Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Achievement at St James

Two more photos from yesterday's leavers's service for St James's School - of two great achievements

First, of those year 6 leavers who have had a 100 per cent attendance record during their whole time at St James's school, holding their special prizes.

Second of Deron, awarded the Dooling Cup - a cup presented by the Dooling family in memory of their father, awarded each year to a member of the school who has shown great kindness

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Into the hand of God

Some of our year 6 leavers (left) from St James's School pose for photos in the churchyard after this morning's leavers service in church, attended by the whole school, teachers, parents, and governors.

It was good to give them a good send off as they prepare to go to their new schools in September.

Each of the children were presented with a copy of Luke's Gospel and the Scripture Union book, It's Your Move, by our chair of governors, Sir Simon Hughes, who made a point - as he always does - of a saying a few individual words of encouragement to each of the sixty leaving children in turn.

During the service Penny spoke from Hebrews 11about Abraham. She quoted verse 8 which says: 'It was faith that made Abraham obey when God called him to go out to a country which God had promised to give him.

He left his own country without knowing where he was going.' In the same way we can head into the unknown future knowing that God is with us.

She concluded by quoting the poem made famous by King George VI when he read it in a wartime address to the nation (at the suggestion of his daughter, Elizabeth, our present Queen).

 It was a great message for our 2017 leavers at St James's School. It goes like this:

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Biscuit factory masterplan

Bermondsey's biscuit factory site is heading for some big changes. Here is Grosvenor's video about the draft masterplan for the site and you can see more details at their  Belong in Bermondsey website.
Watch out for a glimpse of St James from the new rooftop gardens.

Friday, 14 July 2017

Climbing the beanstalk with Reception

It was the turn of the youngest children in our school to perform their end of term production this afternoon, and didn't they do well?

The narrators were word perfect. They spoke clearly and confidently to the invited audience of parents and friends as they told us the story of Jack and the Beanstalk, and then everyone joined in the catchy songs that made this a memorable event for the end of their first year at St James's.

Terms ends on Tuesday with the whole school in church to say farewell to year six as they get ready to move on to their new schools in September.

Each of them will receive a copy of Luke's Gospel and the Scripture Union book, It's Your Move, which talks about the big transition from primary to secondary school.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Synod observer (3)

So the Synod has been prorogued - what we in primary school used to call 'home time' but before that we had a full day of business.

First up was a debate about the extraordinarilly high cost of acquiring British citizenship for people who already have permanently leave to stay in the UK.

It's far higher than in any other western nation and it causes real hardship. Our very own Nick Lebey (above), with personal experience of this in his own family, gave a very powerful and moving speech, quoting  Old Testament verses about the fair treatment of the foreigner or alien.

All three houses of synod voted unanimously (a virtually unheard of synodical event) in a motion that asked the Archbishops Council to investigate the matter and make recommendations to HM Government.

Next up was a presentation, followed by a kind of mini-referendum of synod members on the Synod electoral process. The big question was: should the electorate for Gen Syn remain deanery synods members, or should it be PCC members, diocesan synod memberas, electoral roll members or the members of a special electoral college. We await developments - in the meantime the next round of General Synod Elections in 2020 look likely to be conducted online as the default setting, with a paper option for those who prefer it or who are not internet-friendly.

Next we gave final approval to two changes to the Canons (the church's own law book). These need a two thirds majority in each house (which they achieved easilly) and will now be passed to Her Majesty for Royal Assent.

The first change permits clergy to dispense with robes if the PCC agrees and it seems appropriate for the mission of the church in the parish. This is a case of the law catching up with practise in many parishes.

The second concerns the funeral of people who have committed suicide and removes some outdated restrictions on what can be offered to families grappling with this tragic event. This came close to home for me, and I was able to speak about our own family's experience and welcome this wise and compassionate reform of the Church's law.

There was just time for a report on the work of the Archbishops Council before lunch, and then, suitably refreshed, we go to work on agreeing the budget of the Archbishops Council for the coming year. The biggest item was training for the ministry (£15 million) and the total budget run to a little over £38 million. Some good work is going on, including a 14 per cent increase in people training for the ordained ministry (a good step towards the target of a 50 per cent increase).

Farewells to retiring bishops followed and then it was home time. We meet again - in London - in February.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Synod Observer (2)

Day three and it was Sunday and the morning was given over to worship.

Synod decamped to York Minister for its annual service with the Minster congregation, whilst on this occasion I popped next door to St Michael-le-Belfrey (left) for a nostalgic service in the church where I worshipped as a York student in the late 1970s.

The 9am service was billed as the more traditional of the 3 services to take place in St Mike's on this day and the congregation was definitely quite a bit older. But it was a great service - of Holy Communion - sensitively led by the curate with an inspiring sermon by a female member of the staff team. Sung worship was led by a small orchestra and organ and included a mixture of older hymns and newer songs, including a golden oldie from my days at St Michael's, written by a church member as the time 'Broken for me, broken for you.' I was glad there were still singing that excellent song and it was good to be back at St Michael's.

And the medieval stained glass on this sunny York day looked wonderful

Back to campus for lunch of roast beef and of course Yorkshire pudding before we resumed our synodical labours at 2.30pm in a debate about the Church's relationship with transgender people. This was followed by a debate on clergy well being, and then a Private Members Motion concerned with school admission codes as they affect people in tied accommodation, including clergy.

The motion was passed and I actually got called by the chairman to speak in the debate (thank you Andrew). An earlier speaker had spoken of the sacrifices made by clergy children when they have to move homes and school as their mother or father moves to a new parish. It was a point worth made and worth addressing.

That all took until 7pm and then it was time for the Southwark General synod members dinner at the Charles XII pub in Heslington, next to the university. It was a convivial and happy evening and a good end to the last full day of the York synod. Thanks Andrew for the photos

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Synod Observer

Along with Adrian and the fifteen other reps from our Diocese I'm at General Synod (the Church of England's 'parliament') meeting at York University (left).

We started yesterday afternoon, after opening worship, with a welcome to new members, and an address from one of the ecumenical guests, a bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. After a debate on the report from the business committee - an opportunity to comment on the agenda - we turned to a debate led by the Archbishop of York, designed to address the current troubled state of the nation.

The debate was called 'After the Election, a Still Small Voice of Calm', but really it was not Synod at its best. There were a plethora of amendments, which were all rejected,  and it all felt a bit confused and a bit of a lost opportunity for the church to speak to the nation.

Question Time followed and then supper in the University dining rooms, followed by a meeting of EGGS, the Evangelical Group of General Synod, a packed meeting (both in terms of numbers and of agenda), ably led by John Dunnett, Chairman of Eggs and General Director of the Church Pastoral Aid Society (CPAS). It was then time for bed.

DAY TWO and we met for worship in the Central Hall at 9am (above) and then we heard a presentation from the Archbishop of Canterbury on the proposal to draw up a teaching document on human sexuality. This will be a major piece of work taking up at least two years, which will eventually report to synod when all the various working groups that are going to contribute to the project have done their work. Questions followed.

Next up was a debate on Presence and Engagement, essentially about the Church's work in areas of the country where there are large numbers of people of other faiths. It was a good debate, with some excellent contributions from people all over the country, about being good neighbours to people of other faiths, sensitively sharing the Gospel of Christ, the unique saviour of the world.

Legislative business followed giving the final approval to various measures which will then be passed to Parliament and will in due course, it is hoped, receive Royal Assent. One measure was about repealing now obsolete pieces of legislation, going back as far as Queen Anne's Bounty in the early eighteenth century.

Next up and with lunch in sight was a presentation about the planned group work in the afternoon on support for local churches from the national church. There were six workshops to choose from and the Southwark members had agreed to go to different ones and then share their notes with the rest of the group.

I went to the group on Life Events, a really excellent project to provide websites and printed publicity for people enquiring about weddings, baptisms, and funerals. Each year the church has direct contact with between 15 and 20 million people in England through these 'occasional offices' so to do them well, and to commend the Gospel through them, is a crucial part of the Church's mission. For me it seemed like money well spent by the national church.

After tea there was a general debate about the workshops and the upbeat, outward looking, pro-mission mood continued. Next up and to round off the day was a debate on a Private Members Motion about conversion therapies (concerned with sexual orientation). There were several amendments, strong views expressed on all sides, lots of voting by houses (where bishops, clergy, and laity vote separately using the synod electronic voting system). It was always going to be a controversial debate. By the time it was over we were ready for dinner and a bit of relaxation after a longish synodical day.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Bermondsey Carnival

The sun shone and the crowds came out in their thousands to the Bermondsey Carnival in Southwark Park.

Congratulations to all the organisers who made this great community event possible.

Meanwhile, in St James's Churchyard the banners are up for our Bring Back the Joyslide Community Funday on Saturday 22nd July:

For more details of the joyside project see our new Joyslide website here

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Men's breakfast

Our next door neighbour from St Mary Magdalen, Bermondsey, was the speaker at our men's breakfast this morning at St James.

Drawing upon his experience growing up in Northern Ireland, training as an architect, and receiving a call to ordination, Charlie told the story of his life and faith, and how God had guided him each step on the way.

It was another great men's breakfast at St James. thanks, Charlie.