Thursday, 31 March 2016

St James from above

Amazing aerial view of St James from the London Air Ambulance, paying tribute at today's funeral (see previous post):

Dedicated to care

It was our largest funeral at St James for many years as today we hosted a 'full service funeral' for Brian Hayes of the London Ambulance Service, a former pupil of Bacon's College,  a Bermondsey boy, a beloved husband, son, and father.

Whilst the Air Ambulance hovered overhead in salute (right), as ambulance personnel formed a guard of honour in the churchyard, the cortege arrived, accompanied by Ambulance motorcycles and bikes, the bugler played, and a large congregation of family, friends, and colleagues gathered in the church for a service, to give thanks for the life of a remarkable man, which included a eulogy by the head of the London Ambulance Service, Dr Fionna Moore.

As an Ambulanceman, a parademedic, and one of the pioneers of the LAS 'Booze Bus' which ministered to London revellers who had been partying a bit too much, Brian was an exemplar of the service, depended on by all Londoners, whose motto is 'dedicated to care.'

We get used to the fact that we just dial 999 and they are there.

How dependant we are on our emergency services, and how good it is - even if in such very sad circumstances - for the whole community to express our gratitude, to these very reliable, very caring, men and women who serve us.

Our thoughts and prayers are especially with his wife, his parents, his siblings and his children in their great loss.

We were honoured to be able to host today's service at St James's.

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Raising the dead

Behold, I was dead but now I am alive for ever and ever

'Don’t bother listening to this sermon. In fact there’s not much point in coming to church at all. Preaching, of course, is a waste of time, and so is believing. In fact you’d be better off going down the gym, doing some shopping, or having a lie-in this morning…….if the dead are not raised, if there is no resurrection from the dead'

This was how I began my Easter Day sermon in St James, echoing St Paul's sentiments in 1 Corinthians 15 where he says that without the resurrection, Christianity is a total waste of time.

But, says Paul, Christ has been raised and that has huge implications for us because Christ's resurrection is the first of many: 'each one will be raised in proper order: Christ, first of all; then, at the time of his coming, those who belong to him' (1 Corinthians 15.23).

And that's a truth worth celebrating with wonderful Easter hymns old and new, Scripture readings, prayers, Easter eggs for the kids, Holy Communion, and, to round it all off at the end, the Hallelujah Chorus from Messiah.

Alleuia! The Lord is risen

Happy Easter, Bermondsey

Friday, 25 March 2016

Passport to paradise

After our Good Friday Family Service at St Anne's, members of St James and St Anne's walked in brilliant sunshine behind the cross along Southwark Park Road to the Blue where we met up with our brothers and sisters from St Mary's for our traditional open air service in the marketplace.

There we sang, read the Scriptures, and prayed and I spoke on the story from Luke's Gospel of the two thieves who were crucified beside Jesus.

I had, I said, something in my pocket  that could get me access to any country in the world.

Brandishing my passport, I said there was something even more wonderful than a passport that could enable your entry into any country on earth, and that was a passport to paradise - which on the first Good Friday, Jesus gave to the second thief on the cross when he said to him 'today you will be with me in paradise.'

What had he done to deserve it? absolutely nothing.

And that was the point. He just turned to Jesus and Jesus gave him a passport to paradise.

For free.

From the Blue, members of the three churches walked to St James's for a lunch of homemade soups and bread before Jos led us in a meditation of words, music, and video for Good Friday, a wonderful conclusion to an excellent day.

Good Friday Lunch at St James

Thursday, 24 March 2016

This do in remembrance

On Maundy Thursday St Mary's, St James, and St Anne's meet together at St Anne's for a communion service in the context of a meal.

It's always a special time, on the eve of Good Friday, 'the night he was betrayed,' to remember Christ, his love and his saving death for us, communicated to us in bread and wine and by the Word of God.

A great meal was provided by our hosts at St Anne's and it was a good occasion for the people of the three churches to enjoy fellowship together. Tomorrow we do so again with an Open Air Service at the Blue (12 noon), followed by lunch together at St James (1pm).

Lord, the light of your love

Twenty-nine children at St James's School applied to join the Junior Faith Committee and carefully completed application forms saying why they wanted to join the committee and what they would bring to it.

Today the members of the new JFC planned and led our Maundy Thursday Service in church for the whole school.

It was one of our best ever.

We started off with a Palm Sunday procession (above) and after singing 'Hosanna, Hosanna' we moved on to the events of Maundy Thursday itself.

