Friday, 27 February 2015


There were puzzled looks all round when the Mayor announced earlier this week that one of the nine new housing zones, designated for large numbers of new homes, was to be a place called New Bermondsey?

Where's New Bermondsey? Nobody round here had a clue.

It turns out it is the area around Millwall FC - in the London Borough of Lewisham.

2,400 new homes will be built (right) and a new Overground station will be created on the line which runs from Surrey Quays to Clapham Junction.

Orginally it was to be called Surrey Canal Station but now the whole district and the station is to be 'rebranded' as 'New Bermondsey.'

Bermondsey's just got a bit bigger.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Salt and light

To St Mellitus College in Kensington for a day conference organised jointly by that college, the Evangelical Alliance and the agency, Home for Good, which encourages churches (and church members) to be actively involved in promoting fostering and adopting.

Their website points out the need:   "Every day more than 50 children are taken into care in the UK. They are removed from chaotic, traumatic, abusive, neglectful or desperate situations. Some of them need a home in an emergency. Some of them need a temporary home until they can return to their families. Some of them need an occasional home to give their families a break. Some of them need a permanent home with a new forever family."

Today's conference, Adoption, Justification and the Hospitality of God, featured some heavyweight theology by a superb panel of speakers, showing how the idea of adoption is central to the Bible's picture of how someone becomes a Christian, and then dealt with the practical challenge of fostering and adoption.

We were reminded that all Christians are adopted children of God, that God is the great adopter, and, therefore, it is no wonder that Christians have led the way in the work of fostering and adopting.

An excellent, stimulating, day.

Meanwhile back in Bermondsey, it was the fifth session of our current Bermondsey Christian Training course, Fruitfulness on the Frontline.

Tonight we were thinking of culture, defined as 'the way things are done round our way.'

It was good to think about the ways things are done round here (ie Bermondsey), and on our frontline (our job, school, college, club etc), what is good, what is bad, and what can be changed by God's people living out their lives in the local community as salt and light.

It was a good evening and good to be reminded that we can all make a difference, wherever we are, as agents for God's kingdom of peace, joy, justice & forgiveness.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

A bishop in Bermondsey

Meet Bishop Graham Kings, at present Bishop of Sherborne, but soon to be Mission Theologian to the Anglican Communion (the worldwide Anglican church, of which the Church of England is a part) and Bermondsey's newest resident.

Bishop Graham and his wife will shortly be moving into one of the cathedral canons' houses in Southwark Park Road and we look forward to welcoming them to the parish.

He's been curate in Harlesden, and vicar in Islington, so Bermondsey won't be completely unfamiliar territory to him, even if it does involve a move south of the river (ie to the right side - as we like to think it).

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Westminster, Cairo & Thorburn Square

It's been a busy week during which Jos, our curate, has done his first funeral, flying solo, and his first solo school assemblies (and passed with flying colours), St James has been packed for the funeral of the beloved husband of a church member, and, in our Sunday series on Genesis, we've been thinking of what's gone wrong with the world, as a kind of prelude to Lent, Holy Week & Easter when we hear God's answer to our predicament.

In the middle of the week the Church of England's parliament, General Synod (right), met in Westminster, with a packed agenda which included a whole programme of reform and renewal for the national church, a stirring Presidential Address from the Archbishop of Canterbury on evangelism, a new user-friendly baptism service (much shorter, more to the point), a sensitive and moving debate about funerals for those who have taken their lives, and an address from the Archbishop of the Chaldean church in Iraq which ended with a heatfelt plea that the West does not stand by and watch the ending of the Christian presence in Iraq and Syria after 2000 years.

While all this has been going on, St Anne's and St James have been hearing news from Our Man in Cairo, actually Her Majesty's Ambassador, and St Anne's member, John Casson (left).

Just as we have been thinking about Fruitfulness on the Frontline, in our last Bermondsey Christian Training Course, its been to hear what John and Kat are up to their particular work in Egypt in their unique calling in the diplomatic service.

Meanwhile St Anne's Hall has had a facelift, courtesy of the contractors who are replacing the roofs of the flats on Thorburn Square. It's all part of the contractor's scheme to give something back to the communities in which they are working, and we are really grateful to them for the wonderful redecoration job they have done for St Anne's Hall, which now will be a much more attractive venue for community activities.

St Anne's

Monday, 9 February 2015

Evening chapter in Westminster

This evening to Portcullis House, the high tech extension to Parliament, for a meeting of the Deanery Chapter (the Anglican clergy of Bermondsey & Rotherhithe) with Simon Hughes MP.

It was an opportunity to talk about areas of mutual concern in Bermondsey and Rotherhithe such as the need for affordable housing, the shortage of schools places and the possible effects of over-development.

