Saturday, 26 December 2015

Light in the darkness

It is a blessing to any nation when its leader not only reads the Scriptures, but quotes them publicly  - as the Queen did yesterday in her Christmas Day broadcast, when she said ' “It is true that the world had to confront moments of darkness this year, but the Gospel of John contains a verse of great hope, often read at Christmas carol services, ‘The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.'"

Read the full text here or watch it here

Friday, 25 December 2015

An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Happy Christmas Everyone

Monday, 21 December 2015

Carols by candlelight

We had a record turnout for Carols by Candlelight last night at St James, with every seat taken downstairs and lots of people in the galleries.

The singers and musicians did brilliantly, the church was beautifully decorated and we delighted once more 'to hear again the message of the angels, and in heart and mind to go even unto Bethlehem and see this thing which is come to pass, and the Babe lying in a manger.'

In my address I said: 'God has come to this world in person. He loved the world that much. He cared for you that much.

He became a human being. He was born as the baby Jesus who grew up to be the Saviour of the world. He came to show us the way. He came to bring us back to God. He came to live amongst us in our beautiful but broken world. The Word became a human being and, full of grace and truth, lived among us. We saw his glory, the glory which he received as the Father's only Son John 1.14. 

And here’s the very best news of all. Jesus is not just for Christmas. He can be your friend, your Lord, your Saviour, your hope, and your joy every day of the year - if you put your trust in him.'.

Friday, 18 December 2015

Christmas Dinner at Age Concern

It seemed like the best attendance ever at the Age Concern Healthy Living Centre's annual Christmas Dinner.

Once again a wonderful Christmas lunch had been prepared by the centre staff, aided by volunteers (from the local community and local businesses), and donations from local charities such as St Olave's.
Simone makes a farewell speech

The one sad note was that this was the very last Christmas Lunch to be presided over by Simone, the manager of the centre, whose hard work, vision, and sparkling personality have made it the very great place it is.

She concluded her farewell message: 'Special thanks to all volunteers, placements and to my wonderful staff. I have the best. Wishing all a very merry Christmas and a fun filled new year.'

Thank you, Simone, for all you have done for the local community.

Come and join the celebration

Christmas is nearly here and the it is the very last day of term, and so there was a real buzz of excitement as the whole of St James's school - KS1 downstairs, KS2 in the galleries - came to church this morning for the end of term Christmas service.

Two of the older children read from
the Bible, Penny spoke about the angels bringing the message of God's love for the world, and we sang one more time some favourites: It was on a starry night; Come and join the celebration; Away in a manger and Hark the Herald.

After the service we visited all the classes on both school sites with invitations (right) for the children's Christingle Service in the church on Christmas Eve at 5pm, a short (30 min) service with children particularly in mind, but loved by all ages.

It's been a good term. Everyone has worked very hard and now .... a well-deserved rest for everyone. So Happy Christmas everyone at St James's School.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

O come all ye faithful - in the churchyard

We had our open air carols in the churchyard tonight, followed by mulled wine and mince pies. Pictured some of our singers (left) at the front of the church portico.

The mild weather meant that some people sat in the churchyard to listen t and lots of others stopped to capture the scene on their phones.

And now everyone gets the opportunity to sing inside the church with Carols by Candlelight coming up on Sunday at 6pm.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Joy to the world in key stage 2

It was, I think, their best carol concert ever.

Key Stage 2 ('the Juniors') of St James's School flocked to the church this afternoon for a memorable concert of carols, bible readings, and prayers. Every class took part and took their turn on the stage at the front of the church.

There were carols for the whole congregation to sing, too, and an amazing deeply moving rendition by the whole school of 'O, Holy Night' .

And the school gospel choir were the stars of the show with their all singing, all dancing, upbeat version of 'Joy to the World' which was received with thunderous applause by the whole school community, children, parents, teachers, & governors.

Thank you to everyone for a really excellent afternoon.

Monday, 14 December 2015

Tidings of comfort and joy at the tube

Travellers arriving home tonight at Bermondsey tube station were serenaded by carol singers from St James and St Anne's.

