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: