Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Reformation at the Cathedral

To Southwark Cathedral for this year's Clergy Study - on the Reformation.

2017 marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, that great spiritual movement, that led to the rediscovery of the heart of the Gospel, and the reform of the church, not least our own Church of England, where the great truths of the reformation remain enshrined in our 39 Articles of Religion and the Book of Common Prayer.

It was good and heart warming to be reminded of that by our second speaker, Ashley Null, which set us up nicely after lunch for a brilliant lecture by Prof Barclay on the gift of God's grace.

We even sang a hymn by Martin Luther. Excellent.

Professor John Barclay


Thanks to Parisa for this lovely photo of the weird sky over Bermondsey on Monday afternoon.

Monday, 9 October 2017

In Bermondsey, all is safely gathered in.....

St Anne's Hall was the venue for our International-themed Harvest Supper on Saturday.

National costumes, ethnic dishes, and songs and dances from across the globe, contributed to a fascinating and delicious evening.

Here is the Ugandan contingent in full flow, adding their contribution to Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Jamaica, Togo, and many other places:

Following the harvest services in both churches, it was the turn of St James's School to have their Harvest Service in church today.  I spoken on the verse from James 1, 'Every good and perfect gift' is from above, and I had some of the younger children open gifts, symbolising the gifts that God gives us in his creation (the rain, the sun, water, drink, each other).

Then with lots of gifts collected for Manna's work among the homeless, we heard details of the children who had been appointed to the Junior Faith Committee (to work with the governors' faith committee overseeing RE and collective worship), and to the Junior Leadership Team who represent children's views in the school. Well done to all of them.

Junior Faith Group members
Our team of head boys and girls who helped in today's service

Readers remembered

'Readers' are Church of England lay preachers and yesterday a whole bunch of them were licensed at Southwark Cathedral, including David McEvoy of St Alphege, Greenwich, who did a placement at St James during his training, and Jan Greaves, from my old parish of Holy Trinity, Redhill.

It was very special to see David and Jan licensed, and very moving too to hear in the prayers the name of our dear late lamented Trevor Knight (of St Peter's, St Helier), who this year went to be with the Lord.

Friday, 6 October 2017


To the Biscuit Factory to see Grosvenor's final plans for the £500m development of the site, which will provide a new secondary school, 1,350 homes for rental, shops, offices and up to 1500 jobs, as well as the refurbishment and re-use of 165 under-used railway arches.

Postives of the scheme will be new access to the Blue, better pedestrian routes through the site, and several public open spaces.

Its a huge project that will take the best part of eight years to build, once planning permission is granted.

You can view the exhibition tomorrow from 10am to 2pm - enter by the Clements Rd entrance


Coverage from the South London Press of the recent Anniversary concert at the Salmon Youth Centre and of the 50th Anniversary celebrations at St James

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Cherry Garden harvest

St Anne's Church has long had a link with Cherry Garden School, the special school in Southwark Park Rd, and for a number of years Paul has been a governor of the school.

Each year children, teachers, and parents come to St Anne's for their harvest celebration, in the week following the church harvest festival, bringing gifts for the Manna Centre and its work among homeless people, and it was good to welcome the children again this week (left).

And here from the school's Twitter feed........ 'we think Michael is perfectly cast in our harvest festival this morning. He is our jumping frog!'

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Better story

Yesterday we went to All Souls, Langham Place, just off Oxford Street, for the annual Evangelists Conference, which this year had the theme 'Better Story.'

It was subtitled 'new ways to tell the better story of the gospel in our narrative-soaked world.'

The conference considered the power of stories, including in advertising and political campaigning,  and then asked how we could communicate the gospel in story form, making the most of the compelling attention grabbing nature of stories and their emotional power.

The day ended with a kind of specimen sermon - based on the narrative of the crucifixion, that used stories and illustrations particularly well, kind of showing us how it was done. It was a really excellent conference.

LUNCHTIME TODAY saw the ministers of the Bermondsey Deanery Chapter (the ministers of the seven parishes of Bermondsey deanery), meet up at St Mary, Rotherhithe, Rectory for lunch with Bermondsey MP, Neil Coyle (right).

