Tuesday, 22 January 2019


How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! 
It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard,
running down on Aaron’s beard,
down on the collar of his robe
It is as if the dew of Hermon
were falling on Mount Zion.
For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.
(Psalm 133)

It's one of the shortest psalms but it packs a punch.

It speaks of how good it is when God's people live together in unity.

It makes me think of our Chapter (the ministers in our deanery - pictured above, except for Anna, who was unable to join us) here in Bermondsey which met for our annual New Year lunch today at Cafe Amisha in Grange Rd.

We are about as diverse a group as you can get theologically, but here's the best thing: we enjoy each other's company and actually like each other.

That doesn't 'solve' our differences of opinion but it does give a context of good affectionate and respectful relationships in which to explore them.

Our Chapter has been described as 'convivial.' I like that.

Sunday, 20 January 2019

Little Ruby

In today's sermon from the Sermon on the Mount focussing of Jesus's command to love our enemies and do good to those who hate us, I referred to the story of Ruby Bridges (left) a six year old African American girl who lived in Louisiana in the early 1960s.

Schools were just being desegregated and little Ruby was the first black child to attempt to attend the William T Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans.

She had to walk through lines of angry protesters with a police escort.

Her teacher watched from a window inside the school.

One day she noticed that Ruby's  was talking as she moved through the crowds.

She said to Ruby: 'I saw your lips moving but couldn't make out what you were saying to these people.'

'I wasn't talking to them' Ruby explained 'I was praying for them.'

Later a child psychiatrist, Dr Coles, who specialised in helping children who had lived through stressful situations, spoke to Ruby. He asked her what she prayed for as you walked by the protesters.

'I pray for me, that I would be strong and not afraid. I pray for my enemies that God would forgive them' she said.

Why did she do it? '"Jesus prayed that on the cross" she told Coles, as if that settled the matter. "Forgive them, because they don't know what they are doing."'

Ruby had got it, I told the congregation. And she was only six years old.

She had grasped what Jesus meant when he said: But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,  bless those who curse you, and pray for those who mistreat you. (Luke 6.27-28)

Ruby and her classmates

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Moses: This is Your Life

Following on from last term's very successful Discipleship Explored course, St James and St Anne is running on a new Wednesday night course at St James, based on the life of Moses, starting on Wednesday 6th February at 7pm.

Each evening will include a meal, a talk, and time for discussion in small groups.

Our topic will be the life of one of the Bible's most fascinating characters and how he was used in God's plan of salvation.

To book a place please email the church office. Everyone is most welcome.

Here is the outline for the course:

Moses: This is Your Life

FEB 6:           Suffering in Egypt (Ex 1)

FEB 13:         Early years (Ex 2)

Half Term

FEB 27:         Receiving the call (Ex 3)

MAR 6          Let my people go (Ex 5)

MAR 13        A Plague of plagues (Ex 7-11)

MAR 20        The Passover (Ex 12)

MAR 27        Crossing the Red Sea (Ex 14)

APR 3           The Song of Moses (Ex 15)

Rembrandt's depiction of Moses

Monday, 7 January 2019

At the Old Vic: a heart changed

On the twelfth day of Christmas and the eve of Epiphany, to the Old Vic's magnificent production of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.

It was a stunning visual spectacle, with the whole theatre amazingly reconfigured for the production.

Then there was the music, the singers, the hand bell ringers, the dancers and the sheer power of the old carols that had such a prominent part of the production, and which struck such a powerfully Christian note in the heart of secular London.

And that's without those deeply Christian themes of Dickens's 1843 classic.

In Christian terms, A Christmas Carol is a story of redemption, of a heart that is strangely warmed and wonderfully changed.

It is also a story of repentance.

That comes out very strongly in the Old Vic version. Repeatedly Scrooge is told that he must change.

At a time when the Gospel is being remodelled as a message of unconditional acceptance without the need for transformation, it is good to be led back, by C.D., to the Bible's own focus on the power of the  redeeming love of God that brings us to repentance, and changes us.

Dickens got that completely right.

He has Scrooge say to the Spirit: "Assure me that I yet may change these shadows you have shown me, by an altered life."

Later Dickens comments on the transformed Scrooge:   'Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms.  His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.'

PS. Christmas Carol is on at the Old Vic  until 19th January. Highly recommended.

Thursday, 3 January 2019

Wise men follow Jesus

It was back to school for St James's School today.

First thing, the whole school assembled in church for our beginning of term Epiphany service.

We sang 'We three kings', 'It was on a starry night', and 'Come and join the celebration.'

Speaking on the story of the Wise Men from Matthew 2, Jacob contrasted the attitude to Jesus of Herod (he wanted to kill him), with that of the Wise Men who came to worship him.

Saturday, 29 December 2018

Before and After (2)

The external restoration work on St James's building, recently completed, included the renewal of the scriptural panels on the West Front of the building.

Here they are BEFORE:

And here they are AFTER:

And here is a picture showing their location on the west front of the church, proclaiming to the world who Jesus is, and his invitation to every person to come to him:

Thursday, 27 December 2018

Before and after

It's been a year of transition and transformation for the church building of St James.

It was good to see the scaffolding down and the work completed in time for Christmas.

Here are some before and after shots:

Before and After: The Bell Tower & Portico

Before and After: the Clock

Before and After: the Dragon

Tuesday, 25 December 2018

Merry Christmas

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.”

Monday, 24 December 2018

St James Christingle

O come all ye faithful: Great turnout, lots of visitors, plus some familiar faces for St James Christmas Eve Christingle service, tonight at 5pm.

