Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Alpha, week 4

Not even the snow and sub-zero temperatures could keep them away from tonight's Alpha Course.

A warming meal helped to get everyone ready for Week 4 and 'How can I have faith?' Some really good discussions followed as people shared where they are on their faith journey.

Next week: How can I make the most of the rest of my life?

Snow on snow

Bright sunny, snowy, morning in Bermondsey today.

Did someone mention the Spring?

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Welcome Jacob

Great news. Jacob Mercer (pictured with his wife, Rebecca) is to be our new curate at St James and St Anne's here in Bermondsey.

A curate is a kind of trainee vicar. Jacob is at present training for the ministry at Wycliffe Hall, in Oxford. On 30th June he will be ordained in Southwark Cathedral, and after that he will start work in Bermondsey.

We very much look forward to welcoming Jacob, Rebecca, and their son, James, to Bermondsey, and to their involvement in the work of the Gospel.

Sunday, 25 February 2018

On placement

It has been good to have Ivan (left) on placement with us from Holy Trinity, Rotherhithe.

Ivan is training to be a Reader in the Church of England (a kind of lay preacher) and as part of that he has to do a placement in a church of a different tradition from his own.

Ivan led today's Family Service at St James and he is coming back to preach on Palm Sunday. We have very much enjoyed having Ivan with us at St James and we wish him God's richest blessing in the rest of his training.

Friday, 23 February 2018

When Billy met the Queen

Fascinating article from USA Today about Billy Graham's connections with the Queen which have been picked up in the Netflix series, The Crown here

Billy Graham received an honorary knighthood from the Queen in 2001

Here is the Archbishop of Canterbury's personal tribute to Billy Graham:

"Dr Billy Graham stood as an exemplar to generation upon generation of modern Christians.

When it comes to a living and lasting influence upon the worldwide church he can have few equals: for he introduced person after person to Jesus Christ.

There are countless numbers who began their journey of faith because of Dr Graham.

"The debt owed by the global church to him is immeasurable and inexpressible. Personally I am profoundly grateful to God for the life and ministry of this good and faithful servant of the gospel; by his example he challenged all Christians to imitate how he lived and what he did.

"He was one who met presidents and preachers, monarchs and musicians, the poor and the rich, the young and the old, face to face. Yet now he is face to face with Jesus Christ, his saviour and ours. It is the meeting he has been looking forward to for the whole of his life."

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Preachin' in the rain

Preaching in the rain.

Billy Graham at the closing rally of Mission 89 at Wembley Stadium, preaching to 73,000 people - from a display at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, North Carolina, which we visited last year on sabbatical - referred to in the preceding post.

Just as he was

No scandal ever touched him, he just preached Christ with great faithfulness and grace. It is said that he had preached to 210 million people.

Today he has died at the age of 99. Surely the whole Christian world will say "well done, good and faithful servant.'

The last time he preached in England was in 1989. At the final night of Mission 89, 73,000 crammed into Wembley Stadium.

When Billy gave the famous invitation 'I want you to get up out of your seats,' literally thousands streamed forward on the pitch.

I was one of the 'counsellors' that night who had the wonderful task of talking with and praying with those were coming forward.

We were inundated with enquirers.

Sometimes football fans talk about the 'sacred turf' of Wembley. It really felt like we were in a hallowed place that night as Billy preached a powerful winsome sermon and people streamed forward to give their lives to Christ.

There was a terrific thunderstorm over Wembley that night. The rain poured down in torrents. We wondered if people would really brave the elements and come forward at the invitation. A thunderbolt hit the stadium just on cue as the crowd sang that line from 'how great thou art' about 'I hear the mighty thunder, thy power throughout the universe displayed,' but the moment Billy gave his invitation, the rain stopped and not so much of a drop of water fell on the heads of those who swarmed on to the pitch.

Surely God was at work that night.

At the end of his autobiography, Just as I am,  Billy Graham says this:

'I know that my life will soon be over. I thank God for it, and for all he has given me in this life.

But I look forward to heaven.

I look forward to the reunion with friends and loved ones who have gone before.

I look forward to heaven's freedom from sorrow and pain.

I also look forward to serving God in ways we can't begin to imagine, for the Bible makes it clear that heaven is not a place of idleness.