It was good to hear about Neil's work in Parliament and for his constituents here in Bermondsey, and his reflections on the recent party conference.

We discussed some of the key local issues - housing and crime (particularly moped based crime and that affecting mobile phones) seem top of the agenda at the present moment.

At a time when the world can be very cynical about politicians, it was good to be reminded once more of the thousands of public-spirited individuals, from all parties, who work so hard to serve the people of their area.

Monday, 2 October 2017

Celebrations all round

It's been a weekend of celebrations.

First, Alan and Linda, who were married at St James fifty years ago on Saturday, came to the church to give thanks to God for fifty happy years of marriage and to renew their marriage vows.

Theirs must have been one of the very first weddings in the church after it was re-opened.

Their children and grandchildren were all there, and for Linda, it was a total surprise, kept secret by Alan and the family, until she met me in the church porch.

It all started a few weeks ago when a man rode up on a motorbike in the churchyard and said 'we got married here 50 years ago. Our anniversary is on the 30th and I wondered if we could do something to mark it, as a surprise for my wife.'

So it happened and what a happy celebration it was.

Next up was a double celebration for my good friend, Les Wells, made Team Rector of Horley on Saturday night, and honorary canon of Southwark Cathedral on Sunday afternoon (right).

Some time ago Les told a Men's Breakfast at St James the story of how he came to faith. His wife went into labour with their fifth child, and while they waited for the ambulance, Stephanie said 'Les, you'll have to deliver this one.'

Panic. Les decided to pray. All went well, and that tiny baby is now a big strapping young man, but Les didn't forget that he had asked for the Lord's help. So, with the older four children in tow, he came to the church, St Peter's, St Helier, where I was vicar, to give thanks.

Later all five children were baptised from the oldest to the youngest in one glorious service and Les, well he just grew and grew as a Christian.

He joined the local ministry team. He sang in the music group. He shared his faith far and wide - and in due course he was ordained and in time became the vicar of St George's Church, also on the St Helier estate. As an accomplished barber, he also cut my hair, but that is another story.

And now he has moved to Horley, and the Bishop has recognised all that Les has given as a vicar in Morden, and Area Dean of Merton, by bestowing on him the honour of making him a canon of south London's cathedral. Like me he is a south Londoner, born and bred, and that makes it really special to think of Les as one of our new canons.

Five new canons, the Dean, and the Bishop

Thursday, 28 September 2017

'I will build my church'

With our 50th anniversary service for the church's re-opening, and the infusion of new life coming from Cambridge University Mission, we have been thinking about the history of St James's Church and the area it serves.

I've been given a list of key dates in the Church's life and I have selected a few of these milestones for blog readers.

Like many churches, St James has had its ups and downs, its highs and its lows, but the Church has continued to flourish, and proclaim the unchanging, life-changing message of the Gospel, knowing that the church is the people, not the building, that it belongs to Jesus and he said 'I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.'

1820    Land acquired by local churchmen
1827    First stone laid
1829    Building consecrated. Total cost £24,412
1834    Railway built
1839    Picture of the Ascension commissioned
1841    St James School founded and built
1849    Outbreak of cholera
1851    Census shows 2,350 worshippers in 3 local CofE parishes, including
            St James
1878    Largest Sunday school in London
1881    111 children baptised on one day
1887    Strong links with Church Missionary Society (CMS) - 15 people go to
            work overseas
1906    Cambridge University Mission (CUM)  founded
1909    12 staff, 3 mission halls, 10 Sunday schools
1914    Church used as an air raid shelter; Churchyard used to grow vegetables
1941    Church damaged by bombing
1944    Vicarage destroyed by bombing
1961    Church closed because of dangerous stonework
1963    PCC votes for demolition, later reverses decision
1966    Building re-opened
1967    Michael Whinney appointed vicar; congregation from CUM joins
1968    St James School rebuilt
1971    Thanksgiving service for completion of restoration
2017    50th Anniversary Service

St James Church today

Monday, 25 September 2017


When she's not keeping us all organised and welcoming visitors to the church, our wonderful Administrator, Ruth, is an accomplished singer and worship leader...