Pictured below Christingle production line on Sunday morning after the service.

Sunday, 23 December 2018

Christingle at St Anne's

St Anne's had its Carols & Christingle service tonight, including a Nativity Play beautifully performed by the children of the Sunday school.

At the crucial moment the congregation collected their Christingles (the orange representing the world; the candle, the light of Christ; the red ribbon, the blood of Christ; and the fruit, and the sticks representing the four seasons and the fruit of the earth), the candles were lit, the lights were dimmed and we all sang 'Away in a manger' and 'Silent Night.'

Earlier I had spoken about signs, and the message to the shepherds from the angel about the baby lying in a manger which would be a sign to them that the Saviour of the world had been born.

Saturday, 22 December 2018

Work complete

With the scaffolding finally coming down from the bell tower, the second of our two new Scriptural Panels (below) has finally come into view.

It forms a pair with the lefthand panel on the west front of the church which reads: 'Jesus said 'I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.'

It has been part of a project, now completed, which has seen the masonry of the bell tower repaired, the clock refurbished, and the dragon weathervane repaired and regilded.

It is good to have the scaffolding down in time for Christmas and excellent that the external fabric of the church is now in such good condition.

On Sunday March 10th we will have a service of thanksgiving in St James for this work of restoration at which the Archdeacon of Southwark, Jane Steen, will be the preacher.

In the meantime, thank you to God, and thank you to everyone who has worked so hard to make this project possible: architect, contractors, and PCC building committee, not forgetting our generous funders.

Thursday, 20 December 2018

Joy to the Blue

Wonderful singing by St James's School Choir at the Blue in Bermondsey on the last day of term:

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Down the Old Kent Road with Archbishop Justin

'You'll never guess who I had in the back of my cab today!' was a favourite saying of my dad (a black cab driver) when he got home at night.

Somewhere in London there will be a cabbie telling his family 'I was going down the Old Kent Road but who should get in the cab but the Archbishop of Canterbury?' Likewise there's a young man telling his mates: 'so I was in a cafe in the Old Kent Rd when in walked ten vicars, a film crew and the Archbishop of Canterbury.'

The occasion was the visit of Justin Welby to Bermondsey Deanery to make a short video for the Thy Kingdom Come initiative about the  parish visiting we did last summer.

The visitors were commissioned by the Bishop of Woolwich when he came to launch Thy Kingdom Come at St James on Ascension Day.

In our two parishes we visited homes in four different locations spread aover a Saturday morning and three evenings, having previously dropped a letter in saying that we were coming, gave our greetings to the residents and asked them if there was anything we could pray about. We received a uniformly warm reception from everyone we visited and hope to repeat the project for Thy Kingdom Come next year.

It was Sir Simon Hughes, pictured here with the Archbishop this afternoon, who had given the initial impetus to the project, encouraging the churches to emulate the political parties, in getting out there in the parishes, knocking on doors and making contact with people. A number of parishes including St Philip's, St James, & St Anne's took up the challenge as part of Thy Kingdom Come 2018.

Today the Archbishop met some of the visitors, and spoke to some of us about the project as we strolled around St Philip's parish and along the Old Kent Road to Roberto's cafe.

The Archbishop & Paul in the cafe
It was good to welcome the Archbishop to Bermondsey deanery. We were impressed by his kindness, warmth and encouragement, and the care he took with individuals, including the young man in the cafe who asked the archbishop if they could have a photo together (they did).

Watch this space for the promotional video when it appears.

Better than winning the lottery

A shepherd (looking suscpiciously like Jacob) dropped into the St James's School End of Term service this morning, hot foot from Bethlehem.

He told us about the angel, the news of great joy of a Saviour being born, how the shepherds rushed into town to see the baby lying in a manger.

What a wonderful sight that was - 'better than winning the lottery' said the shepherd.

Then, after a quick change, Jacob himself told us about why God has sent a saviour or rescuer.

If you are drowning you need someone to rescue you. If your house is on fire you need someone to rescue you. If you are a sinner and you've messed up your life, you need someone to rescue you and that is exactly why Jesus came.

We sung some great carols and left rejoicing for the celebration of Christmas and a good rest for the whole school.

A very happy and blessed Christmas to everyone.

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

St James rejoices

Children and parents from St James's School have flocked to the church for the last two days for two wonderful Christmas events.

First up, was yesterday's Nativity beautifully performed by the Key Stage One children (above and left), then this afternoon we had a packed church for the Key Stage Two service of Carols by Candlelight (below).

Each year performed a song or medley of songs, the whole congregation sang some well-loved carols, the narrators read beautifully, the children led us in prayer.

We heard some wonderful instrumental solos from the school's talented musicians and the whole event, masterminded by Miss Jess, concluded with the whole school singing 'O Holy Night' - for me always a highlight of this annual event.

Sunday, 16 December 2018

Carols by Candlelight

Pre-service tonight at St James
A children's nativity, great music from our musicians, the Canon Missioner for the Diocese on the bongos, wonderful  singing from a packed church and the Pearly King and Queen in the congregation, all got our Christmas celebrations off to a great start at St James with tonight's service of Carols by Candlelight.

In my sermon I recalled the famous words of the first man to walk on the Moon ('one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind') and then the words of Colonel James Irwin, the eighth man to walk on the Moon, who said 'God walking on the earth was more important than man walking on the Moon.

Irwin was spot on and that's why, two thousand years later, we still marvel that 'The Word became a human being and, full of grace and truth, lived among us.'

That is something worth celebrating, something to sing about.

With the Pearly King & Queen

Thank you to Matthew & Pat for the photos