Saturday, 28 December 2013

Oh, no they didn't

To the Theatre Royal Stratford East for this year's panto and a surprisingly postmodern twist to the familiar tale of Dick Whittington.

There are certain things you can pretty much take for granted in the average panto: rotten jokes, audience participation, sweets thrown into the audience, plenty of singing and dancing and the triumph of good over evil.

Oh yes. and the boy usually gets the girl, except this time - he didn't.

Dick had saved her life, now he asked for her hand in marriage.

A happy ending was clearly  looming..... except she turned to Dick, and the girl said though she liked him very much, she wasn't thinking of getting married at the present time and in any case she had other things she wanted to do with her life.

(Fortunately Dick still had the cat).

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Unto us a child is born

Born where the shadows lie
To answer every cry of man
This child who formed all life
Now breathes our breath
Born where the Father loved
Born helpless to a mother's arms
She smoothed the tears upon
The face of God

Born now with man to dwell
Our Lord Immanuel
Come see the King the Christ Child born to us
Born now with man to dwell
Our Lord Immanuel
My soul can finally know the God of Heaven 

Born with a road ahead
Alone these blameless feet would tread
The path God chose to walk
Before all time
Born holding life and death
Born bearing heaven's wealth of peace
That fills where none can fill
Our living stream

Keith & Kristyn Getty
Copyright © Thankyou Music 2004

Friday, 20 December 2013

Christmas is coming

It was end of term at St James's School today and 500 excited children poured into the church this morning for their end of term Christmas service.

Leo (year 6) played brilliantly on the piano a medley of Christmas songs before and after the service and that had the children joining in 'Santa Claus is coming to town.'

In the service we sang Away in a Manger, Hark the Herald, and It was on a Starry Night, and the Key Stage 1 children gave us reprise of 'Children of the World' from their international-themed Nativity Play.

Paul gave us a real good talk about all the things we enjoy about Christmas, like presents, food, and parties, but not about forgetting Jesus who lies at the heart of it.

Everyone received an invitation to Christmas Eve's Christingle service and then Simon Hughes, MP, our chair of the governors and newly-appointed Minister of State, gave a bouquet, to loud applause from the children, to Pat, St James churchwarden and leader of the school breakfast and after school clubs, celebrating a special birthday tomorrow.

Simon said that to rival Grace Jones, Bermondsey's older resident, Pat would have to keep doing brilliant things for St James for another 40 years. Pat, did a bit of quick mental arithmetic and corrected him: actually 50.

They were set to go on dancing to nine o'clock tonight at the Age Concern Centre in Southwark Park Road, but first 97 people sat down to a slap up Christmas Dinner at 1.30pm and, as usual the ministers from our two churches were invited to be there and I was invited to say grace and offer Christmas greetings from the churches.

What a marvellous resource the centre is for the local community under its energetic and charismatic manager, Simone.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Yes, minister

Congratulations to Bermondsey's Simon Hughes on the announcement that he is to join the Government as Minister of State for Justice.

Full story here

We wish Simon well in his new role - and we pray for him.

Simon will be coming to St James's on the first Sunday of the New Year for a special act of dededication for his new role in the Government as we, as his Christian brothers and sisters in his home church base, pray for him, in the presence of his family members who will also be with us for the occasion.


OK, we may have picked the windiest night of the year to do it, but tonight at St James's we had our first open air carol singing session, followed by mulled wine and mince pies.

This followed last night's carol singing in Thorburn Square outside St Anne's, and Monday night giving out leaflets to the commuters arriving at Bermondsey Tube Station.

Tonight we did have to shelter in the portico because of the weather but the sound carried well across the square, and lots of people heard us as they walked home through the churchyard.

It was good to get outside and share the Good News of Christmas with the community in a simple straightforward manner, and there was a good turnout of adults and children to sing.
Next year will be even better - and the weather will be too (you see, I am an optimist).

In fact we have been doing almost nothing except sing carols over the last few days.

Yesterday we have a short Christmas service at Bluegrove Care Home in Southwark Park Rd, and today St James's School Key Stage 2 children (juniors) came to the church for their service of carols by candlelight, attended by many parents, governors and friends.

The children were in very good voice and the readers were excellent. All the careful rehearsing paid off abundantly.