Members of the JFC took the place of the disciples at the table for the Last Supper (above) and I explained how Jesus took bread and wine and gave it to the disciples telling them to do this in remembrance of him.

Maundy Thursday was also the day when Jesus took the place of a servant and washed his disciples, feet, so Mr Oliver, representing the school, and Paul, representing the church, washed the feet of four of the children.

Then we sang 'Lord of the Dance', the JFC led the prayers, and we rounded off a memorable service singing at full voice 'Lord, the light of your love was shining.'

It was a great start to our school Easter celebrations which continue next Friday with the end of term service, also planned by the JFC, with a resurrection theme - and the announcement of the results of the great St James Easter Egg Decoration Competition which was launched today (right).

Watch this space

Sunday, 20 March 2016

To boldly go

Our Palm Sunday service had a certain Star Trek theme today.

The Starship Enterprise famously set out on its mission to 'explore strange new worlds, to seek out new civilisations and to boldly go where no man had gone before.'

Jesus, too, entered on a journey on the first Palm Sunday to 'go where no man had gone before', but not so much as to explore strange new worlds as to save this one.

'It's life, Jim, but not as we know it' Mr Spock told Captain Kirk.

Jesus entering Jerusalem on a donkey, dying on a cross, was a King But Not As We Know It, and a Saviour But Not as We know it. And he came to offer Life But Not As We know it.

The Trekkies, at least, in the congregation enjoyed the Sci-Fi allusion but we all got the point, in a service that was greatly enlivened by musical contributions from our local community choir, Bermondsey Voices, who rehearse in St James every Tuesday.

Two spirituals from South Africa by Bermondsey Voices (right), and their wonderful rendition of O Happy Day at the end of the service, rounded off a memorable start to Holy Week at St James's.

When the plumber started preaching

When Bill Muncey left school he was a plumber for ten years, before he went to Sudan to work for a year with the Christian relief agency, TearFund.

After that he went to Bible College to learn more about his faith and then, when someone said 'why don't you get ordained?,' he knew that was an impossibility.

People like me don't become vicars, thought Bill, and put the idea out of his mind.

That would have been that, if God hadn't had other ideas, and so in God's good time, the plumber stopped plumbing and started preaching - on a full time basis.

Spells on the St Helier estate as vicar of St George's, and in West Croydon as vicar of Christ Church, have been followed by a semi-retirement ministry in the Oxfordshire countryside.

We were delighted when Bill accepted the invitation to be the speaker at our latest men's breakfast (picture). Bill's honesty, humour, and wonderful passion for the Gospel kept the men enthralled, as Bill spoke to us of the way that God's grace works to transform our lives.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Bringing back the joy to the churchyard

This week's edition of Southwark News has an article about the campaign to bring back the famous joy slide - or at least a 21st century equivalent of it - to St James's Churchyard. You can read their article here

Children playing on the orginal joy slide

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Faith and light

To St James's School, admiring the Lent display in the entrance hall at Alexis St (left) on the way, for a meeting of the Junior Faith Committee.

29 children had applied to join the Junior Faith Committee, which parallels the work of the Governors' Faith Group, which itself oversees the distinctively Christian character of the school, including policies for RE and Collective Worship.

The members of the JFC, who had all completed impressive application forms, were meeting with us today to share with us their ideas for the Maundy Thursday school service we are having in church next week and the Easter service we will be having on the last day of term (the following Friday).

More about what they have planned when I blog after those services, but its enough now to say that they were bubbling with ideas and enthusiasm, that will make our school celebration of Holy Week and Easter extra special.

It was good to feed all this back to the governors when they met this afternoon for a full meeting of the governing body.

MEANWHILE the church was getting ready to host Southwark Council's Bermondsey and Rotherhithe Community Council.

All the councillors were there, plus representatives from local community groups, local residents, the police etc, and the good news is that, from the Council's Cleaner, Greener, Safer budget, £30,000 has been allocated to install lighting for pedestrians on the south side of St James's Churchyard (to parallel that which already exists on the north side).

This much needed improvement will make the churchyard a lot safer at night, particularly for those crossing from the St James's Rd entrance to the Thurland Rd one.

A big thank you for Riverside councillors, Anood, Eliza, and Hamish for making this possible.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Jacob's island

“There exists the filthiest, the strangest, the most extraordinary of the many localities that are hidden in London… In Jacob’s Island, the warehouses are roofless and empty; the walls are crumbling down; the windows are windows no more; the doors are falling into the streets; the chimneys are blackened, but they yield no smoke. Thirty or forty years ago… it was a thriving place; but now it is a desolate island indeed” - so wrote Charles Dickens, about the area off Mill Street in St James's Parish that is now home to some of Bermondsey's most desirable residences.

