Thursday, 25 December 2014

The Queen's anchor

We are lucky to have her.

Today in her Christmas broadcast to the Commonwealth in a thoughtful meditation on the theme of reconciliation, the Queen said: 'For me, the life of Jesus Christ, the prince of peace, whose birth we celebrate today, is an inspiration and an anchor in my life. A role model of reconciliation and forgiveness, he stretched out his hands in love, acceptance and healing.'

Wonderful. She's not forcing her faith on anyone - as Christians are sometimes accused of doing - but she is bearing personal testimony to Christ, her 'inspiration' and 'anchor' and she has pointed us to a crucial Christian truth - reconciliation - at a time when the world needs it more than ever.

The Christ child born to us

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

The light shining in the darkness

The German pastor, John de Wattville, who was looking for a way in 1747 to explain the Christian message to the children of his church, really started something when he invented the Christingle.

Brought to England in 1968, Christingle services have spread all over the country, and have become a popular child-friendly way of proclaiming the truths of the Christian faith: at Advent, Epiphany or Christmas.

Tonight's was only our second ever Christingle service at St James. Attendance was up a whopping 88% on last year. It was great to see young and old flooding into the church for this very special service on the eve of Christmas Day.

If you've not yet been to a Christingle service, here is what it all means: the orange represents the world; the red ribbon, the blood of Christ shed for the world; the candle, the light of Christ shining into the world; and the fruits on the four cocktails sticks represent the fruits of the earth and the four seasons.

Pastor de Wattville's clever visual aid thus proclaims the love of God in creation and the love of God in salvation.

Monday, 22 December 2014

O come all ye faithful

We had a bumper Carols by Candlelight service at St James last night with attendance up by 26 per cent on last year.

The singers, musicians and readers did a brilliant job. The children performed their nativity (see below), Paul preached, and the people at the back were kept busy putting out extra chairs as more and more people arrived, until the seats overflowed into the entrance hall.

A really good evening and a really good start to our Christmas festivities.

Full house at St James - thanks Pat and John for the photos

Friday, 19 December 2014

Two kings and a Pearly Queen

To the Age Concern Healthy Living Centre in Southwark Park Road for their annual Christmas dinner and party.

Pictured are the Pearly Queen of Bermondsey, invited along with the clergy to join in today's festvities, and Simone (on the right), the dynamic ever unflappable and cheerful manager of the centre who makes it the vibrant community centre for retired people that it is.

We had a fabulous slap up meal and it was good to hear stories of former times: the days when young girls in the Hartley's jam factory wore clogs to work, and when a lorry took eleven hours to drive from Bermondsey to Warrington, taking cement north, and bringing back south a cargo of wire for making Brillo pads.

Before all of that it was the St James School end of term service in the church. Paul arranged a Christmas quiz of the whole school divided into two teams, the Shepherds led by Mr Myles, assistant head, and the Angels led by Miss Mailey, deputy head.

Excitement reached fever pitch when the teams tied, and we needed a tie-breaker (which was actually going to introduce the point of the talk): 'how many kings are there in the Christmas story?'

The shepherds said 5. The angels said 4. But Paul said 2:the wise men weren't kings and that just leaves Jesus and Herod. And, as Paul said, Herod was only a temporary king.

Unlike Jesus.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Cosmic Christmas at Cherry Garden

From the BBC website the inspiring story of the Nativity Play at Cherry Garden School, a special school in our parish with which we have links, which include an annual visit of the children to St Anne's for their harvest festival. Paul recently visited their nativity play which is the subject of this video.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Carols at your desk

Enterprising students at my old theological college have come up with a special digital radio station for Christmas, bringing carols to your computer.

You listen to it here

Sunday, 14 December 2014

The Smarties, the Tunes and the boy who wasn't from Quality Street

St Anne's had its Christingle and Carols tonight with a nativity tableau (left) performed by the children and young people.

A really good turn out of St Anne's regulars and visitors from the parish made this an excellent start to our Christmas festivities.

We also got to hear the Christmas story retold by Paul with the aid of no less than 22 types of sweets and chocolates. I can't remember them all but I do remember that Jesus did not come from a Quality Street, that the wise men were Smarties, that the Shepherds heard the angels' Tunes, and that baby Jesus, he was a Poppet.

The previous day, Bermondsey Voices, our local community choir which practises in St James each week had its annual Christmas concert in the church (right), offering a wonderful mixture of carols, Christmas music sacred and secular, and three songs with a Bermondsey theme including one about Albert McKenzie, the 19 year old sailor from Bermondsey who won the VC in WW1 (soon to have a memorial locally), one about Ada Salter, and one about the 'Bermondsey Women's Uprising.'

Friday, 12 December 2014

School nativity

The children from St James's School poured into the church this afternoon for this Christmas Nativity & Carols.

Lots of parents came to watch and join in and the children sang the carols with great enthusiasm as the story of the Nativity was told through the traditional Scriptural readings.

The shepherds wait for their big moment

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Joy in the square

It's not just dogs that go from lamp post to lamp post, carol singers do too - or they did tonight in Thorburn Square as our merry band of singers circled St Anne's singing under the the lamp posts at the four corners of the square.

The weather held, a great time was had by all, and minced pies and mulled wine in St Anne's Vicarage (thanks Paul & Mandy) rounded off an excellent evening.