St James's School KS2 Carols

Sunday, 15 December 2013

St Anne's Christmas cracker

St Anne's had its highest attendance for ten years today at its Carols by Candlelight and Christingle Service.

The children performed their nativity, everyone received a lighted Christingle, the lights were switched off and we sang together Away in a manger and Silent Night  and Paul reminded us of the true message of Christmas with the aid of a giant Christmas cracker.

It was a  really good start to our Christmas celebrations.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Do they know its Christmas? - at the Blue

Roger, and Mandy, were joined by Russell from the fish stall for the last carol this afternoon for Carols around at the Christmas Tree at the Blue.

Earlier Russell had treated us to a rendering of the Band Aid classic, Do They Know Its Christmas? and our impromptu choir from St James and St Anne's had joined in with a medley of carols, the whole event compered and masterminded by Paul.

We were joined by Councillor
Anood and quite a few passers-by who joined in the carols.

The afternoon concluded with the Pearly Queen of Rotherhithe (right) switching on the Christmas lights.

A really good community event.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Nativity & carols

St James's Church has been thronged with school childeren this week.

Four classes of year one children from Phoenix School (right) and their sister school, Ilderton, have been on a church visits spread over two days.

They were full of lively curiosity and it was good to welcome them to the church.

Meanwhile St James's infants have been rehearsing in the church for their Nativity Play.

The theme this year was 'Children of the World.'

Then the children flooded into the church this afternoon in their colourful costumes to perform their play to an appreciative audience of parents and friends (seated in the gallery). Excellent.

Meanwhile this evening I attended the service of Carols by Candlelight at Bacon's College, the 11-18 Church of England Academy in Rotherhithe.

Some very good readers and a school choir, prayers led by the head boy and girl, and a teachers' choir singing Bach, made up for an excellent evening.

Bacon's, of course, started off in Bermondsey before its relocation to the Rotherhithe peninsula in the 1990s, but its link with Bermondsey is recalled by the school emblem, the Bermondsey Lion (originally from Bermondsey Abbey and later incorporated in the arms of the old borough of Bermondsey, still to be seen on a number of public buildings, and most recently commemorated by the large lion sculpture at the Blue).

The Bermondsey Rice Mountain

Bermondsey Christian Training
Blessed are those whose delight is in the law of the Lord. 
They are like a tree planted by streams of water’ Psalm 1
Thirty of us sat down for a meal last night to mark the end of the first term of Bermondsey Christian Training.

Would we break up into small groups to discuss the video? No, there was no video. Would we be given homework to do during the holiday. No, it was a purely social event - though our next course does start on 22nd January.

It was a really good evening. Paul and I did the catering and so far no ill-effects have been reported.

At the end everyone rallied round. The washing up disappeared as if by magic and the hall was cleared in an instant.

And the Bermondsey rice mountain? Oh, yes, we may have over-catered a bit on the rice, but its always best to have a bit more, than not enough (I think there might be a sermon illustration in there somewhere).

A big thank you to everyone who took part.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Grace's funeral

Thanks to Gary Magold for the photos of the funeral of Bermondsey and the UK's oldest resident

Sunday, 8 December 2013

The boy with two names

To the Salmon Youth Centre for the annual elderly people's Christmas party, hosted by members and staff of the centre, past and present.

A wonderful tea, lots of fun and laughter, community singing (Daisy, daisy; Maybe its because I'm a Londoner), Jellied eels (left)*, Father Christmas, presents, mince pies, carols, a talk by yours truly, and the Bermondsey Waiters Song, sung each year by the resis (Salmon residential workers) and the young people who, smartly dressed with bow ties etc, wait on the old folk and began the afternoon by serenading us:

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

I once was a waiter up in the West End
The nobby old diners sent me round the bend
I was running around and it soon got my 'ealth
So one night I said  "There's a soup, help yourself!"
Singing we are the Bermondsey waiters we are

The old people's party is what we like best
We can serve you with style and with plenty of zest..

I've waited on people all over the place
Always with dirty great smiles on my face
But Bermondsey Bermondsey's where I belong
I come back each year just to sing this song
Singing we are the Bermondsey waiters we are...

* * * * * * * * * * 

 In my talk I started off by asking people to guess the most popular boys and girls names in the UK this year (I read out the top five for each gender, headed by Harry for the boys & Amelia for the girl) and then I spoke about the boy with two names: Immanuel (God with us) and Jesus (rescuer, saviour).

