Sunday, 29 June 2014

Defend, O Lord....

(Click on the picture to see the larger version)
An amazing weekend concluded with our confirmation service in St James with Bishop Michael, where twelve candidates from St Anne's & St James and two from Holy Trinity, Rotherhithe, were confirmed.

'Defend O Lord,' we prayed 'these your servants with your heavenly grace, that they may continue yours for ever, and daily increase in your Holy Spirit more and more until they come to your everlasting kingdom.'

Congratulations to Geron, Nariah, John, Alistair, Scarlett, Kim, Jean, Adeyemi, Joakim, John, Tina, Scarlett, Sade and Sarah. May God bless them.

And finally, how's this for a confirmation cake:

Happy day - in the churchyard

Oh Happy day, happy day
You washed my sin away
Oh happy day, happy day
I'll never be the same
Forever I am changed

We used every chair we owned and every adult-sized chair the school owned to seat the congregation in the churchyard as St James joined with St Anne's for our open air baptism service at which six members of St James and St Anne's were baptised.

Here's Sarah (above), and here is John (below) and Joakim (also known as Joe). Also baptised were Nariah, Samuel, Rachel, (all under 16, not shown for safeguarding

Tonight four of the candidates will be confirmed, alongside a further eight candidates from St James and St Anne's and two from Holy Trinity, Rotherhithe.

It was good to be out in the open, welcoming neighbours and passersby. It was good to be singing God's praise. And it was good to be reminded of  God's grace changing lives as Jesus builds his church.

The song quoted at the top of this post, The Greatest Day in History, seemed particularly poignant. It speaks of the day death was beaten and Jesus rescued us on the cross, and then it says

Oh what a glorious day
What a glorious way
That You have saved me
Oh what a glorious day
What a glorious name

 No one ever baptises themselves. It's something that has to be done to you. And that reminds us that the 'glorious way' that God choses to save us is to do it all Himself. God saves us. We believe.

We are baptised. We believe.

That's God's way and it's the most glorious way in the world. Its the way God offers a fresh start, and the slate wiped clean, to everyone who comes to him.

As we sung at the end of the service: To God be the glory!

St James' & St Anne's Musicians in the Portico

Joy in the churchyard

Thanks to Pat O. for the photos, and here's Tim Hughes, singing The Greatest Day

Saturday, 28 June 2014

New Rev 'n' Chas 'n' Dave

Fifteen new curates were ordained this morning in Southwark Cathedral, and here are the four from our episcopal area with the Bishop of Woolwich.

The photo was tweeted via the Church of England's hashtag '#newrevs' designed to celebrate the one thousand men and women who are being ordained this summer in the CofE.

First on the left is Jos Downey, the latest addition to our staff team at St James and St Anne's. He comes to us from Ridley Hall, Cambridge where he trained for the ministry. Welcome to Bermondsey, Jos.

It was in fact a good day to arrive in Bermondsey because today was the day of the Bermondsey Carnival in Southwark Park, an event that has taken place every year since 1900.

'I'm Bermondsey and proud' the Pearly King of Bermonsey told us, before Chas 'n' Dave came on the main stage to round  the day off with  a real south London, Cockney-style, knees-up.

Thanks to Southwark Council for sponsoring a great community event and for providing the first item in the induction programme of our freshly-minted BermondseyCurate.

Chas 'n' Dave headline the Bermondsey Carnival

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Bermondsey boy off to Egypt

It's not every day that a member of the congregation is made an Ambassador, but yesterday it was officially announced that St Anne's member, John Casson (left), is to be Her Majesty's Ambassador to Egypt.

Last Sunday we had a special farewell and commissioning service for John and Kat at St Anne's as they prepare to move from Bermondsey to Cairo, from their terraced house round the corner from St Anne's to the British Amabassador's rather  palatial residence in Cairo.

The reading (Matthew 10.24-39) set for the day seemed to be very relevant and in my sermon I drew these three points for John and Kat and for us all as we follow Christ: (1) Be like your master; (2) Know that your Father's loving protection surrounds you wherever you go; (3) Never be ashamed to say you belong to Jesus Christ.

