Friday, 24 October 2014

Opening the church

In a moment of weakness I volunteered to produce a website for the Deanery as part of our goal to encourage more churches to be open to the public, and to publicise the interesting and historic church buildings of our deanery which covers both Bermondsey and Rotherhithe.

Now the Deanery Synod has coughed up the princely sum of £6.95 we have our own domain name and you can view the finished product at here

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Pause, discover, pray

To St Pancras Church in Euston Rd to 'An Open Presence,' an event organised by the Diocese of London designed to encourage churches to open their buildings to the public as much as possible.

This is a cause dear to our heart in Bermondsey where we are trying to have our church buildings open as often as we can.

There was lots of good stuff at this afternoon's conference, including sensible practical advice from Ecclesiastical, the people who insure most church buildings. Interestingly, they are definitely pro churches being opened as much as possible.

Particularly heartening was the story of St Mary's, Islington which has recently moved from being a church that is closed most of the week to one that is open every day for most of the day.

They've had precious little damage, and a few minor thefts (kettles and biscuits being particularly popular among the light-fingered community of Islington), but (unsought) donations from visitors have more than covered their costs - and, more significantly, 40-50 visitors  have been able to visit the church to every day to 'pause, discover, pray.'

St Mary's vicar, Simon Harvey, describes their story here

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Salmon fishing in SE16

Yesterday was the Annual General Meeting and Commissioning Service for the Salmon Youth Centre, and today in St James's and St Anne's churches, it was Salmon Sunday, the day we particularly remember the work of the centre, formerly called the Cambridge University Mission (CUM), which has served the young people of Bermondsey for over 100 years.

In the past year Salmon received over 20,000 visits by young people to the 30 club sessions run every week.

Salmon organised 50 day trips and 8 residentials. 98 young people received mentoring and 475 participated in adventure activities.

I had been asked to lead the commissioning service for staff, trustees, and violunteers and to give the talk afterwards.

I said Salmon was a John 10.10 organisation. It took seriously Jesus words in that verse when he said ' I have come that they might have life and have it to the full.'

Getting creative in the Salmon art room
Through its sports, its music, its dance, its art, its adventure activities and outings it gave the young people a fuller and richer experience than they might otherwise have - and at the same time it pointed unashamedly to Jesus Christ who came to give us the fuller, richer life, connected to the God who made us, which only he can give.

Today at St James and St Anne's we heard from Salmon General Director, Sam Adofo, about the work of the centre. We watched a video showing some of the activities available (see below). We prayed for them and we concluded by singing the hymn 'Lord of the Years' written by Timothy Dudley-Smith when he was Warden of the Cambridge University Mission (now renamed Salmon after the mission's founder, Rev Salmon or 'Pa Salmon') and given its very first hearing in CUM in Bermondsey all those years ago. 

We are certainly blessed to have in Bermondsey such an amazing resource for our young people as the Salmon Youth Centre.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Take 350 vicars..

For most of this week you couldn't have found a vicar for love nor money in large tracts of south London.

350 of us had been transported by a specially chartered train to Derbyshire for the Southwark Diocesan Clergy Conference which comes round every 4-5years.

Here (left) is a selection of jolly conference-goers waiting for the Hogwarts Express at St Pancras.

The first 100 to arrive were promised first class accommodation and the rail company in a fit of generosity promised everyone a complimentary bacon butty once on board.

For the first two days it rained continuously but the Dean tweeted that the sun was shining in our hearts.
In the main conference hall

We had some great speakers, some inspiring times of worship, plus time to relax, to catch up with old friends and do justice to the famed catering of Swanwick.

In the evening there were various types of entertainment: films, a scratch Joseph & his Amazing Technicolor dreamcoat, line dancing, a Quiz Night (the Bermondsey team came 3rd), Strictly Come Southwark, and, just to raise the tone a bit, The Queen's Six, straight from St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle who gave a wonderful concert on the last night that ranged from Early Renaissance church music, through negro spirituals, to the Beach Boys.

The Queen's Six
They got a well-deserved standing ovation at the end. Hear them here

On the final day we gathered together for Holy Communion. Our Diocesan bishop, Christopher, presided.

In the Eucharistic Prayer he prayed for Justin, our Archbishop, and our area bishops Michael, Richard, and Jonathan,  and then for himself, 'your unworthy servant.'

