Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Christmas bells

Thanks to St James's bellringers for a special Christmas Day method of bellringing called St Nicholas.

The children from St James's School have enjoyed singing this year 'It was on a starry night' with this chorus:

And all the angels sang for him
The bells of heaven rang for him
For a boy was born king of all the world

It's good to think the bells of Bermondsey rang for him too

Monday, 25 December 2017

The Queen's faith

Once again the Queen testifies to her faith in Christ in her Christmas broadcast to the nation and commonwealth: it is 'Jesus Christ's generous love and example' she says that has inspired her 'through good times and bad'

Meanwhile the Guardian has had an interesting article looking at the way the Christian content of the Queen's Christmas broadcasts has intensified since the Millennium year. See the article here

Christmas midnight sermon

It was awkward. It was embarrassing. He was in a quandary

His bride-to-be was expecting. She was supposed to be a virgin. He was still a virgin. But there was a baby on the way.

He didn’t want to make a fuss but there was only one way out of this scandalous turn of events. He would have to break off the engagement. He would do it privately. He wouldn’t make a song and dance about it. But it was the only reasonable solution, with his bride-to-be carrying another man’s child.

Then he had a dream. And in that dream an angel appeared to him. The messenger from God said: “Joseph, descendant of David, do not be afraid to take Mary to be your wife. For it is by the Holy Spirit that she has conceived. 21 She will have a son, and you will name him Jesus—because he will save his people from their sins.”

His beautiful and beloved girlfriend had done nothing wrong. She hadn’t broke faith with Joseph at all. She was still a virgin.

The child she was carrying was a miracle baby, conceived by the Holy Spirit of God.

The baby’s names would reveal his true identity. He was Jesus – which means he will save his people from their sins. He was Immanuel – which means he is God with us.

The child growing in Mary’s womb was God’s Son who had come to save us from our sins.

It was a lot to take in in one go. But Joseph believed the angel’s message and so Matthew tells us: So when Joseph woke up, he married Mary, as the angel of the Lord had told him to. 25 But he had no sexual relations with her before she gave birth to her son. And Joseph named him Jesus

Earlier this week we had the end of term Christmas service for the children of St James’s School here in church. We watched a video of children from New Zealand acting out their own Nativity play and telling the Christmas story in their own words.

One of the children said this about Jesus: ‘He had two daddies.’ ‘He had two daddies – Joseph and God.’

They got it in a nutshell. That was the secret about the special baby that was born in Bethlehem. He had two daddies – Joseph and God.

Or to put it another way: he was a real live human being, born as a baby, born of a woman, just like every one of us. But he was also God. Truly human, and truly divine.

In one sense he was like everyone else – made of flesh and blood. In another sense he was unlike anyone who has ever lived – this was the Word made Flesh, this was God in human form, this baby was God with us.

Earlier in the year when there was that terrible terrorist incident at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, people from all over the world sent messages of love and condolence. Twitter and Facebook were alive with messages of support. But our Queen, the head of our nation, did something more. She came in person. A few days after the event, she arrived unannounced at the children’s hospital in Manchester to visit the children and their parents.

She showed she cared by coming in person.

That’s what our creator God did on the first Christmas day. He didn’t just send a message or even a messenger. He came in person, born as a baby, to live among us, and ultimately to give his life for us on the cross. 

John the Baptist’s father, Zechariah, got it just right when he said: “Let us praise the Lord, the God of Israel! He has come to the help of his people and has set them free. He has provided for us a mighty Saviour,

And then he went on to say:
Our God is merciful and tender. He will cause the bright dawn of salvation to rise on us and to shine from heaven on all those who live in the dark shadow of death, to guide our steps into the path of peace.

Thank God that he has come to us in the form of the baby, with two daddies, who was destined to be our saviour and save us from our sins.

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Sharing the light

Attendance was up a whopping 40 per cent at tonight's Christingle Service at St James and the church was absolutely packed to overflowing.

According to the press the Church of England is virtually on its last legs and about to shut up shop. No one goes to church these days, they tell us. But someone must have forgotten to tell the people of Bermondsey who are coming to church for Christingle and Carols by Candlelight in ever greater numbers.

Christingles come from the Moravian Church. They are a great visual aid of the true meaning of Christmas: the orange representing the world; the red ribbon standing for the blood of Christ shed out of love for the world; the candle representing Christ the light of the world; and the cocktail sticks representing the four seasons, with the fruit representing the fruit of the earth.

It was good to have so many children and adults hear the Christmas story of God's love told once more through reading, carols and Christingle.

Christingle production line after the morning service

Thanks to Todd for these photos (above): and to Pat for these:

He came down

Here's the wonderful video from SpeakLife which we shared at tonight's Children's Christingle Service at St James.