The Government website says about John: 'His career has had a strong focus on the Arab world, including as Deputy Ambassador in Jordan, as Head of the FCO’s Near East and North Africa Department, and accompanying the Prime Minister on his visit to Egypt in 2011.

From 2002-2005 he held the high profile role leading the US political outreach of the British Embassy in Washington. He has also worked in the UK Representation to the EU in Brussels and as Senior Policy Adviser in HM Treasury.

John & Kat at St Anne's: Farewell and Godspeed
Before entering Government he worked as a Research Assistant at Cambridge University and in the House of Commons. He moves to Cairo with his wife Kathryn Casson, who has been Private Secretary to the Development Secretary from 2011 to 2014.'

At St Anne's we shall miss them greatly, but we're keep praying for them and we look forward to their eventual return.

We know for John and Kat its a new adventure in God's service and, as for us: we're proud of them.

Monday, 23 June 2014

St James at your convenience

They didn't call it Bermondsey New Church for nothing. When St James's Church was built in 1829 it contained a new, daring, and controversial innovation: a church loo.

Spending a penny was no longer just about putting money in the collection. Congregants caught short during an over-long sermon could nip out to the state-of-the-art Water Closet, thoughtfully installed by architect, James Savage.

But not everyone was happy with the new arrangements, in fact, according to a recent article in the Daily Telegraph which featured a prominent photo of St James (thanks Nick), a whole campaign was fought in early Victorian England against the  the installation of  lavatories in churches, especially those sited near 'to the altar.'

The Ecclesiologist magazine drew particular attention to the appalling 'desecration' that had taken place at St James, Bermondsey where they reported the dismal news that “there are two water-closets, one on each side of, and adjoining the Altar: the one being for the use of the vestry, and the other for the congregation.'

Now at this point your blogger could descend into a series of poor taste puns (we are not known as a Waterloo church for nothing etc etc), but I will just say that I am glad, as the Telegraph article points out, that there are 'toilet facilities' in St James to this very day.

And if we led the way in that regard, well, so be it.

The Telegraph's photo of St James

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Dancin' in the churchyard

They were dancing in the churchyard today for St James joint church and school summer fair.

Coconut shies (very popular with the year 5 and year 6 lads), the Salmon Bouncing Castle, DJ Danny, the stocks, Jean's plant stall, Debbie's homemade bread, Ken's bookstall,  face-painting, cakes, & teas, brilliant sunshine and a good time was had by all. A really good community event.

Just what we need in school to burn off some of that energy

DJ Danny. He got married at St James
Macarena in the churchyard

This was the deal: Bring a bottle for the stall and you didn't have to wear school  uniform for a day


Thursday, 19 June 2014

Paxo bows out in Bermondsey

What better way of concluding twenty-five years presenting BBC's Newsnight, than to go on a bike ride through Bermondsey with the Mayor of London?

Yesterday local residents were treated to the sight of the dynamic duo wobbling through the streets of Bermondsey on a century-old tandem as Paxman attempted to interview Boris, while the latter attempted to dodge the traffic.

The two are old sparring partners. In a 2009 interview Boris asked Paxman “Why don’t you get yourself a proper job instead of just sitting around telling politicians what to do all the time?”and Paxman replied “The usual convention, Boris, is that I ask the questions.”

Saturday, 14 June 2014

From Bermondsey, On Her Majesty's Service

For three years this has been his place of work.

St Anne's member, John Casson, has been the Prime Minister's adviser on foreign affairs but now he is getting ready for a new posting with the Foreign Office, but first he came to speak to today's Men's Breakfast on the theme 'On Her Majesty's Service.'

It was our fourth breakfast and the best attended yet, filling the south lounge at St James, as the men tucked into a full English and heard how John lives out his life as a Christian in the Government service.

The really great point that John made was that wherever you work, whatever your calling, you can serve God there and you can be a witness for him.

For John it was the daily time with the Lord at the beginning of the day that made the crucial difference to him personally. It was an opportunity to seek God's wisdom and grace for his highly responsible job at the heart of Government.

Next week at St Anne's we are praying for John and Kat and commissioning them as they prepare for their next posting. More about that soon...