Here is her version of 'Hallelujah' delivered to the Celebratory Concert at the Salmon Youth Centre on Saturday night as part of our 50th anniversary celebrations.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

When the church got rebooted

It's not every day you manage to get a knight of the realm as your guest preacher, but this was a special occasion, and the preacher in question, Sir Simon Hughes, had been a member of the congregation for the best part of 40 years.

We had gathered to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Revd Michael Whinney, Warden of the Cambridge University Mission (now the Salmon Youth Centre) becoming the vicar of St James, of St James re-opening for worship, and to an influx of young worshippers from CUM bringing new life to a church that had nearly died.

Before the service
To use computer terminology, as one Twitter user and Salmon Trustee has done, it was all about the day the church was re-booted.

50 years on Sir Simon, preaching from Colossians 1.3-14, made reference to the express courier company DHL, and said the church was a FHL organisation, a Faith Hope and Love organisation, founded by Jesus, spread by the Apostles, existing and growing in every place around the world, committed to spreading God's message of Faith, Hope and Love in Bermondsey and beyond.  Jesus had come to save us and to show us the path of salvation.

The service also included readings by Sam Adofo, Director of Salmon, and Christopher Whinney, brother of the late Michael Whinney, and prayers led by members of the congregation.

Earlier in the service Beattie Martin and Stan Catton, who were both part of the CUM group that came to St James 50 years ago, shared their memories, and Abiola and Capt Paul Warren shared their hopes for the future.

We sang 'Lord for the years', written by Timothy Dudley-Smith when he was warden of CUM and premiered in Bermondsey, and concluded on a triumphant note of praise with 'To God be the glory, great things he has done', but not before we had said a fond farewell to our curate, Jos Downey, leaving us today to become the UK Manager of Mission Without Borders.

A church lunch and barbeque followed with much sharing of memories and many happy reunions. The Salmon Annual General Meeting followed. With the thanksgiving service on Saturday night, it had been a great weekend of celebrating and thanking God for the partnership in the Gospel that has existed betwen St James's Church and CUM/Salmon for half a century, 

Beattie: 50 years ago

Stan: 50 years ago

Sam Adofo

Christopher Whinney

Abiola: I have a dream

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Getting ready...

Getting ready for tomorrow's 50th anniversary in St James, we had a great working party cleaning, polishing, dusting and scrubbing so that the church looks pristine.

Thank you to every one who came to day and to those who did their bit in the week.

In the meantime here is tomorrow's introductory Powerpoint of photos from 50 years ago and today.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

A kind of resurrection in Bermondsey

For a number of years in the 1960s St James Church was closed. Demolition was even considered and then came a kind of resurrection.

The Warden of the Cambridge University Mission (now Salmon Youth Centre), Michael Whinney, was appointed vicar, a congregation of young people who had been worshipping at CUM, came to St James, the building was re-opened, and in due course, restored.

It was a kind of resurrection for a church that nearly died.

This Sunday we thank God for our beautiful landmark building in Bermondsey and for the flourishing congregation that worships in it today, and we remember with gratitude the appointment of the late Michael Whinney (right) , who, 50th years ago this month, moved from CUM to St James Church to be vicar of the re-opened church.

Long term congregation member, the Rt Hon Simon Hughes, will be our guest preacher at our special 10.30am, many former members of the congregation are coming back to join us, and a celebratory church lunch will follow, and EVERYONE is invite to come and give thanks.

The congregation today

Monday, 18 September 2017

With God in the ordinary

Visiting Pittsburgh on sabbatical I was fortunate enough to be given a signed copy of this book by its author, Trish Harrison Warren, at a meeting in which she was speaking.

Image result for tish harrison warren
Trish Harrison Warren
I've just read the book and I highly recommend it. The blurb on the back says 'God is near. In overlooked moments and routines, we can become aware of God's presence in surprising ways.'

Trish takes us through everyday events like waking, making your bed, brushing your teeth, loosing keys, eating leftovers, arguing with your spouse, checking email, sitting in traffic, calling a friend, drinking tea, and sleeping.