We gave out about a thousand leaflets and received lots of positive feedback from commuters, some of whom filmed the scene on their phones, as we spread a little Christmas cheer in the locality.

Next up: outside St James's on Wednesday at 6.30pm.

Church overrun by shepherds & angels....

Thanks to Mr Myles for these great pics of St James School KS1 nativity, the day the church was truly overrun with angels, shepherds - and quite a few camels and stars, too.


Sunday, 13 December 2015

Silent night, holy night - at St Anne's

(Left) Three angels from the Sunday School Nativity Tableau holding their lighted Christingles tonight at St Anne's Christingle & Carol Service.

The Christingle is a Moravian custom that brings home the true meaning of Christmas and has become very popular in this country.

The orange represents the world. The cocktail sticks and the sweets represent the seasons of the world and the fruits of the earth. The candle represents Christ the Light of the World, and the red ribbon, represents his blood shed for our salvation.

Towards the end of the service everyone received a Christingle and, with the lights switched off, and the church lit only by candles, we sang 'Away in a manger' and 'Silent night.'

The Christingle Service is a great way to remember at this time of the year that God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son.

Here are some more pictures of a great service:

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Carols, carols, and more carols

Christmas for St James's School got off to a great start with the Key Stage 1 Nativity Play in the church (left) yesterday afternoon.

They were watched by hundreds of parents and family members, with the children all in costume and enthusiastically joining in all the songs.

As ever, a big thank you to all the staff members who made the whole event possible.

Then today at lunchtim,e we had outdoor Carol Singing at St Anne's, singing at the four corners of Thorburn Square, followed by Bermondsey Voices's Christmas concert at St James, - a wonderful mixture of Christmas music old and new from our local community choir, which began with a candlelit procession through the church (below):

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Getting ready for Christmas

New this year at St James: a Christmas tree outside the church as well as inside (thanks Paul, Stan & Lawrence), spreading a bit of Christmas cheer to passers-by in the churchyard.

Inside all the Christmas decorations are up ready for St James's School's nativity dress rehearsal tomorrow and the real thing on Friday.

Then on Sunday St Anne's has its ever popular Christingle Service with Carols at 6pm; followed by Carols by Candlelight at St James on Sunday 20th December at 6pm

Next week we also have carols at Bermondsey Tube at 6.15pm on Monday and outside St James's Church on Wednesday at 6.30pm.

Everyone is welcome to all these events.

For full details of all Christmas events at St James click here and for St Anne's here.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Bermondsey cheer

Christmas came early to the Blue this afternoon with a rodeo reindeer, a Christmas market, an escapologist, an artificial ice rink (left), Irish dancers, Santa's Grotto, Face-painting, carol singing and live music all adding to the festive fun. A great community event. Thank you to all the organisers.

Meanwhile, at the Salmon Youth Centre, it was the annual Old People's Christmas Party.

This year's entertainment included some old Cockney favourites like 'Maybe its because I'm a
Londoner' and 'Any old Iron', a bit of Cliff Richard and Bing, carols (of course), some very talented musicians, a Christmas talk by Jos, the 'resis' singing the Bermondsey Waiters Song (Oh we are Bermondsey Waiters we are, We want to serve you like you was a star, Mince pies and rosie and plenty of cheer, Just because it is Christmas at this time of year), some brilliant salsa dancing by some very  energetic youngsters (above), .....and Johnny's jokes, straight out of the Christmas cracker.

Oh, yes, and don't forget Father Christmas, presents for everyone, all that food, and a lift home for everyone afterwards. Superb. Thank you Salmon.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Remembering in Rotherhithe

To Albins Memorial Garden on the edge of Southwark Park for their annual memorial service.

The weather was kind to us for this year's open air service which annually draws nearly a thousand local people.

Once again loved ones were remembered, carols were sung, prayers were offered, hot soup and mince pies were served and the traditional firework finale lit up the Rotherhithe sky, but there was something missing this year, or, rather there was someone missing, and he was on everyone's mind.

The open air Christmas memorial service was Barry's brainchild.