John Casson speaking at the men's breakfast

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Great was the company of the preachers

Last night it made me think of Psalm 68.11 (immortalised by Handel in Messiah): 'The Lord gave the word and great was the company of the preachers.'

It was our second to last evening of our latest Bermondsey Christian Training Course, Ready to Serve, and our theme was how to handle the Bible and give talks.

Bermondsey Christian Training

After a bit of input from me - from the Bible - and some suggestions of how to give a talk on a verse of Scripture, everyone got going, in five separate groups dotted around the church, to produce the outline of a talk on the verse they had been given - and great was the company of the preachers.

Each group had to choose one point they would make from their verse; think of an illustration of that point; and come up with an application.

Then we came back together and each group shared with the whole group the outline of their talk.

They were all brilliant. No wonder everyone applauded at the end of each talk.

As for Psalm 68.11 that gets it about right (well it would do,  it's in the Bible after all): the Lord gives the Word, and the natural and necessary outcome of that is a great army of preachers, teachers, bible-explainers, and good-news-tellers spreading out all over the world, just like the swarm of would-be preachers who descended on Bermondsey last night.

'Does anyone want to give the sermon on Sunday?' I asked at the end of the evening.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Walking in the light, sailing down the river

It was Pentecost Sunday and an opportunity at St James to welcome back former vicar, Henry Whyte.

Henry was celebrating 40 years since he arrived in Bermondsey with his wife, Liz. It was great to hear his memories of forty years ago, of a growing church and deep friendships that have lasted half a lifetime.

Henry remembers that when the congregation was much smaller, a curtain divided the church to create a more intimate space - and then he remembers the day when the curtain had to be moved further back to make room for an expanding  congregation.

And if you think St James's can be a little bit chilly in winter today, he remembers the time before the present wall heaters were even installed.

The Whytes cutting a 40th anniversary cake
In 'retirement' he remains active as ever, full of the joy of the Lord, enthusiastically ministering the word of God as he did today at St James for our Pentecost Celebration.

Next up was the Diocesan Pentecost Service at the Cathedral and for the Woolwich Episcopal Area a boat had been hired to convey us from Woolwich, Greenwich, or Bermondsey piers to the Cathedral.

Only ten people per parish could be accommodated. Our allotted number embarked  at Cherry Garden Pier for the trip down river to the Millenium Bridge Pier, just past the Cathedral. (In the event a kindly captain extended the cruise to just beyondWestminster Pier).

On the way we were entertained by a Gospel choir, sang hymns, shouted hallelujahs, waved banners, and exchanged greetings with the passers-by who stopped to wave to us from the various Thames bridges.

The Cathedral service itself was a rich feast with worship led by the worship band at Holy Trinity, Clapham, testimonies from a number of parishes and one deanery about mission projects they have been involved in, and a sermon by Bishop Christopher based on the Emmaus Road story on the theme 'hearts on fire', and an opportunity for everyone to be anointed with oil as the gospel choir of St Martin-in-the-Fields School sang.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

College of canons

Eagle-eyed members of the congregation will have noticed this badge on my black preaching scarf.

It is the emblem of Southwark Cathedral and, worn on my scarf, it denotes that I am a canon of the Cathedral..

Our task is to be 'ambassadors' for the cathedral and once a year we gather for the annual meeting of the College of Canons, a service of Holy Communion and a rather nice dinner.

All this took place last night. It was good to have an update on the life of the Cathedral in an increasingly busy part of London, to catch up with old friends and to enjoy the Cathedral's hospitality.

The new handbook for honorary canons says there have been canons in the church since the eighth century, and there have been canons in Southwark since 1106.

Nowadays we still have the job of electing the bishop of the Diocese. This task is made easier by the fact that there is only ever one candidate - the one nominated by Her Majesty the Queen. Nonetheless we are all required to say 'aye' and duly elect the Queen's choice after the reading of the royal warrant commanding us to do so.  (These days the chosen name comes to Buckingham Palace via 10 Downing Street and a committee drawn from the diocese and the national church).

Nonetheless, any canon who fails to turn up for the bishop's election is is publically declared by the Dean to be 'contumacious.' I had to look that one up in the dictionary.  

It means 'stubbornly perverse or rebellious' (ie an awkward so-and-so).