And most of all, I look forward to seeing Christ and bowing before Him in praise and gratitude for all He has done for us, and for using me on this earth by His grace - just as I am.'

 And all the people said 'amen.'

Monday, 19 February 2018

Bermondsey brew

The murky weather didn't stop them coming to Bermondsey Brew, St James popular community cafe, this afternoon.

Delicious home made cakes, tea in proper tea pots, nice coffee, good company, and activities for the kids makes Bermondsey Brew a popular meeting point on Monday afternoons.

New people come nearly every week and there is a great crowd of regulars, all ages and backgrounds, enjoying the chance to socialise a bit and make friends.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Ash Wednesday in Bermondsey Street

To St Mary Magdalen, Bermondsey Street this lunchtime for our Group Ministry Ash Wednesday service of Holy Communion.

The Group Ministry is made up of St Mary's, St James, St Anne's, and the Salmon Youth Centre.

The staff teams from the three churches meet to pray each week, joined by our friends from St Philip's, and we share in a number of special services together: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday at the Blue, the Easter Sunrise Service, and, today, Ash Wednesday, traditionally held at St Mary's.

Ash Wednesday, the begining of Lent, is the day we remember 'dust you are and to dust you return' and we receive the call to 'turn from your sins and turn to Christ.'

The sign of the cross on our foreheads is the sign of our mortality, and our dependence on the cross of Christ for our redemption.

One of today's hymns, seemed particularly appropriate to the Lenten theme:

Saviour, breathe forgiveness o'er us;
All our weakness Thou dost know,
Thou didst tread this earth before us,
Thou didst feel its keenest woe;
Tempted, taunted, yet undaunted,
Through the desert thou didst go

Finally, here is Bishop Christopher with a Lenten message in which he introduces this year's Lent Appeal

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Sadiq in Bermondsey

Bermondsey's Salmon Youth Centre featured on BBC TV London news tonight, following the  visit today of London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, and Bermondsey MP (Neil Coyle), to the centre in Old Jamaica Road.

The Mayor was announcing a £45m fund to help young Londoners, especially with a view to growing rates of knife crime on the streets of the Capital.

The video from the Mayor's Office (below) showcases some of the wonderful activities for young people that take place at Salmon, and as well as the Mayor, we get to hear from Salmon's excellent director, Sam Adofo.

The Mayor's new fund is good news for young Londoners and of it helps support centres like Salmon it will be money well spent

Monday, 12 February 2018

Remembering Gary

I've been here long enough now to know that to say someone is a real Bermondsey person  is about the greatest compliment you can give - and I have been here long enough  now, to begin to appreciate what they meant, as they said so many times today about Gary, whose funeral took place in St James's Church, that he was a real Bermondsey man.

It meant that he loved his wife and his son, that he was loyal to his friends, that he loved to laugh, that he worked hard, that you could rely on him.

There was a full church today to say farewell to Gary, some wonderful tributes, many tears, much laughter, and the wonderful resurrection message of John 11, the subject of Stan's sermon: I am the resurrection and the life, says the Lord.

On the way to the crematorium the cortege drove past some of the places that meant a lot to Gary: the estate where he grew up, Millwall Football Club (with the staff standing in respect at the main entrance to the stadium), and the Salmon Youth Centre aka Cambridge Union Mission aka C.U.M.

Actually, C.U.M was a big part of Gary's story. He was a member for many years. He played football there. He met his beloved Joan there. And that great group of C.U.M. friends, who often came with him to Men's Breakfasts at St James, were the ones that gathered round him in his final illness.

Those weeks showed a lot of what true friendship is about. Like Gary, himself, those mates of his were the best of Bermondsey.

So thank God for Gary, thank God for family life and friendship, thank God for CUM & Salmon.

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Synod observer

The General Synod, the Church of England's 'parliament,' met at Westminster this week on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, for the first of its two meetings for the year.

Here's what happened: 

After opening worship and a debate on the report of the Business Committee (an opportunity for members to comment on the agenda), the Synod had a presentation and a debate on the working of the Crown Nominations Commission, the body that makes nominations for new (diocesan) bishops and archbishops to the Queen.

Next up was Question Time. There were 93 questions on the order paper ranging from human sexuality to safeguarding; from dementia to the deployment of clergy and the use of fixed odd bettings terminals in betting shops.