Most years he led and narrated it, and the whole event was an outflow of Barry's generous hearted compassion.

And this was the first Memorial Service without Barry, but Jon and Simon and the whole Albins team marvellously kept the tradition going, and led us in moving concluding tribute to Barry himself, which included a wonderful photo montage (right) of the life that will be long remembered in Bermondsey.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Salmon Sunday

Bermondsey's Salmon Youth Centre, founded in 1906, as the Cambridge University Mission, was the focus of today's morning service in both St James and St Anne's.

It was good to hear about the work of Salmon from Sam, the Director, at St James, and from Jos, the Chaplain, at St Anne's. In addition we saw the video (below), specially produced by Jos for our Salmon focus Sunday, and at St James we thrilled to Leslie's (left) amazing raps, too.

It was good to focus on Salmon, a unique Bermondsey institution.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Faith at the General Synod

Here is Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, at the launch today at a General Synod fringe event of the Church Army's wonderful new course, Faith Pictures, designed to help Christians talk about their faith in a way that connects with ordinary people in everyday life.

And the best thing is: it is completely free.

You can watch the introductory video here.

Other highlights of this short day and a half introductory session of the new General Synod, inaugurated by the Queen, yesterday included:

  • A Loyal Address to HM the Queen
  • A very thoughtful debate on the migrant crisis
  • A presentation on global warming by the Archbishop of York and his wife
  • A presentation on the CofE's programme of reform and renewal designed to equip the church to be effective in its mission to the nation
  • A report by the review group on church buildings, particularly focussing on the large number of Listed buildings in rural areas
  • A presentation of a report on public perceptions of Jesus (more about this in a later post).
  • Some legislative work on legal fees

The Synod ended with tributes to William Fittall (and a standing ovation) for his service as Secretary-
General for the last 13 years. He has been the national church's top 'civil servant' and he has served with great dedication and skill, inspired by a strongly committed Christian faith. We wish him a long and a happy retirement.

 With 43% of the members of this new synod being first time members, this group of sessions was a good introduction to the range of matters the General Synod covers. We next meet in February in Westminster and July in York.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

With the Queen, in Westminster

To Westminster for the inauguration of the General Synod, the Church of England's parliament, by Her Majesty the Queen.

First up was a service in Westminster Abbey in the presence of the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, and all the members of the new synod.

Quoting the prophet Haggai the preacher said 'Take courage your Majesty, Sovereign of this nation, the Lord is with you. Take courage Archbishops Justin, and Sentamu, the Lord is with you. Take courage, members of General Synod, the Lord is with you.'

At the end of the service it was moving to sing 'God save the Queen' knowing that on this occasion the subject of that prayerful anthem was with us in person. It was a kind of mass prayer ministry to the Queen by her church, said the person next to me in the Abbey. That was a nice way of putting it.

Later the Queen made a speech which you can read here and the Archbishop of York replied concluding with a loud 'Long live the Queen' echoed by the whole Synod who then gave the Queen a prolonged standing ovation, expressing our gratitude for her long years' of loving service to church and nation.

The Queen herself, as is her custom, ended her speech with a prayer for the Synod, saying: 'At the beginning of this new Synod, as you put your hand into the hand of God, my prayer is that, as we sang in that joyous hymn this morning, “His glorious light may shine ever on our sight, and clothe us round, the while our path illuming.'

It was a great start to what looks likely to be a very productive and encouraging five years of the new Synod.

Southwark members getting ready to process into the Abbey

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Horrified be thy name

Little did we realise the horrors we had been spared as we sat through the ads before the main feature at the Surrey Quays Odeon yesterday.

The sex, violence and rampant materialism were bad enough but our tender souls could have been subjected to something even worse: The Lord's Prayer.

However, in order to avoid causing offence to sensitive cinemagoers, Odeon has decided to ban Jesus's best known prayer in a move that the Church of England has called 'disappointing and bewildering'.

Or, you could say, plain barmy. 

Those of a sensitive disposition might care to look away at this point, but here's the video in question.......