Each activity is related to a spiritual practise, to biblical teaching and to Sunday worship. There is a great deal of spiritual wisdom in this book and I particularly liked her appreciation of the Anglican liturgy, having come to it from a non-liturgical church. Excellent.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Where Jesus walked

We left our beautiful hotel on the banks of the Sea of Galilee yesterday and headed off towards Tel Aviv airport and our flight home, but not before we had called in at  Caesarea, the scene of the conversion of Cornelius, and the beginning of the gospel mission to the Gentiles, all as related in Acts 10 (which we read together).

This was a  crucial moment in the life of the church, with revolutionary consequences for all of us, who now, by God's grace, can be incorporated into the company of his people..

Aqueduct at Caesarea
And so our time in the Holy Land has come to an end. Each night we met to sing God's praise and hear his word, sharing in Holy Communion together on our last night and first thing on the Sunday morning. At various points on the way we stopped to read the Scriptures, to pray, sometimes to sing.

Particular highpoints were reading the story of the calming of the storm on the boat on the Sea of Galilee, reading and meditating on breakfast on the seashore from John 21 on the shore of Galilee, and celebrating the resurrection on Sunday, the resurrection day in the resurrection city of Jerusalem.

The shore of Galilee

It was good to be reminded that the Bible is set in a very different world from ours. The heat. The desert. The hills of Jerusalem. The boundaries, the checkpoints, the  military occupation, the disputes and wars that have ravaged this land from Jesus's time until now. The stark beauty of the desert. The green of Galilee. The dates, mangoes, and bananas. The Beduoin, their ramshackle settlements, their goats. The Muslims, the Jews, the Christians. Masada. Jerusalem. Jericho. Bethlehem. Nazareth.


It's a beautiful and messy and slighty chaotic sort of place, just like it's always been, and just like most of the rest of the world for which Christ died, but its the place where the Word became Flesh and dwelt amongst us, and our little group from Redhill, Bermondsey, and many other places besides have been privileged to walk where Jesus walked these past eight days. Thank you, Lord.

On to the Airport

Finally, from the church of St Anne in Jerusalem (thanks Funmi for these videos).....

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

By blue Galilee

Our last full day in the Holy Land was spent around the shores of the Sea of Galilee. We started off with a walk along the 'Jesus trail', a country path of the kind Jesus would  have travelled along, before heading for the lake-side church at Magdala, full of beautiful portrayals of Gospel scenes, and an extraordinary boat shaped pulpit-cum-altar with views of the Sea of Galilee as a backdrop.

Jesus calming the storm - chapel at Magdala

Next up was a boat trip across the Sea of Galilee. The custom of the boat owners is to hoist the flag of the native country of the visitors and to play their national anthem. So with the Union Jack flying over the Sea of Galilee we rose  to sing God Save the Queen. The patriotic Bermondsey crowd  sung the loudest.  Of course.
Union Jack flying over Galilee

The views across the lake were stunning. In the middle of the lake they switched off the engine and in the beautiful quiet and peace we heard from the Bible of the occasion when Jesus calmed the storm on that very water, commanding the wind and waves to be still, leaving a bewildered and terrified band of disciples crying 'who is this man? Even the wind and waves obey him.'

Then things got lively as the crew taught us some Israeli dances.

I must remember next time I do a spot of Israeli dancing not to do it when the temperature is 35C, but it was great fun.

We then had a kind of impromptu praise party with karaoke versions of 'this little light of mine', 'How great thou art' and 'My Jesus my saviour' being belted out across the lake by an enthusiastic band of pilgrims.  It was a truly wonderful hour.

Leader Colin & Jenny

Next up we saw the Jesus boat, a wonderfully preserved first century boat, discovered in the mud of the lake.

Then it was to the Mount of Beattitudes to hear words from Jesus's Sermon on the Mount on this high point overlooking the lake

Just before lunch we stopped by the lake side to recall the occasion when the risen Lord Jesus prepared breakfast for the disciples on the lakeshore as they returned from a night's fishing. We read from the Scriptures, we sang, we drank in the silence and we marveled. It was an Emmaus moment - one of those occasions when you say 'didn't our hearts burn within us?'

After lunch by the lakeshore we went to Capernaum to see the archaeological remains and to view the beautiful modern church that has been built there to round off a memorable day in Galilee.

And now for some dancing...