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Poems & prayers

Here are some of the poems and prayers produced by the children of St James's School during their special Christmas week of activities.

I particularly liked this poem from a year 5 boy about the Saviour who 'nothing can stop'

Jesus is with us.
The best day of the year is Christmas.
Jesus is our Lord
Nothing can stop him
Carols in the distance with laughter everywhere
I can smell Christmas in the air
I wish I was an angel in a tree
Very special and busy

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

You can't tell just by looking....

Wonderful. The church has been thronged with children all week.

On Monday Key Stage 1 from St James's School (left) performed their Nativity with carols, with lots of parents, grandparents and friends watching from the gallery.

Tuesday and it was the turn of Key Stage 2 for their service of Carols by Candlelight in the Church (pictured below). Every class made its own contribution and everyone, including mums and dads, aunts and uncles, in the gallery joined in with some well known carols. The whole event was rounded of with all of key stage 2 giving a moving rendition of 'O Holy Night.'

Then today it was our end of term Christmas Service in church, with the whole school present. We sung some of our favourite carols: The Virgin Mary had a baby boy, It was on a Starry Night, Away in a Manger, and Once in Royal.

The Junior Faith Group led the prayers and the winners of the school Christmas Poem competition read their compositions. I will blog some of their poems and prayers in a later post.

Meanwhile, at the back of church we had a display of the children's Christmas work which will remain in church until the new year for the congregation to see.

In my talk I showed the children one of my Christmas presents, all wrapped up, with a label saying 'Do not open until Christmas Day.' Could they guess what I was getting?

A sea of hands was raised with suggestions.

It could be chocolates, they said, or Lego, or it could be a bible (good present for a vicar, but I do like Lego aswell). The thing is, I said, you can't tell what it is just by lookimg.

Then I took the baby from the manger and held him in my arms. The thing about Jesus, I said, was you couldn't tell who Jesus is, or how special he was, just by looking.

He looked as if he was just a baby.

But there was something special about Jesus. The children in the Nativity video from New Zealand (see below) which we played earlier in the service, gave us the clue. They said 'he had two daddies, Joseph and God.'

That was the amazing thing about Jesus that you couldn't tell just by looking. He was a human being, just like us, but he was also God. And he came to be our saviour.

PS Did you notice the last phrase on the credits at the end: 'Based on a true story.' I like that.

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Christingle, God with us

St Anne's has already had its Christingle; St James has its to come on Christmas Eve at 5pm. Today we were inviting families from St James's School to join us, and here is the Church of England's short video about Christigles as part of its GodWithUs campaign.

Monday, 18 December 2017

Meet the Nativity

'Meet the Nativity' is a Christmas comedy that has been released in four instalments this Christmas by Speak Life, an organisation that makes 'quality films that engage with Christianity, beliefs and the deeper issues of life.'

Here are all four instalments (the last went live today), today with the four 'behind the scenes' videos that went with the series.

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Every heart needs a rescue

Our Carols by Candlelight service tonight at St James had a record attendance, with the church downstairs packed, and many people seated upstairs in the galleries.

The children performed their nativity tableau (pictured here before the service), our combined St James and St Anne's music group did a wonderful job of leading us in the well-loved traditional carols that are such a feature of this service, and we heard again the greatest story ever told, as we traced through the Scripture readings, the story of God's gift to the world of his only Son, born as one us, coming to us to be our saviour.

Our multi-talented Administrator, Ruth Reid, gave us a reprise of her own composition, Hallelujah, premiered at the Salmon Anniversary Celebration earlier in the year, but now including a special Christmas verse:

Then of to Elizabeth she went
To tell the news, the angel sent
The baby in the womb cried Hallelujah 
For John was sent before the Lord
To preach repentance to the world
And let the earth rejoice Hallelujah

and the whole conngregation joined in each time with the chorus, hallelujah.

And then just before Paul's excellent sermon, we heard a wonderful song, originally by Matt Redman, which begins 'There is a moment every heart needs a rescue.' You can hear our singers' own version of it on our Facebook page here

A big thank you to everyone who took part, it was a great evening, proclaiming the message of God's love for the world.

Friday, 15 December 2017

A royal feast at Age-UK

Age UK's Yalding Healthy Living Centre in Southwark Park Road does a wonderful job of serving the older people in the community, and we are always delighted to be invited to the annual Christmas dinner and party, alongside the Pearly Queen of Bermondsey, Dee Russsell (pictured) and the Mayor of Southwark, and the many regular users of the centre.

A three-course slap up Christmas meal is served by volunteers from local businesses and, this year, another local business, made a gift of most of the food, and this year we rounded off the meal with some community carol singing, before the members got ready for some entertainment, and full buffet and dancing till late (these oldsters have got stamina)

It's always a very happy event, presided over by the centre's excellent staff.