From Southwark Heritage website
The Southwark Heritage website  quotes what Dickens says about the area in Oliver Twist....

 A visitor to that district, says the novelist,  “will see the inhabitants of the houses on either side, lowering, from their back doors and windows, buckets, pails, domestic utensils of all kinds, in which to haul the water up…every repulsive lineament of poverty, every loathsome indication of filth, rot and garbage – all these ornament the banks of Folly Ditch.”

Jacon's Island blue plaque in Mill St
Not just Dickens, but Bermondsey people of a generation ago, could scarcely credit the fact that the old warehouses that replaced the crumbling structures viewed by Dickens in the 1830s are now highly desirable, luxury, properties in one of London's most sought after locations

Mill Street today

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Our servant Queen

'The Servant Queen and the King she serves' is a new book designed to be given away in local communities in celebration of the Queen's 90th birthday and, uniquely, it includes a foreword written by Her Majesty herself.

The publishers (Bible Society, Hope UK, and LICC) describe the new book like this: 'This beautifully illustrated tribute focuses on the Queen's own words to draw out the central role of her trust in Jesus Christ in shaping her life and work, offering us an inspiring multi-faceted insight into a life well lived for others.'

Here in Bermondsey we hope to give a copy of the Servant Queen to every member of the congregation and to every child at St James's School.

We also hope to have a stash to give away to members of the public at our Queen's 90th Birthday Open Air Service and Community Fun Day on Sunday 12th June, all part of making it a right royal celebration.

View the video below for more details of The Servant Queen or order your copies here

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Ringing the bells

To The Angel pub (left) by the riverside tonight for the annual general meeting of the St James Society of Bellringers and the St Mary's Society of Bellringers, covering our own parish of St James, and our neighbouring parish of St Mary, Rotherhithe.

As well as hearing of activities in the past year and considering future plans, the meeting gets to appoint officials with splendid sounding names such as the 'Tower Captain' and (my favourite), 'the Steeple Keeper.'

It's 25 years since the bells were restored at St James's and started ringing out over Bermondsey again. That milestone will be marked later in the year. During that time over 100 people have trained as bellringers in the St James's tower.

New ringers are always welcome to join. To find out more about the Dockland Ringers click here

In the meantime, a big thank you to our dedicated team of ringers for all they do week in, week out, calling the people to worship with the ringing of bells.

Saturday, 5 March 2016

What do vicars do?

What do vicars do all day?

Photographer Jim Grover had the idea of following his local vicar around for a whole year.

15,000 images later and a new free exhibition, Of Things Not Seen: the Life of a London Priest, has just opened at the Oxo Tower, telling the story of one year in the life of Kit Gunasekera, vicar of St James, Clapham.

I know Kit and I know that he took on a tough job in Clapham. I also know that the church there has grown and flourished under his leadership.

As for the exhibition? It's a brilliant, with some wonderful photos capturing the sheer diversity and variety of parochial life - from fun with the kids at messy church, to visits to the elderly and dying, fish and chips at the parish quiz night, not to mention the ever present tea urn. It's a great exhibition, well worth seeing. Full details here

Also on the exhibition website is an in interview with Kit. At the end he was asked what his ambitions were for ten year time. This was his answer:  

I think I want to be doing what I’m doing now.  I think the most important thing for me, as a child of God, is to love God and to do what I think he’s calling me to do. That’s the vision I want to have and that’s the vision I always want to have. So in ten years’ time, if that is at the forefront of my mind, then that would be a good place to be......

So that’s the honest answer.  I just want to still love God…to still come before Him and to ask ‘what do you want me to do Lord?’

Good Friday in Clapham

Friday, 4 March 2016

France, SE1-style

A day-off walk down Bermondsey Street and we discovered a film crew were busilly creating a little corner of  France in the middle of SE1.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Bishop's move

Our local bishop for this part of south-east London, the Bishop of Woolwich, Michael Ipgrave, will soon be returning to his Midlands roots when he becomes the Bishop of Lichfield.

We shall miss Bishop Michael here in Bermondsey but we wish him God's richest blessing as he prepares for this big responsibility in one of the largest dioceses in the Church of England.

Here is Bishop Michael on the Lichfield diocesan website talking about his new role and his journey of faith