Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Archbishop's message on Prince George's baptism

Baptism is not just for kings, says the Archbishop: 'God doesn't care who we are. In his excellent video (see below) he goes on to say: 'God 's love is offered without qualification, without price, without cost, to all people, in all circumstances, always'

‘God’s love is offered without qualification, without price, without cost, to all people, in all circumstances, always.’ - See more at:
‘God’s love is offered without qualification, without price, without cost, to all people, in all circumstances, always.’ - See more at:
‘God’s love is offered without qualification, without price, without cost, to all people, in all circumstances, always - See more at:
‘God’s love is offered without qualification, without price, without cost, to all people, in all circumstances, always - See more at:
‘God’s love is offered without qualification, without price, without cost, to all people, in all circumstances, always - See more at:
‘God’s love is offered without qualification, without price, without cost, to all people, in all circumstances, always - See more at:
‘God’s love is offered without qualification, without price, without cost, to all people, in all circumstances, always - See more at:

 In another imaginative gesture Premier Christian Radio delivered a giant Christening Card to St James's Palace this morning signed by 5,000 Christians.

Premier CEO, Peter Kerridge, said  "As William and Kate make promises to bring Prince George up in the love of Jesus Christ, we know that Christians all over the country would want to send their blessings to the Royal Family on this special occasion, which is why we made it possible for them to sign up to our unique Christening card, featuring the special blessing."

The card includes this prayer for the baby prince and his parents: 
God of Life, we rejoice in the gift of a son to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. We give thanks that by bringing their child to be christened they have responded to Your love and to the grace of Your only Son, Jesus Christ.
We pray for William and Catherine as they love and care for George Alexander Louis. Help and equip them as parents, especially as they make solemn promises before You to nurture their son in the Christian faith. May the public nature of their lives and responsibilities not hinder them in being a good example through their words, prayers, and deeds.
King of Kings, strengthen this family by Your Holy Spirit, that they may use the privileges, opportunities, and challenges that come with their national roles, for the good of all and as a witness to Your Light. We pray through Jesus Christ our Lord, and for the sake of Your kingdom of love and peace.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Larger churches & the NLACC

To High Leigh conference centre and a farewell visit to the National Larger Anglican Churches conference.

When I was vicar of Holy Trinity, Redhill I was part of the NLACC network and I have been on the organising committee for this year's conference, but I have now moved out of the larger church world (I did try to stand down from the committee but they wouldn't let me) so this was a farewell visit to a network whose support and fellowship I have valued immensely over the years.

I  popped in today for the middle day to see how the conference was going. It was good to a catch up  with old friends and I was really pleased to see how well the conference was going.

It takes place once every two years and runs for three days. In the intervening year there is a shorter conference for new leaders of larger churches (defined as 350+ Sunday attendance).

A growing proportion of English Anglicans attend larger churches (currently 14%, rising to 20% by 2020) so these churches have a strategic significance for the mission of the Gospel in this country, although, there is a snag.

And its this: almost without exception the larger Anglican churches are predominantly middle class churches serving predominantly middle class communities - in city centres, outer surburbia, and prosperous market towns - but the Gospel has to reach the places where the larger churches do not reach and that brings us back to Bermondsey and hundreds of places like it.

So, thank God for the life and vitality of the churches of the NLACC network, but let's pray for the spread of the Gospel everywhere.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Canning town

For the second week running Bermondsey has featured on the BBC's Inside Out programme.

Last week the programme was presented from the Bermondsey riverside around St Saviour's Dock, this week the programme took a look at a Bermondsey invention that changed the world: the tin can.

Two hundred years ago engineer Bryan Donkin set up the world's first cannery on a site off Southwark Park Rd, now occupied by the Harris Academy.

You can read more about it here

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Exploring Christianity

Tonight we had our third session of our Bermondsey Christian Training Course, a three-term course, beginning this term with the Christianity Explored course, a great introduction to Christianity for new or not-yet-Christians, and an ideal refresher course for those who have been Christians for some time.

Rugger-playing vicar-cum-evangelist, Rico Tice (left), from All Souls Church, just off Oxford Street, is the presenter of the videos that set the theme of each night.

Week one introduces Mark's Gospel as the good news about Jesus Christ. Week two looks at the identity of Jesus. Week three asks why he came and looks at the problem of sin.

During the week we are all reading a couple of chapters of Mark and we spend the first ten minutes or so talking about what we have read before we watch the video and have a further period of discussion in groups.

Around 50 people have signed up for the course which is repeated at St Anne's on Saturday morning. There is a good mix of St James and St Annes people on Wednesdays and Saturdays and that is one of the strengths of the course for us as a new united benefice of two churches working together.

Perhaps the most memorable thing from tonight's video was Rico's statement that Jesus came 'for people who realise they are bad, not for people who think they are good.' Interestingly enough, we were looking at the very same point at school assembly today in our series on 'people who met Jesus' with the story of the sinful woman who anointed Jesus' feet at the home of Simon the Pharisee.