Yalding is a life line to many people  and a real enrichment to our local community. So, thank you, Katrina and all your team for all you do throughout the year. (And thank you Paul for the photos).

Yalding chef, Ken, with the Pearly Queen

Thursday, 14 December 2017

O come all ye faithful

The last of our open air carol events took place outside St James yesterday evening (left), followed by mince pies and mulled wine in the church.

Now we move inside for Carols by Candlelight on Sunday at 6pm.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

St James's got talent

Just some of the talented performers at the St James School Christmas cabaret tonight, showcasing the dancers, singers, and instrumentalists from after school clubs this term. Well done to everyone who take part, and especially to Miss Jess for all her hardwork, in a show that ended with the whole cast, in seasonal mood, singing Silent Night.

You can listen to some of them here and here

Monday, 11 December 2017

Away in a tube station

'You've made my day' said a young commuter beaming. before filming us on her phone.

It was our annual carol sing to the commuters at Bermondsey Tube station.

We weren't collecting money, just spreading some Christmas cheer, and giving our leaflets with all the details of Christmas services at St James's and St Anne's.

Some people were too engrossed in the content on their phones to even notice us, but lots of others  smiled in appreciation or waved to us - and lots of people captured the scene on their phones.

Our thanks again to the staff at Bermondsey Station and to TFL for making it possible.

Next up: Outdoor carols in St James's Churchyard on Wednesday at 6.30pm.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Getting ready for the big day

St Anne's had its Christingle Service with Carols tonight, with a nativity play enacted by the Sunday School children.

It's always a popular service, the highlight of St Anne's year, and lots of people braved the snowy and icy weather to attend the service tonight.

Christingles are a great visual aid of the Gospel: the orange represents the world; the candle stands for Christ the light of the world; the red ribbon reminds us of the blood of Christ shed out of love for the world; and the four cocktail sticks and the fruit on them, reminds us of God's love in the creation, through the fruits of the earth and the four seasons.

It's a special moment when the lights are dimmed, the congregation circles the building, the Christingles are lit, and we sing together 'Away in a manger' and 'Silent night' and remember the true meaning of Christmas.

Earlier in the afternoon was the annual Old People's Christmas Party at the Salmon Youth Centre, when the young people waited on the older ones, and provided the entertaiment, which included (left) the traditional Bermondsey Waiters Song ('We are the Bermondsey waiters we are, we like to serve you like you was a star, with mince pies and Rosie, and plenty of cheer, just because its Christmas at this time of year').

And before all that, at St James this morning, we had the baptism of Ezra and Ethanuel, children of Ezekiel and Bola. This went nicely with the reading from Mark 1 about John the Baptist calling the people to be baptised and turn from their sins, to prepare to meet the messiah, Jesus Christ.

It was a great start to a busy day, on the verge of the Christmas celebrations which have now well and truly started.

Not in a stable, but surrounded by the family

I don't think its going to make much impression on your standard nativity play, but really there is not much evidence that Jesus was born in a stable, and that famous line 'there was no room at the inn' is almost certainly a mistranslation.

Sacrilege! I hear you cry, but its true.

There's no mention of a stable in either Matthew or Luke, but Luke does tell us that the baby was laid in a manger, and people have kind of assumed that this implies a stable (as it would do in Britain), especially after just being told by the same writer that 'there was no room for them to stay in the inn.'

Except the Greek word translated 'inn' in most English translations, doesn't mean 'inn' (there is another word for that). The actual word used is kataluma, which means 'the spare or upper room in a private house, where travellers received hospitality.'

To unravel the mystery, you need to understand what a typical home looked like in those days. There was one main room where the family lived and slept. At night the animals would be brought in to sleep in the same room as the family (hence the mangers).

The guest room was reserved for visitors, who every family was expected to welcome and offer hospitality to.

Here's what happened when Mary and Joseph turned up. The guest room was already full, so rather than being relegated to a stable (not even the animals slept there at night), the couple were welcomed into the main room with the rest of the family. And when the baby was born, the manger was the obvious place to lay him.

Theologian Ian Paul comments 'In the Christmas story, Jesus is not sad and lonely, some distance away in the stable, needing our sympathy. He is in the midst of the family, and all the visiting relations, right in the thick of it and demanding our attention.'

And for his street Advent Calendar he produced this 'historically accurate nativity' (above).

You can read Ian's full article on his blog here

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Down on the farm

It was the Christmas Fair at Surrey Docks Farm this morning and Bishop Christopher (left) who is patron of the farm dropped in for some festive carol singing, with the singers from nearby Holy Trinity, Rotherhithe, before touring the farm.