The names, I said reveal who Jesus is and what he came to do.


* despite being a dyed-in-the-wool south Londoner I do draw the line at consuming Jellied Eels. My dining companions who assured me that the eels did not come from the sea but 'out of the river' ('somewhere near Southend', they said airilly) and that the jelly was made from pure juice of the eel ('delicious') weren't exactly selling the experience to me.

 ** rosie=Cockney rhyming slang for tea (Rosie Lee)

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Our Grace

Today on what would have been her 114th birthday, the funeral of Grace Jones, Bermondsey's and the UK's oldest resident took place in Camberwell.

The funeral cortege, with the words 'Our Grace' depicted in flowers at its head, paused at the Blue for a short open air service in which I read from the Scriptures and led prayers, and Simon Hughes MP gave a brief tribute on behalf of the people Bermondsey.

Quite a few local people and shoppers stopped to join in, including the pearly King & Queen, and Councillor Anood. It was good to remember Grace in the heart of the community where she lived for more than a century.

Earlier we had our men's breakfast back at St James.

A good turnout of men sat down to bacon, sausage, egg, beans, toast, etc (we did promise a 'full English'), and Paul gave a talk on 'My Journey to Bermondsey', explaining how as a young man he became a Christian following the tragic death of a friend, how God called him from being a full-time builder to a full-time sharer-of-the-faith, and how a Church Army journey that began on the St Helier Estate in Morden led, via a spell in Leamington Spa, to a new phase of ministry in Bermondsey as our first Urban Missioner.

It was a spellbinding talk and there was general agreement that the men's breakfast should be repeated early in the new year.

After all that activity there was the opportunity to relax and enjoy our local community choir, Bermondsey
Voices (who practise in St James each week), give their annual Christmas concert in a candlelit St James.

They did brilliantly and we are now looking forward to their contribution to our service of Carols by Candlight on 22nd December where they are going to sing three songs.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Family remembrance

To the Albin Memorial Garden on the edge of Southwark Park for their annual open-air Christmas Memorial Service attended by over a thousand people.

Christmas carols, 'Mistletoe & Wine" sung by Father Alan, a brilliant montage of photos of memories of Bermondey, prayers by the local clergy together with the Bishop of Woolwich, a tribute to fallen British servicemen, a release of doves, and the commemoration of departed loved ones by the placing of stars on the giant Christmas tree, all rounded off by fireworks and generous supply of refreshments, went to make up a unique and moving event, attended by the Mayor of Southwark, the Leader of Southwark Council, Simon Hughes MP and, of course, the Pearly King & Queens of Bermondsey and Camberwell (very good singers - I sat in front of them)..

It was exactly a year ago today that I was licensed as vicar of St James & St Anne, Bermondsey and the Albin Memorial Service, the next day, was my very first engagement in Bermondsey.

I thought then what I think now, which is that this annual service really connects with people and helps them at a crucial point in their lives and that the vision behind the service comes from a real love for the community and understanding of what matters to it. Excellent.

There's a lot that the church can learn from all of this.

Much food for thought.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

God's 'To do' list

Today Advent Sunday is the first day of the church's year and that makes sense when you consider our focus on the first Sunday of  Advent on the next item on God's agenda: the second coming of Christ.

At today's family service at St James, with many guests present for the baptism of baby Nirvana-Pixie and Trinity (aged ten), I started with a Christmas 'To Do List.'

I asked the children to help me put together on the flipchart a list of all the things you have to do in order to get ready for Christmas.

Next I presented 'God's To Do List' - drawn from across the whole of Scripture, things like create the world, call a people,. be born as a man, die on the cross - concluding with the last item: return as Lord and Saviour of the world.

All the items except the last one have been done, I suggested. They can be successfully ticked off God's To Do list. But the return of Jesus is the next item on God's agenda.

And it makes sense to consider that on the first Sunday of the church's year, because it is the next thing to happen in the plan of God.

All the other events we celebrate in the church's calendar have already happened.

PS My favourite 'To Do List' was in a cartoon with a Dr Who theme. It featured a Dalek in his house. Pinned on the wall was this:

1. Exterminate;
2. Exterminate
3. Exterminate