Friday, 11 October 2013

The giant turnip, the fishfinger & the opera singer

They were dancing in the aisles at St Anne's this morning - the occasion was the Cherry Garden School Harvest Festival in church.

Cherry Garden, a special school with just 45 children and a wide variety of needs and abilities came to St Anne's for their Harvest Festival, based on the story of the Enormous Turnip, acted out by the children.

And the dancing in the aisles? That was to the Harvest Samba which concluded the service and everyone seemed to really enjoy. I liked the words (as well as the catchy tune): 'It's another opportunity, to be grateful for the food we eat, with a Samba celebration to say thank you to God the Father.'

You can hear it here:

Harvest Samba (Watford New Hope Trust) from Zane Colquhoun on Vimeo.

Sandwiched either side of the Cherry Garden visit was our Governors morning at St James's School. We began with a briefing from Mrs Willis at Alexis Street and then we were introduced to the children at assembly.

Does anyone have a question for the governors, asked Mrs Willis. About eighty hands shot up. We had the chance to answer questions such as: How did you become a governor? What are your plans to improve the school? Do you like being a governor? And, when you were our age, what was your favourite book?

Then we visited some classes, shared our impressions with Mrs Willis back at Old Jamaica Rd - and then for two of us, a Friday treat: fishfingers, chips, and beans with the infants. I got the impression school dinners have come on a bit since my day. For a start you had a choice and there was ice cream for pudding. A big improvement on Semolina.

And the opera singer...
The day ended on a musical note with Anna Harvey's concert, La Voix Espagnol,  in St James Church. This was a free short recital of French and Spanish song and opera with Anna Harvey (mezzo-soprano), Chad Vindin (piano), and local vicar, Anna Macham.

Anna is a professional singer who lived in Bermondsey until recently and wanted to thank residents of the area by giving this recital in St James. It was a superb evening.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013


Actually yes I have just made that word up, but in the spirit of Ada Salter's campaign for the beautification of Bermondsey in the 1920s, news has arrived of Southwark Council's scheme to beautify the 'grot spots' of SE1 and SE16.

They write: 'If you know of a grot spot that needs attention, or have a project that will help make your community cleaner, greener or safer go online and apply for funding to help make our neighbourhoods nicer places to live in.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Conferring with the evangelists

To All Souls, Langham Place for the 2013 Evangelists' Conference.

When people think of evangelism they often to think of large scale events - like the stadium filling crusades of Billy Graham in the 50s, 60s, 70s, & 80s - but the focus of this year's conference was not on large scale events, or even on small groups but on one-to-one interactions between individuals

Uncover is a set of bible study materials based on Luke's Gospel which is being used to great effect in the student world, with individual students reading Uncover with their friends on a one-to-one basis.

It comes with a special edition of Luke's Gospel which has a series of QR codes (those square shaped bar code thingies) which, with the aid of a smartphone, you can watch a series of short videos explaining Luke and dealing with some of the most common objections to the Christian faith.

You can view them here

In a world where people know very little about Christianity, but are often curious about spiritual things, an
invitation to look at a biography of Jesus over a coffee - or a pint in the Student Union bar - often provides a way in to the Christian faith.

As for sharing the Gospel in Bermondsey, we might need to customise our own materials - how about some videos filmed on location around the parish, we mused on the tube home - but the idea of doing more one-to-one work seemed definitely worth thinking about - especially in trying to reach men, there being some evidence that the blokes were less keen on small group work than the ladies and might actively prefer the one-to-one approach.

A really good stimulating day with much food for thought. Thank you All Souls.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

All is safely gathered in

Thanks to Jean and her helpers, St James's was adorned today for our harvest festival with a magnificent display of harvest goods, including some Bermondsey grown wheat.

Added to this was the congregation's gifts of non-perishable foods and toiletries to be distributed to homeless people through the Manna Society at London Bridge, whose director, I have recently discovered, is Bandi Mbube, who was a young member of St Luke's, West Norwood back in the days when I was a curate there.

St Anne's are also giving their gifts to Manna and the gifts brought by the children of St James's School to the harvest service in church on Friday (with Paul speaking for the first time) are being distributed to elderly people locally.

From St James's harvest service it was a short train ride to Earlsfield and Christ Church, Earlsfield where our younger daughter is a member. They meet at Southfields Methodist Church in the afternoon. They're a young church - I suppose I was just about the oldest one there- lots of 20-30 young couples, and singles - a growing number of children. Good songs, meaty sermon, very friendly congregation. Excellent.

After church they all decamp to the Pig & Whistle pub where the landlord offers a half price meal to anyone brandishing a Christ Church, Earlsfield notice sheet. Sounds like a good deal. Perhaps we could do something similar with the Greg?