The farm does an invaluable job of bringing a little bit of the countryside into the heart of the city, and giving children, in particular, the chance to see real live farm animals in the context of a working farm.In this way it really enriches our community and so it was good to see the farm being well supported today for its annual Christmas Fair.

Friday, 8 December 2017

Beginning to feel like Christmas...

It's really only Advent, but with the Christmas tree up on the portico of St James, it's beginning to feel like Christmas.

Our first Christmas service is this Sunday at St Anne's: the ever popular Christingle Service with Carols, and then on Monday at 6pm with have carols at Bermondsey Tube station, followed by outdoor carols in St James's Churchyard at 6.30pm on Wednesday.

For further details of all Christmas events at St Anne's see here and at St James, see here

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Remembering at Albins

It's that time of year when the clergy don five extra layers of clothing and say a silent prayers of thanks for Messrs Marks & Spencer and their range of thermal underwear.

The Albins outdoor Memorial Service in their Memorial Garden on the edge of Southwark Park is a remarkable Bermondsey institution.

This year the weather was quite mild, some year's it is absolutely freezing but that doesn't stop literally hundreds of people coming to this amazing event which includes Christmas carols, solos by professional musicians, prayers by the clergy, moments of reflection and Jon and Simon's inspired leading of the whole event.

Christmas is a time of year when families are particularly aware of the loss of loved ones, the Albins service, with its wonderful mixture of hope and compassion, comes at just the right time.

It is is deeply appreciated by hundreds of families. So, thank you, Jon, Simon and all the Albins team.

Remembering at Albins: From Southwark News

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Let there be light

A big thank you to an intrepid team of John, Bob David, & Lawrence who erected the scaffolding tower and renewed the floodlights on the west and north sides of the church. The effect is stunning.

With these long nights leading up to Christmas its great to have the church gleaming in the light and being seen in its full glory.

Sunday, 3 December 2017

A blue Christmas in Bermondsey

Hot food, sideshows, jugglers, fire-eaters, face painting, the ice rink, the snow globe, Irish dancing, DJ, and Christmas stalls all went to make up great community afternoon today at the Blue.

A big thank you to the traders at the Blue, to Blue Bermondsey Bid, and to everyone who contributed to what has become a valued annual tradition in the heart of Bermondsey, just before Christmas.

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Christmas at the Blue

We had the first of our three open air carol events today -  in the Marketplace at the Blue, with our best turn out ever.

Lots of people from both churches came to sing - more than captured in this shot - others gave out leaflets to passersby, many of whom joined in for a sing - as did Riverside Councillor, Anood, and Russell from the fish stall.

It was a great community event bringing some Christmas cheer into the heart of Bermondsey.

Next up: Carols at Bermondsey Tube Station on Monday 11th at 6pm; and outside St James on Wednesday 13th at 6.30pm. O come all ye faithful...

The Bermondsey Lion at the Blue

Friday, 1 December 2017

The man from the palace

Meet the man who lives in a palace.

This is Simon Lewis, introduced to St James congregation last week, shortly due to meet the people of St Anne's, who works for the Archbishop of Canterbury as Dean of the Anselm's Community, a community of Christians aged 20-35 from all over the world who give a year of their lives to living in a 'radical Jesus-centered community of prayer, study and serving local communities - all based at Lambeth Palace in London.'

As part of his work at St Anselm's, Simon, lives with his wife and children in the grounds of the Palace (right), but on Sundays, and sometimes during the week, too, for the next couple of years he will be involved with St James and St Anne's in Bermondsey, as he joins in the life of our churches and as he 'completes' his curacy (the 3 to 4 year initial post-ordination training that all CofE clergy take part in).

Whilst the main focus of his work will be at St Anselm's, we look forward to Simon's involvement here in Bermondsey and we pray that his time with us will be a blessing to him and to us.We look forward, too, to hearing about the work of the Community and, who knows, there might even be a parish outing to Lambeth Palace.

The first tranche of St Anselm's members, just having completed their year in the community, holding a commemorative bible with which they had just been presented

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Bells over Bermondsey

To our next door neighbours, The Gregorian, yesterday for the Annual General Meeting of the  St James and St Mary Rotherhithe societies of bellringers at which we elected the Tower Captain and the Steeple Keeper (I love those titles) for both churches, as well as the secretary and treasurer for both bands.

Week by week the bells ring out over Bermondsey and Rotherhithe, and the dedicated service of the band of bellringers is deeply appreciated in the area.

You've only got to spend time with a team of bellringers to realise there is a lot more to bell ringing than meets the eye. It gets quite technical and very skilled. Is bellringing a science or an art, I asked them at last night's meeting? It's an exercise, they replied.

And here, is a bit of Sunday morning bellringing filmed from the vicarage garden during my sabbatical, just to remind you of the great sound they produce.