That is one of many moments from Swanwick 2014 that will stay with me for a long time.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

St James uncovered

Some recent visitors to St James's belfry got some great shots inside the bell tower, of the local area from the church roof, and of some hidden corners of the building (thanks Alex). Click on any of the pictures to enlarge them:

The bell that chimes the hours

A peal for two special occasions

A peal from 1845 when the church was just 16 years old, a mere  teenager

View from the church roof showing St James's School, the Walkie-Talkie, Tower Bridge and the Cheesegrater

South gallery
South-west stairs

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

The poor man's angel

I don't know how many Londoners are aware that this familiar landmark is the national memorial to the greatest Christian social reformer this country has ever produced - but the children of St James's School definitely do know.

Today in our assembly series on famous Christians we heard about the amazing work of Lord Shaftesbury setting up ragged schools for the poor and legislating to stop little boys being sent up chimneys.

In a long parliamentary career he campaigned for a host of other causes, including the rduction of working hours for children, better care for the mentally ill, and the ending of child labour in mines - and everything he did he did a deep Christian motivation.

When he died, London's poor lined the streets in a mark of respect for the great man who had campaigned relentlessly on their behalf and the 'Poor Man's Earl' was commemorated by construction of the Shaftesbury Memorial at Piccadilly Circus (above).

By the way, that's not Eros on the top there. It's actually the 'Angel of Christian Charity.'

As Michael Caine might say: not a lot of people know that.

All is safely gathered in

We had a bumper Harvest Festival this year at St James and St Anne's with lots of gifts from the two churches and the children of St James's School for the work of the Manna Centre at London Bridge and their work among homeless people.

An added bonus this year was to receive ten large boxes of goodies for Manna kindly donated by Grosvenor who own the biscuit factory site and the Campus site. Here's a couple of their staff with the first two boxes. We (and Manna) are really grateful for their support.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

New Reader

To Southwark Cathedral last night to see Adrian Greenwood (left) licensed as a Reader after training for three years on the Southwark Readers Course.

'A Reader' is a kind of Church of England lay preacher. From now on Adrian is fully licensed to lead services or preach in St James or St Anne's.

When he is not doing that he keeps busy as a member of the General Synod, as lay chair of the Diocesan Synod, and as Chair of Trustees for the Salmon Youth Centre.

It was Salmon, then known as Cambridge University Mission, that first brought Adrian to Bermondsey over 40 years ago.

He was a Resi (or Residential worker) straight from Cambridge, but he and Marian have stayed in Bermondsey ever since and thrown themselves fully into the life of the church here, for which we thank God - and congratulate Adrian on the new phase of his service for God's kingdom - as a Reader.

Unfortunately, he had whipped his Reader's robes off too quickly for the sight of Adrian in a cassock to be captured for posterity by the Blog's Official Photographer (J. Downey, curate), but all is not lost - the wonders of modern technology have allowed the re-creation (right) of what the scene might have looked like, especially for readers of this blog.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

St Anne's plan

Today at St Anne's we had the launch of our Mission Action Plan, thinking of Jesus's command in Matthew 28 to go and make disciples of all nations.

At the end of the service we moved outside singing 'We are marching in the light of God' for a final prayer of blessing - and for this church photo (thanks Emily):

Click on the picture to enlarge it

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

On the estates, thy will be done

Today St James's hosted the annual conference of the National Estate Churches Network, a cross-denominational body that links together Christians ministering and living on local authority estates in our country.

The theme of this year's conference was 'Farewell to Welfare' and focussed on how changes in the welfare system affect local communities.

The NECN website explained the theme of the conference like this:

"This year's annual conference explores the effect that the Cuts are having on the people of our poorer housing estates. We are really excited that our keynote speaker at both venues is John Battle the brilliant long-time campaigner and advocate for those who are marginalised."

"As well as high quality input, there will be time to share and reflect together. What does our Christian Faith demand of us who live and work with those who really feel the impact of benefit reform? Can we make the system better or is it really 'Farewell to Welfare'?"

Bishop Michael was there at the beginning of the conference to welcome the delegates and as the host church we led the opening worship, including Jos's video, God Loves Bermondsey, to give our visitors an overview of our united benefice in Bermondsey.

With many estates in our two parishes it was good to host this network which does such an important role in highlighting a crucial but often overlooked aspect of the Church's mission to the nation.

During the conference Bishop Laurie Green, chair of the network, led us in a moving scriptural meditation which concluded with the Lord's Prayer and a reminder that Jesus encouraged us to pray for God's kingdom to come, and his will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Amen to that as we pray and labour for that in Bermondsey (and as others do the same for their urban communities across the nation), offering the word of life and building up communities of the kingdom a.ka. the Church.

Headlines for discussions groups at the NECN conference