A bishop in Bermondsey

Bermondsey's very own resident bishop, Graham Kings, was officially commissioned as a bishop in the diocese by Bishop Christopher during today's morning service at St James.

Bishop Graham, who has formerly served: as Bishop of Sherborne; at a theological college in Kenya;across the river as vicar of St Mary's, Islington; is now Mission Theologian in the Anglican Communion (the worldwide family of churches of which the Church of England is one), and lives in St James's parish - in Southwark Park Road.

Today's service was the opportunity for Bishop Christopher to formally welcome Bishop Graham into the Diocese where he will serve as an assistant bishop.

It was also provided the opportunity for Bishop Graham to preach about 'Sarah, the Mother of Mission' from Genesis 18 using a remarkable visual aid, a newly painted depiction of the scene by the Bulgarian artist, Silvia Dimitrova:

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Southwark for Jesus

To the Redeemed Christian Church of God's House of Praise in a converted cinema in Camberwell for a lunch organised by Southwark for Jesus to hear of plans for a big faith-sharing project for next September featuring the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the well-known evangelist J. John as guest speakers.

It was good to have so many church leaders from different denominations and streams of church life all united in a concern to share the good news of the Gospel with the people of our borough. It could be a very exciting event, and a great project for us to support here in Bermondsey in the north of the borough.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Pray for Paris

From the SE1 Twitter account, Tower Bridge displaying the colours of the French Tricolore, in solidarity with the people of Paris, and, from the Church of England, this Prayer for Paris:

Compassionate God and Father of all,
we are horrified at violence
in so many parts of the world.
It seems that none are safe, and some are terrified.

Hold back the hands that kill and maim;
turn around the hearts that hate.
Grant instead your strong Spirit of Peace -
peace that passes our understanding
but changes lives,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Hitchhiker's Guide to Eternal Life

When the young Mick Hough lost his job and decided to hitchhike around Europe with a mate, he made a fateful decision that was to change his life for good.

He packed a Bible.

To this day he doesn't know why, but the fact of the matter is: the young Hough went off to Europe with the Gideon's Bible he had been given as a 15-year old schoolboy securely packed in his rucksack.

Then he started reading it.

The rest is, as they say, history.  The message of the Bible which gripped him so much when he started to read it, led to a personal encounter with Jesus Christ, and a whole new focus to his life, which in due course led the TV repairman from the Midlands to become first a Church Army Captain, then a curate, and then a vicar.

That was the story that the men heard at today's Men's Breakfast at St James's, where Mick (above), now the vicar of Holy Trinity, Redhill, was the speaker.

It was a great talk.

Knight's night at the Surdoc Club

In the week he was invested with his knighthood by HM the Queen, Simon Hughes organised a party (yesterday) for family and friends and supporters at the Surdoc working men's club in Surrey Quays (which, as MP, he helped to save from closure).

In addition to cutting the cake (left), Simon, aided by his friends from the Welsh Chapel in Borough, led the assembled throng in rousing choruses of 'Guide me O thou great Jehovah', the liberal anthem 'The Land', and the Cockney favourite Wot Cher! Knocked 'em in the Old Kent Rd.

We concluded with Simply the Best, a favourite from numerous Hughes election campaigns.

I particularly liked 'The Land' and its chorus:

The land, the land
'twas God who made the land
The land, the land
The ground on which we stand,
Simon with singers from the Welsh Chapel
Why should we be beggars
With the ballot in our hand?
God gave the land to the people.

I wondered whether a UK political party in 2015 would dare to chose an anthem with such a robust bit of Scriptural teaching at its heart.

On the printed programme for his Knight's Night Party, Simon concluded with these words: 'Thank you for joining me to celebrate nearly 40 momentous south-east London years. My God, my family,, and my friends have been treasure beyond measure!'

(Thanks to Pat for the pics).

Wednesday, 11 November 2015


Five hundred children in complete silence for two minutes.

It doesn't sound very likely, does it?

But that was exactly what happened at today's Armistice Service for St James's School in St James's Church, between the Last Post and the Reveille. The children behaved beautifully, respectful and attentive, and were a credit to the school during this solemn moment when the whole nation fell silent.

