Sunday, 27 April 2014

Planning for mission

We've hit the ground running after Easter.

A busy week has included the school beginning of term service in church (providing another outing for Simon Hughes's lawyer's wig), wedding preparation for two couples, a deanery meeting about the use of church buildings at the Norweigan church, a funeral visit on the eighth floor of a Rotherhithe tower block, a colourful wedding in church with guests from Turkey and India, and the first two sessions of our new Bermondsey Christian Training course, Ready to Serve, on the theme of 'discovering your gifts' concluded with today's annual meeting at St James and a sermon by Adrian on the verse 'as the Father sent me, so I send you.'

Being a United Benefice of two parishes means we have two annual meetings. St Anne's took place on Palm Sunday, St James's was today. At both I shared a bit about a draft Mission Action Plan, which the PCCs will shortly consider in detail.

Then the MAP needs to be presented to the Bishop. Then it needs to be implemented - and that will be the theme of our joint PCC day at the Salmon Youth Centre on 17th May.

In the meantime the annual meeting heard just the beginning of our Mission Action Plan, the bit dealing with values, the kind of church we wanted to be. Our aim, I told the annual meeting, was to be two churches that were: (1) Bermondsey-focussed; (2) Bible-believing; (3) Disciple-making; (4) Compassion-sharing.

In due course there is more to come.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Resurrection on trial

Easter Day at St James had a sort of legal flavour this year.

We set up a kind of courtroom scene presided over by 'Judge Adrian', wearing a barrister's wig borrowed from Simon Hughes MP (thanks Simon). The congregation were the jury and I presented the evidence for the defence (of the resurrection).

The Judge fired off a barrage of questions: (what happened to the body? Was he really dead? Did someone steal the body? Did the disciples make it up? Was he just a ghost? Were there any witnesses etc?). I did my best to come up with Scriptural answers backed up by the testimony of Mary Magdalene and the Captain of the Roman Guard who happened to be sitting in the congregation.

At the end I said to the congregation: you are the jury. You must decide.

Just to get us thinking on an Easter theme I had constructed an empty tomb in the narthex of St
James, just as you enter the building.

We'll keep it there all through the next weeks of the Easter season as a silent witness of the resurrection to visitors to the church during the week - and for the children of St James's School who are coming to the church on Tuesday morning for their beginning of term service.

I've got a few bible verses and other messages that I am going to add for a week at a time all through the Easter season, beginning with today's verse which is now on display: 'He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him'

The Lord's Table at St James decorated for Easter by the children of St James's School

Friday, 18 April 2014

Holy Week in Bermondsey

Holy Week began for us last night on Maundy Thurday when St Mary's, St James, and St Anne's (The Bermondsey Group Ministry) got together for a service of Holy Communion in the context of a meal in St Anne's Hall.

The St Anne's team did us proud with a wonderful meal. It was just like one big family, one person said, which was of course was what Jesus was setting out to achieve.

For Good Friday itself St James and St Anne's started off together with a Family Service at St Anne's with Paul speaking about how the Temple curtain was torn in two at the moment Jesus died.

A large curtain (right) suspended in the chancel, dramatically fell to the ground at the appropriate moment, to applause from the congregation.

Next we walked behind the cross along Southwark Park Rd (above) to the Blue marketplace where we met up with the St Mary's contingent for an open-air service, led by St Mary's Rector, Charlie Moore.

Here Paul demonstrated the truth of the verse 'though your sins be scarlet, they shall be white as snow' with a bowl of water, a bowl of a mystery chemical, and a handkerchief stained with iodine. Clever stuff. It was a good visual talk which kept everyone's attention especially the kids.

Simon Hughes MP was with us and as well as reading the lesson he brought us news from his recent visit to the Christians of the Ukraine. Later at Charlie's request he came back to the microphone to lead us in prayer for that troubled country. 

It was good to be out in the centre of Bermondsey on Good Friday, with our sister churches, sharing the Good News of Christ.

The day wasn't yet over, we then walked behind the cross to St James for lunch together, followed by a Good Friday meditation for the adults led by me and a children's workshop for the kids.

Nearly back at St James

Lunch together

Monday, 14 April 2014

And the Marathon, too

While your blogger has been out of the country life at St James's has been busy with a large congregation filling the church last Saturday for Snowy Davoll's memorial service, following hot on the heels of the school service the day before.

The galleries were in use again that evening for the Bermondsey and Rotherhithe Choral Society's performance of Verdi's Requiem, and the next day we had the baptism of six children from four families, with Paul preaching at a packed family service.

Yesterday was Palm Sunday, the day of St Anne's Annual Meeting, and - of course - the London Marathon with large crowds, as usual, thronging Jamaica Rd (above) as the runners, thousands of them passed through Bermondsey in brilliant sunshine.

In church we prayed for them, but we also remembered the crowds who lined the streets of Jerusalem two thousand years ago. It was the beginning of a climactic week that changed the history of the world. It was the beginning of the week that we remember this week, and we call it Holy Week.

St James in the springtime sun on Marathon Sunday

Friday, 4 April 2014

The man with the hat

It was his first visit to St James's School, but today Michael Ipgrave, the Bishop of Woolwich (left) came to our end of term school  Easter service in the church and afterwards toured the Key Stage 2 building at Alexis Street, meeting the children and the teachers and looking at their work.

The children had worked hard to decorate the church for Easter with a colourful display of work that the congregation can continue to enjoy throughout the Easter celebrations.

'Have you ever felt really sad' the Bishop asked. What do you do when you're sad?

 'Cry' they chorussed.

'Have you ever felt so happy that you can't stop telling everyone what had happened?' he then asked, before going on to talk about Mary Magdalene coming to tend Jesus's tomb. She was sad. She was crying. Then she met Jesus.

He was alive. She was filled with joy and she rushed off to tell the others what she had seen.

It was a gripping and effective way of getting to the heart of the Easter story in a way everyone could understand.

Earlier in the service I had interviewed Michael. 'Tell us about your hat' I said.

'It's shaped a bit like a flame. It reminds us of the Holy Spirit coming like flames of fire at Pentecost' said the bishop and went on to say 'it reminds me that I need to be dependant on the power of the Holy Spirit.'

'What about the staff that you are holding?' I asked. It reminds me that I am a shepherd, said Bishop Michael, and I have to look after God's people and feed them spiritually.

Today Bishop Michael did both of those things for us at St James's School. It's was a good day and a fitting conclusion to the term before we broke up for Easter.