for his street Advent Calendar he produced this 'historically accurate nativity' (above).

You can read Ian's full article on his blog here

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Down on the farm

It was the Christmas Fair at Surrey Docks Farm this morning and Bishop Christopher (left) who is patron of the farm dropped in for some festive carol singing, with the singers from nearby Holy Trinity, Rotherhithe, before touring the farm.

The farm does an invaluable job of bringing a little bit of the countryside into the heart of the city, and giving children, in particular, the chance to see real live farm animals in the context of a working farm.In this way it really enriches our community and so it was good to see the farm being well supported today for its annual Christmas Fair.

Friday, 8 December 2017

Beginning to feel like Christmas...

It's really only Advent, but with the Christmas tree up on the portico of St James, it's beginning to feel like Christmas.

Our first Christmas service is this Sunday at St Anne's: the ever popular Christingle Service with Carols, and then on Monday at 6pm with have carols at Bermondsey Tube station, followed by outdoor carols in St James's Churchyard at 6.30pm on Wednesday.

For further details of all Christmas events at St Anne's see here and at St James, see here

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Remembering at Albins

It's that time of year when the clergy don five extra layers of clothing and say a silent prayers of thanks for Messrs Marks & Spencer and their range of thermal underwear.

The Albins outdoor Memorial Service in their Memorial Garden on the edge of Southwark Park is a remarkable Bermondsey institution.

This year the weather was quite mild, some year's it is absolutely freezing but that doesn't stop literally hundreds of people coming to this amazing event which includes Christmas carols, solos by professional musicians, prayers by the clergy, moments of reflection and Jon and Simon's inspired leading of the whole event.

Christmas is a time of year when families are particularly aware of the loss of loved ones, the Albins service, with its wonderful mixture of hope and compassion, comes at just the right time.

It is is deeply appreciated by hundreds of families. So, thank you, Jon, Simon and all the Albins team.

Remembering at Albins: From Southwark News

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Let there be light

A big thank you to an intrepid team of John, Bob David, & Lawrence who erected the scaffolding tower and renewed the floodlights on the west and north sides of the church. The effect is stunning.

With these long nights leading up to Christmas its great to have the church gleaming in the light and being seen in its full glory.

Sunday, 3 December 2017

A blue Christmas in Bermondsey

Hot food, sideshows, jugglers, fire-eaters, face painting, the ice rink, the snow globe, Irish dancing, DJ, and Christmas stalls all went to make up great community afternoon today at the Blue.

A big thank you to the traders at the Blue, to Blue Bermondsey Bid, and to everyone who contributed to what has become a valued annual tradition in the heart of Bermondsey, just before Christmas.

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Christmas at the Blue

We had the first of our three open air carol events today -  in the Marketplace at the Blue, with our best turn out ever.

Lots of people from both churches came to sing - more than captured in this shot - others gave out leaflets to passersby, many of whom joined in for a sing - as did Riverside Councillor, Anood, and Russell from the fish stall.

It was a great community event bringing some Christmas cheer into the heart of Bermondsey.

Next up: Carols at Bermondsey Tube Station on Monday 11th at 6pm; and outside St James on Wednesday 13th at 6.30pm. O come all ye faithful...

The Bermondsey Lion at the Blue

Friday, 1 December 2017

The man from the palace

Meet the man who lives in a palace.

This is Simon Lewis, introduced to St James congregation last week, shortly due to meet the people of St Anne's, who works for the Archbishop of Canterbury as Dean of the Anselm's Community, a community of Christians aged 20-35 from all over the world who give a year of their lives to living in a 'radical Jesus-centered community of prayer, study and serving local communities - all based at Lambeth Palace in London.'

As part of his work at St Anselm's, Simon, lives with his wife and children in the grounds of the Palace (right), but on Sundays, and sometimes during the week, too, for the next couple of years he will be involved with St James and St Anne's in Bermondsey, as he joins in the life of our churches and as he 'completes' his curacy (the 3 to 4 year initial post-ordination training that all CofE clergy take part in).

Whilst the main focus of his work will be at St Anselm's, we look forward to Simon's involvement here in Bermondsey and we pray that his time with us will be a blessing to him and to us.We look forward, too, to hearing about the work of the Community and, who knows, there might even be a parish outing to Lambeth Palace.

The first tranche of St Anselm's members, just having completed their year in the community, holding a commemorative bible with which they had just been presented

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Bells over Bermondsey

To our next door neighbours, The Gregorian, yesterday for the Annual General Meeting of the  St James and St Mary Rotherhithe societies of bellringers at which we elected the Tower Captain and the Steeple Keeper (I love those titles) for both churches, as well as the secretary and treasurer for both bands.

Week by week the bells ring out over Bermondsey and Rotherhithe, and the dedicated service of the band of bellringers is deeply appreciated in the area.

You've only got to spend time with a team of bellringers to realise there is a lot more to bell ringing than meets the eye. It gets quite technical and very skilled. Is bellringing a science or an art, I asked them at last night's meeting? It's an exercise, they replied.

And here, is a bit of Sunday morning bellringing filmed from the vicarage garden during my sabbatical, just to remind you of the great sound they produce.

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.