It was a quieter and more formal school service than usual, and some of the younger children were intrigued to see me in my clerical robes. 'Why are you wearing that dress?' asked one of them at the door as they left.

It was good to remember, to give thanks, and to pray for peace in God's world.

The old spiritual, Kum ba Yah, which the children sang softly during the service, seemed very relevant in the circumstances: Lord, come by here, come to us, and to come to your world. Bring your kingdom of justice, peace, and righteouesness.

And all the people - and the whole school - said 'Amen.'

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Arise, Sir Simon

Pictured (left) Sir Simon Hughes, outside  Buckingham Palace where today he was knighted by the Queen.

A very well-deserved honour for the man who has served the people of Bermondsey so well and for so long.

Here are some more photos from Twitter

From Twitter

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Lest we forget

Thanks to Frederick Roll for this photo of the Riverside Ward Councillors & Sir Simon Hughes at the War Memorial (
Lest we forget.

Our Remembrance Sunday commemorations began at the newly refurbished war memorial in Old Jamaica Rd.

The cadets paraded. St James clergy led the brief service.

The Mayor of Southwark laid the first wreath followed by the Councillors from Riverside Ward, Sir Simon Hughes, Hilda (representing the people of St James), together with military and other community representatives.

Remembrance Sunday services followed in both St James's and St Anne's. In St James we laid wreaths at the Boer War Memorial and at the memorial to the members of the Men's Bible Class who died in WW1 (this last wreath being laid by a member of the current men's bible study group).

Once again it was good to pause and remember.

Monday, 2 November 2015

Into the light

Hallowe'en, or All Hallow's Eve, should be one of the brightest days of the church year's.

It's the day before All Hallow's Day (or All Saints Day) when we celebrate the light of Christ shining in the hearts of his people - and that's all his people, because in the Bible a 'saint' is any Christian, not a special Christian, but any and every Christian.

How all that got mixed up with ghosts, spooks, ghouls, and the modern day Hallowe'en celebration of darkness, is anyone's guess.

But that's where our Light Party for kids and parents at St Anne's Hall on 31st October comes in - as an attempt to reclaim Hallowe'en as what it should be - a celebration of God's light shining in the hearts of his people.

And it sounds like a great time was had by all:

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Bermondsey hero

Albert McKenzie, the 19 year old sailor from Bermondsey who was presented with the Victoria Cross by King George V in 1918,  has been honoured with a new memorial (left) unveilled yesterday in Tower Bridge Rd and a 48 gun salute from HMS Belfast. The iron statue stands on a slab of stone from Zebrugge Harbour (scene of his brave exploits), donated by the people of Flanders.

You can read more about his life here and see a video of his hero's reception in Bermondsey after the war here. Sir Simon Hughes one of the long term supporters of the campaign to have McKenzie comememorated in Bermondsey is pictured (above)  here speaking at yesterday's event.

Here from the SE1 website is the moment of unveilling:

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

The heart of the Gospels

There were long queues outside St Paul's Cathedral tonight as over 1,000 people swarmed hear a bishop talk about the Bible.

Tom Wright, former Bishop of Durham, and international reknown bible scholar, held the audience spellbound as he unpacked the message at the heart of the Gospels, and then fielded questions tweeted by the congregation (or, in the case of the technologically challenged, scribbled on the back of their programme and waved in the air for a steward to collect.

As well as writing over 50 books, NT Wright has a remarkable ability to communicate complex ideas simply - and make them exciting.

I've read quite a few of his books (not all of them) but its always a joy to hear this man speak with his infectious enthusiasm for the Gospel.

Here are a few tweeted snippets:' Because of Jesus something happened which makes the world a different place;' 'When God wants to change the world he doesn't send in tanks but meek, mourners, merciful;' 'The resurrection & Jesus' healings speaks to the fact that God cares for this world and will make all things right'.

One person tweeted: 'Jesus starts where we are Hurrah! When we cannot grasp it, that's Okay- follow on! Praise the One True and Living God. Amen'