Saturday, 5 October 2013

A Salmon AGM

To the Salmon Youth Centre for the Annual General Meeting and Commissioning service. The formal business was interspersed with prayers and songs and concluded with a commissioning of staff, trustees, volunteers and supporters for the coming year.

The whole event was presided over by our very own Adrian Greenwood (currently chair of the trustees) who came to Cambridge University Mission  (as it then was) as a 'resi' exactly forty years ago, fell in love with Bermondsey, fell in love with Marian and has stayed ever since.

During the year Salmon received 20,000 visits from young people, ran over 32 club sessions per week, developed 60 new mentoring relationships with young people, organised 60 day trips and ten residentials.

The largest club (6-9 year olds) has 80 members and a waiting list of 50.

Over 1,000 young people participated in sports in the pass year and over 200 gained sports accreditations, but finance was tight and expenditure of £923K exceeded income, meaning that the centre had to draw upon its reserves.

This year I had been asked to the commissioning and to give the talk. I chose for the reading (and the passage I would speak on): Genesis 3.1-9 (the story of the fall).

If that sounds like a weird choice of reading, I said, consider this: you need to know where you are, you need to know how things are in the area you live. You need to know the facts on the ground.

As a new vicar I have been eagerly gathering facts about Bermondsey, finding all I can know about the place, greatly helped by the census returns for our parish which yield all sorts of exciting facts and figures. They help us know how things are where we are.

And that's where Genesis 3 comes in. Not so much a history lesson of what happened centuries ago, but a description of how things are in the world we live in. The spiritual facts on the ground.

In instanced three:

1. The Lord God walking in the garden. We do not worship a distant, up-in-the-clouds-god, but the born as a man, walking the face of the earth, dwelling in his people, down to earth God. God is not far away. He is walking the streets of Bermondsey.

2.The man hid from God. By and large people are not seeking God, they are hiding from him, and they do all kinds of things to keep him at a distance. This is a real and serious, spiritual reality in Bermondsey and everywhere, but it is not the whole story, because

3. The Lord God called to the man 'where are you?' Man may be hiding from God, but God is in  the business of seeking and saving the lost. He is the God who calls out 'where are you,' even when we are in hiding, and calls us to himself. From its inception Salmon has believed in and proclaimed this searching, saving God.

May God bless it in that work, I concluded.


Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Working together for good

A full and exciting Bermondsey day today.

First up was a meeting with the Deputy Head at St James's School to discuss the RE and Collective Worship policy. It was an opportunity to review a key aspect of school life and plan ahead for the future, including some future visits to the church by various classes, both as part of the RE curriculum and their forthcoming project on London history.

Church schools have an OfSted-like inspection every 3-5 years looking specifically at the Christian character of the school, its RE teaching and its life of collective worship. Governors and teachers together have a responsibility to prepare for this and nurture this aspect of school life.

Next was a visit to the Salmon Youth Centre where I had been invited to lead the staff bible study.

They are following a series looking at favourite Old Testament characters, and I took as my theme the
concluding chapter of the Joseph story where Joseph speaks to his brothers that memorable phrase that sums up the whole story of his (and their) life: 'what you meant for evil, God meant for good.'

We looked at how that principle reaches its climax in the cross of Christ, where the ultimate act of wickedness is turned by God's power to the greatest good, the salvation of the world. What they (those who killed the Lord), meant for evil, God meant for good (salvation).

And that brought us to Romans 8.28 and that extraordinary promise, and God's own commentary on every believer's life: 'all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose.'

I salute the staff at St James's School and at Salmon. They serve our community well. They often deal with challenging situations and challenging children. They can get a lot of flak and a lot is asked of them. There can be setbacks and disappointments along the way but - and here is the great but - if we are God's people, doing God's work we can trust in his ultimate plan for good, and rely on the promise of Romans 8.28 being worked out in our lives and ministry.

From there it was time to open up the church for the Bermondsey & Rotherhithe Community Council for a meeting that drew together councillors, community groups, police, NHS, and local people to discuss a variety of issues of local concern, with a particular focus this meetings on green issues.

It was encouraging seeing so many people come together who have a real heart for the community.

The Community Council is a great opportunity for networking and we love hosting this event at St James's.

It was also good to meet a couple of readers of BermondseyVicar.

Whilst all that was going on  - in the south lounge of the church - we had our first meeting of Bermondsey Christian Training. We are starting with the Christianity Explored course and we got off to a great start with session one of the course tonight. There is a repeat on Saturday morning at St Anne's and we have about 55 people signed up for the course, a great mixture of ages, backgrounds, and different stages on the Christian journey. Fantastic.

Bukky and Connell's Wedding

Congratulations to the happy couple. This was a great wedding. It included a real live bishop from Nigeria, a Baptist pastor from the Old Kent Road, and loads of family and friends.