Sunday, 29 March 2015

Repairing the roof

As the SE16 website reported on Thursday, St James is to receive £100,000 from the Government's Listed Places of Worship Roof Repair Fund.

This will provide for urgently needed repairs to the roof that will keep our heritage landmark building watertight and secure from the elements for many years to come - so a big thank you to Her Majesty's Government and to everyone at this end who worked hard on the successful application.

This good news came in a week when the church was particularly well used by the community: in addition to Sunday services for St James and Rhema church, there was a wedding blessing, a community choir rehearsal, a meeting of the ladies bible study, a parent and toddler group meeting, a PCC meeting, bellringing practice, a community choir practice, a concert by the Bermondsey and Rotherhithe Choral Society, visits by 15 classes of school children, not to mention the church serving as a temporary refuge for evacuees from the unexploded bomb (a throwback in all kinds of ways to the 1940s, when the church crypt was an air raid shelter during the Blitz).

And while all this was going, with the big west doors wide open, lots of members of the public wandered in, some to pray, some to have a look round.

They were all welcome.

The church is the people, not the building, but buildings have their use. They can be an adornment to their community, as we believe St James's is. And they can be a place of welcome, activity, worship, prayer, and mission. And the good news of this week's grant helps to secure this building for future generations, for the good of the whole local community.

Friday, 27 March 2015

More on schools week

Here's 5 Brazil, from St James's School, the last of the fifteen classes of children who have visited St James Church this week for our Easter Schools Week (see previous post).

And here are a few more photos from what has been an excellent if slightly exhausting week, with each of our marvellous team giving no less than 45 talks each on the true meaning of Easter.

Stan in full flow at the empty tomb

The kids loved the Upper Room, recreated inside the tent

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Schools week

All this week parties of schoolchildren from Riverside Primary School and St James's School have been visiting St James's Church for our Easter Schools Week.

By the end of tomorrow, 15 classes from the two schools will have taken part in the project, comprising nearly 450 children.

It's been brilliant to welcome these lovely enthusiastic children into the church, who have thrown themselves wholeheartedly into the activities, been full of questions and interest, and, who have behaved impeccably, a credit to their schools.

Jos with Riverside children at the empty tomb

Each class has made visits to three stations: MAUNDY THURSDAY (the Upper Room set up in a large tent at the back of the church); GOOD FRIDAY, with the large wooden cross in the Creche Room; and EASTER SUNDAY, with the Empty Tomb recreated in the Narthex. At the end we have all come together for a round-up session including a Easter timeline and, in the case of St James's School, a short act of worship.

At each station the children have heard the story of that part of the  Easter message and they have made something to take home as a reminder of the visit: for Maundy Thursday a silver coin engraved with the number 30; for Good Friday a Easter card with a cross and a heart-shaped sticker designed to remind us that the cross is the ultimate expression of God's love; and for Easter Sunday, a stone on which they have put their fingerprints with paint (they loved doing this).

Paul with Riverside children, rounding up at the end

The stones are both a reminder of the victory of the empty tomb with the stone rolled back, and, by means of the fingerprint, a reminder that each of us are unique individiduals, loved by God, expressed in the song, which with the St James children, we concluded each session with: 'I'm special because God has loved me, for he gave me the best thing that he had to save me, his own Son, Jesus.'

Last Supper in the Upper Room with Mandy

Painting the stones with Penny

Some of 3 Mexico from St James School at the Empty Tomb

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

The end of the bomb

The Bermondsey bomb has come to an explosive end:

According to the Evening Standard, Blitz expert, Neil Bright, believes the Bermondsey bomb was dropped on 11th May 1941 at the very height of the Blitz.

With its factories, its proximity to the docks and the river, Bermondsey was a key target and was one of the most heavilly bombed districts in London, sustaining 709 civilian casualties, including, on the night of 11th May, the Mayor of Bermondsey, Albert Henley.

And then 74 years later.....

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Goodbye to the Bermondsey bomb

Here's the WWII bomb that has been causing all the trouble.

Now defused, the bomb is safely on its way to Kent, thanks to the amazing men of the Army (Royal Logistics Corps) bomb disposal unit who risk their lives to keep us all safe. Today at Morning Prayer in St James's we prayed for them.

Police, council workers, and the Red Cross have all rallied round to help, and Simon Hughes has commented: 'I have been reminded of how close to each other the residents of our community are during the last day and a half. In the face of disruption and genuine concern for some, I am proud to call Bermondsey home.'

The Bermondsey bomb heads down the Old Kent Road with a police escort  towards its final Kentish resting place

Monday, 23 March 2015

Bermondsey UXB

We were in the middle of our Easter schools weeks when three ladies arrived at the church carrying suitcases saying they had been evacuated to St James's by the police, in view of an unexploded bomb  in Grange Walk (left) and a 400m exclusion zone.

Quite a number of other refugees followed, the police arrived with two very elderly ladies ('I'm ninety-six' said one of them proudly), and we deployed the  traditional British remedy at times of crisis: a nice cup of tea.