We had a chance to talk about particular development areas around the Old Kent Rd, at Canada Water, and the Southwark College/Biscuit factory sites in Bermondsey; and also the possibility of a new pier for Rotherhithe, a new pedestrian bridge over the Thames, and the extension of the Bakerloo Line to the Old Kent Rd.

With rapid changes in the area and a fast turnover in population (reckoned to be the highest in the country), there is always the danger that the long-term residents of the district are overlooked. However, they need to be listened to, and their views taken into account, too.

Our active and energetic MP is, among other things, a great advocate of door-knocking, meeting the people where they are and listening to their concerns.

So after we quizzed him on his work, his challenge to us was to get out on the streets for a bit of door-to-door visiting - on the basis of: if the MP can do it, why not the vicar?

That seemed to me to be a fair point. Watch this space.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Affordable housing

The project to provide a new St James Vicarage, plus eight flats of social housing next door in Dickens Whinney House (right), featured on BBC Radio 4's Sunday programme today.

You can hear it here. Go to 18 minutes 43 seconds to hear the item about using church land to help provide residential accommodation in areas of housing scarcity.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Untold story at the men's brekkie

Except for the first few days of his life - his expectant mother was evacuated to Durham during the war - Stan Catton (left) has spent the whole of his life in Bermondsey.

Today at our men's breakfast we heard 'Stan Catton: the Untold Story.'

It was the clubs at CUM (aka the Cambridge University Mission aka the Salmon Youth Centre) that Stan attended from the age of 7, that led to him becoming a Christian at the age of 18, and to a lifetime's service, first at CUM, and then at St James's Church, where for the last 15 years he has been our honorary curate.

Stan took us back to the time when the average Bermondsey family shared a house with at least one other family, where bathrooms and hot running water were things you only dreamed of, and where lavatories were a strictly outside affair.

But it was also an era when families were close and people looked after one another, epitomised by the title of the 1972 documentary about Bermondsey people, 'We was all one.'

For Stan the theme of his talk, and the theme of his life, has been seeing God work his purposes out. Highlights on the way were marriage and kids, God's amazing provision of housing, work at CUM/Salmon, the move of the CUM young people to a semi-derelict St James and the renovation of the church, and the renewal of church life, and then God's call to be an Ordained Local Minister, still working as an engineer for London buses, but training for and serving in the ordained ministry, as a Bermondsey man serving Bermondsey people.

But......the Ordained Local Ministry course, bizarrely, is no more.

It is now easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than for a working class person to enter the ministry of the Church of England in south London and that, frankly, is a disgrace.

In the book of Acts (chapter 4 verse 13) there is a verse that goes like this: 'When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realised that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished' and ends: 'and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.'

To me that says it all. That's what really matters.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Bermondsey: the facts

 From the SE16 website, some interesting facts about Bermondsey & Rotherhithe

There were 70,710 residents estimated to be living in the Bermondsey and Rotherhithe Community Council area when the latest Census was conducted on 27th March 2011. This profile highlights some of the key information for the area.
  • A higher proportion of residents in Bermondsey and Rotherhithe than anywhere else in the Borough are aged 25-29 (16%) and 30-34 (13%). This is higher than the national average which is 7% for each of these categories.
  • The proportion of White residents in Bermondsey and Rotherhithe (63%) is higher than the Borough average of 54% but lower than the England average of 85%. The proportion of Asian / Asian British residents (12%) is second highest in the Borough and above the national average of 8%. The proportion of Black residents is 10% lower than the Borough average.
  • The majority of residents in Bermondsey and Rotherhithe identify as Christian (53%) and the area has the highest proportion of residents in the Borough identifying as Buddhist (2%) and Hindu (2%).
  • The proportion of residents in Bermondsey and Rotherhithe that live in a flat, maisonette or apartment (82%) is 8% higher than the Borough average and 61% higher than the national average.
  • The majority of Bermondsey and Rotherhithe residents either have English as their main language (78%) or speak English well (20%), however the proportion of those with English as their main language is lower than both the Borough average of 80% and the national average of 92%.
  • Bermondsey and Rotherhithe has the highest proportion of obese 10-11 year olds in the Borough (30%) and this is significantly higher than the national average of 19%.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Life in the Garden

A family service, a baptism, and a sermon series on Genesis that has reached chapter 2.4b-17, led to the creation of a mini - Garden of Eden in St James this morning, complete with the strictly out of bounds tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

In the Garden, as well as fruit to eat, there was work to do.

Mankind had the job of looking after the beautiful world God had made. And any work we do today is part of that task given to the human race by God.

Today we got the kids up to the front to grab hold of a series of tools and implements that ranged from the horticultural (spades, rakes, forks) to the tools of trade of carpenters, painters & decorators, plumbers, and electricians.

As for the tree of the knowledge of good and evil: Adam and Eve had received a warning, and that tree was destined to cause them (and us) a whole lot of trouble.

But more about that when we get to chapter 3.