Next up: Carol Singing at Bermondsey Tube on Monday at 6pm and outside St James's on Wednesday at 6.30pm. O come all ye singers!

PS This is an old photo (above) and what it doesn't show is St Anne's rather smart new noticeboard which, if you haven't seen it, looks like this:

Sunday, 7 December 2014

A Bermondsey Christmas

It's been a hectic day.

After the baptism of three church children at St James and a church lunch to follow with mountains of food, it was off to Christmas at the Blue, where there was Irish dancing, carol singing by Monnow Rd Baptist Church, a Santa on stilts, football with Millwall FC's community unit, ice skating, various stalls sealing Christmas goodies, a UK Homes for Heroes stall staffed by the Pearly King and Queen, Nigel of Bermondsey singing 'Bury my heart in Bermondsey', all presided over by Russell whose team had organised a brilliant community event.

Ice skating in front of the Bermondsey Lion

Irish dancing at the Blue
Next up was another great Bermondsey community event: the annual old people's party at the Salmon Youth Centre.

As is traditional, the event began with the Bermondsey Waiters Song (now in its 39th year), sung this year by the young people of Salmon Sunday who were to wait on us this year: 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.

All together now for the Bermondsey Waiters Song
Piles of food and gallons of tea were followed by the Entertainment which included a Cockney singalong led by Johnny (Daisy, daisy; Any old iron; Maybe its because I'm a Londoner), drama and dance by the Salmon youngsters, party dances led by the Resis revealing an unexpected gift for this kind of thing on the part of St James's curate, Jos.

Next we were treated to a Skelton-Molyneux duo singing the songs of Elvis, Paul McCartney, John Denver, and Cliff Richard, before Paul brought us a reading from the Bible and a brilliant talk about the real meaning of Christmas. That set the scene for a carol-singalong finale by Adrian, chair of trustees, and a scratch choir that included a certain local MP. A wonderful afternoon.

O come all ye faithful

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Carols at the Blue

Carol singing at the Blue this morning in brilliant sunshine, gathered around the tree that St James and St Anne's churches have bought as a Christmas gift for the local community.

It was good to have Simon Hughes, and Councillor Anood join us, together with passersby and members of both churches as we sung the good news of Christmas at the heart of our community in the words of those familiar carols that speak so powerfully of God's saving love.

Next Thursday we have open air carols outside St Anne's at 6pm, and the following week: outside Bermondsey Tube on Monday 15th December 6pm and outside St James at 6.30pm on the Wednesday (17th Dec).

Come and join us - the more the merrier.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Voted by the people

It is truly unique event and it occurs every year.

The Albins Memorial Service in their Memorial Garden on the edge of Southwark Park, draws together over a thousand worshippers, clergy, military leaders, and local VIPs from the Pearly Kings to the Leader of the Council and Simon Hughes MP.

All the familiar elements were there this year: the Christmas tree with stars in memory of departed loved ones, the Ark containing the cremated remains of previous year's stars, a tribute to the military (Albins organise the repatriation of all British servicemen and women who die overseas), Father Alan leading us in a selection of Christmas carols, prayers led by the leaders of the churches, a welcome by Barry, and the whole event skillfully narrated by his sons, John and Simon, wonderful refreshments afterwards including hot soup  and Elaine's famed bread pudding, and a dramatic firework conclusion.

This year Christopher Chessun, our bishop, the Bishop of Southwark was the guest speaker. He spoke movingly and simply from his own recent family experience of bereavement, and pointed us to Christ with characteristic simplicity and clarity.

New this year was the contribution by four of Barry's young grandsons. Each brought a short reading. The youngest drew warm applause from the crowd as he said: 'I love you so dearly but don't shed a tear for me; I'm spending my Christmas with Jesus.'

The whole event ended on a patriotic note with a rousing rendition of  Rule Britannia as the fireworks lit up the sky over Rotherhithe (right).

Over refreshments a Southwark blue plaque, 'Voted by the People,' was unveilled on Albins HQ, recognising the firm's service to the bereaved people of Bermondsey for over 200 years.

Simon Hughes, MP, spoke well and truly in introducing the award when he said that Barry, his family, and his whole team had endeared themselves to the people of Bermondsey and Rotherhithe, not just for their legendary efficiency and professionalism, but for their kindness and compassion which, in your blogger's opinion, was once more powerfully demonstrated by the event that we have experienced tonight - a truly generous gift to the people of our area. Thank you Barry and everyone at Albins.

Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria & Bermondsey

Our fourth Bermondsey Christian Training course came to end last night with the now traditional end-of-course-meal, this time a full blown Christmas style turkey dinner.

A good time was had by all, as has been the case all through the previous eight weeks where we have followed the exciting story of the book of Acts, starting with the Ascension of Christ and the descent of the Spirit, and the spread of the Gospel throughout the known world.

For the first time we had some virtual course members, listening to the talks in the comfort of their own homes thanks to the efforts of our technically-savvy curate (thanks Jos).

Each week course members read the relevant chapters of Acts in advance and then through the main talk, and small group discussions we looked at the main lessons we could learn - about the first century church of the book of Acts, then applied to the twenty-first century church in Bermondsey.

The theme verse of Acts is verse 8 of chapter 1 where the risen Lord Jesus says: '"But when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, you will be filled with power, and you will be witnesses for me in Jerusalem, in all of Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 

For the 'ends of the earth' read 'including Bermondsey' and you get the basic idea.