In due course, everyone was relocated to an emergency reception centre at Seven Islands Leisure Centre in Rotherhithe, Tower Bridge was closed, the traffic ground to a halt, and now Bermondsey waits for news of the 1000lb monster from WW2 unearthed in Grange Walk....

Spa Rd Closed

Salvation Army serving the emergency services - pictures from SE1 website
Army to the rescue -  pictures from SE1 website

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Amazing Joan

It's probably the most riotous 80th birthday party I have ever attended but then what did we expect as we travelled from all over the country to her Midlands home of Rushden.

It was there at the age of 17 that Joan became a Christian and thus begun a lifetime of joyful Christian service that has included no less than thirty Pathfinder camps (Christian youth camps), numerous trips to Uganda,  service as a Reader and a Churchwarden in Streatham (where we met her as a young married couple), service for Christian mission agencies CPAS, CMS, the London City Mission and the Diocese of Southwark, a full-time teaching career.

And she has always been a great encourager, a nurturer, a spotter of talent.

She has faithfully prayed for, loved eight and cared for eight God-children (including one of our daughters), interviewed goats in a church service, taught children called Marolyn Munroe, Charles Dickens, and Jane Eyre, been air-lifted from a flooded village by an army helicopter, walked through Interlaken in her swimsuit, and notwithstanding her notoriously bad singing voice (it rivals mine), has continued to praise the Lord loudly and vigorously at every opportunity.

Today (typically) she had organised all kinds of people to do all kinds of things, was (typically) the life and soul of the party, insisted (typically) that in all the fun there was a serious Gospel moment, and, of course, she starred in the sketch as Cinderella, and who else would lead the dancing but the birthday girl?

I was honoured to be asked to give the closing thought for the day, on our remarkable Joan's 80th birthday.

I quoted these words of the Apostle Paul in Philippians 1: ' I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy  because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.'

Joan has been a great partner of the Gospel from the day as a 17 year old girl that she became a Christian, to now, and there's not much chance of her retiring any time soon.

Today all her friends and family thanked God for her.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

St Anne's new look

Thanks to KeepMoat, some more pictures of the recent refurbishment work on St Anne's Hall:

Hard at work

Team photo

The finished article

Presentation to Paul at the end of the project

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Women's breakfast

Sarah from St Mary Magdalen, Bermondsey was the speaker at our first Women's Breakfast (left) at St James this morning.

For obvious reasons your blogger was not present, but the ladies of the parish assure me that a good time was had by all.

There was a really good turnout, an excellent breakfast which seemed to have a slightly healthier theme than the heart attack inducing fry-up favoured by the men when they meet for brekkie (as they will do in two weeks time), and a chance to hear Sarah speak about the events of her life and the impact of her Christian faith on  all of this.

By all accounts she had the group of ladies enthralled and conversation went on long after the official end of the meeting. After this resounding success, some further Saturday morning breakfasts are planned for the rest of the year.

PS As the photos show, the ladies also had table cloths! And flowers! (So far the only table decoration that has featured at the men's breakfast is a bottle of HP sauce).

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

St Anne's receives a generous gift

Pictured (left) are the apprentices from Lewisham College who have recently redecorated St Anne's Hall so beautifully .

Today they received certificates from Keepmoat, the contractors who originated the project - and warm thanks from all of us - at a special presentation ceremony in the present of their parents and family.

It all started when contractors Keepmoat who are replacing the roofs on the flats in Thorburn Square asked if they could do anything for the church as a way of helping the local community. 'Well' we said 'you could help us out by buying some paint as we are going to redecorate the hall prior to
starting a new parent and toddler group.'

Then they came back and said 'actually we could do the painting for you' and 'how about us asking some of the firms who work with us to buy some toys for your new group.'

So, that's how Keep Moat, aided by the apprentices of Lewisham College have given St Anne's Hall a totally new look, and, thanks to the generous gifts of toys and play mats, all is now set for the new Parent and Toddler group to start in its sparkling new premises.

So, thank you, Keepmoat, and thank you, apprentices of Lewisham College.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Simple pleasures

Mary Gibson's Bermondsey novel, Jam and Roses, includes a wonderful description of the Joy Slide which used to grace St James's Churchyard:

'In St James's Churchyard stood an incongrously rustic structure known as 'the joy slide.' In the shadow of the impressive 'Waterloo' church, it looked a little like a country cottage on stilts, with its black and white wooden tower over the stairs and a sweeping gabled roof covering the slide. Swarms of children were lining up for a go on the slide, bunching up together, some shivering in shirtsleeves or thin flocks, shuffling forward eagerly to the deep wooden bin, where they could pick up a horsehair mat before clambering up the stairs. Some were so tiny they had to hoist themselves almost into the bin to hook out a mat, and Milly smiled as one almost dissapeared inside it. But their wait in the cold was obviously worth it, for their faces shone with excitement as they were rewarded with an exhilarating few seconds, swirling down the polished wooden slide, and as each child tumbled off the end, their joyful smiles lit up the grey day.'

Thanks to Gary Magold for this picture of the slide