Evening Worship followed and after that it was time to go home, or attend a fringe meeting - I did the latter and went to the meeting of the Evangelical Group on Geberal Synod (EGGS) which traditionally meets on the first night of every group of sessions.

Sadly, I couldn't be present for the middle day of Synod but the day included a debate on the links that English dioceses have with various parts of the worldwide Anglican Communion, and a motion from the St Edmundsbury & Ipswich diocesan synod on food wastage.

After lunch the Archbishop of Canterbury gave a Presidential Address (right) which you can read here.

Various items of legislative business followed before the main item of the day which concerned the Church of England's relationship with the Methodist Church.

At present the Methodist Church does not have bishops in the way that the CofE does, and Methodist ministers are not ordained by bishops in the way that Anglican ministers are.

The paper that the Synod was discussing was produced by a group from both churches  proposed a way by which the Methodist Church could bring bishops into its system, and begin episcopal (ie by a bishop) ordination of its ministers.

From the Church Times: voting on 'Mission and Ministry in Covenant)
Not every one was happy with what was proposed and some quite serious reservations had been expressed before the meeting, but in the event, Synod voted by large majorities in all three houses (bishops, clergy, laity), to accept the report 'Mission and Ministry in Covenant' and to call for  work to continue.

After opening worship, the Synod turned its attention to the very serious matter of Safeguarding, and received a presentation on national developments in the area of safeguarding and of the national church's preparation for the independent enquiry into institutional child sexual abuse. We shall undoubtedly return to this matter.

Next up was a debate on religious communities, which recognised the contribution made by older religious communities, as well as the many kinds of new style communities that are springing up around the country. The motion called for a Canon ( a kind of church rule) to provide 'a framework for religious life in the Church of England.'

The aim was, I think ( I hope), not to bind religious communities up in red tape, but to give them some official recognition. Synod will return to this in due course.

Before lunch there was time for a presentation on Digital Evangelism by the CofE's splendid Head
of Digital Communications, Adrian Harris (right).

This turned out to be something of a synodical highlight. You can read his report here. It includes details of how their pre-Christmas publicity campaign on social media grew from an audience of 1.5 million in 2016 to 6.8 million in 2017.

Professional. Imaginative. Christ Centred. Excellent.

Here's one of the brilliant Faith Stories that the CofE Comms team are spreading via Facebook, Twitter etc:

Lunchtime is time for fringe meetings and I went to a meeting to hear three visiting Primates from the Anglican Communion (the archbishops of Pakistan, South Africa, & Melenasia) speak about their experiences.

It was fascinating - and sobering stuff - especially to hear of the immense suffering of the Church of Pakistan, currently said to be the most persecuted church in the world. Their love, faith, and humility in the face of immense trials was incredibly moving to behold.

After lunch, Synod turned its attention to 'Valuing People with Down's Syndrome' voting unanimously to pass a motion moved by the Bishop of Carlisle which affirmed the dignity and full humanity of people born with Down's Syndrome, called on parishes and dioceses to review the provisions they make for people with Down's Syndrome, and called on the Governmnt to ensure that 'parents who have been told that their unborn child has Down's syndrome will be given comprehensive unbiased information with regard to this condition'. It was a good debate but I just wished we had said a bit more.

You can see some special Downs thankyous here

'Prorogation' (home time) followed. The Synod meets again in July at the University of York.

Every five years the Synod is opened by the Queen

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Launching Alpha.....

The Alpha Course got off to a really great start at St James tonight.

35 people, all ages, races, backgrounds sat down to a slap up meal and the first instalment of Alpha, a practical introduction to a living Christian faith for today.

Today's session was a kind of taster, but pretty nearly every one signalled that they wanted to continue with the course on Wednesdays at 7pm at St James.

Next week we think about Who Jesus is, and the following week, we consider why he died.

It's not too late to join Alpha - just let the church office know you want to come either by email or by phoning 020 3643 2327.

Ken did a cracking job getting the room ready for the guests to arrive and here they are:

St James from the air

On a funeral visit last night I was given this photograph showing an aerial view of St James - we think from the 1970s. Since then the brickwork of the church has since been cleaned and all the houses surrounding the church have been demolished and replaced with new housing, but apart from a washand brush up, the church remains pretty much unchanged.

Saturday, 3 February 2018

Standing firm at the Men's Breakfast

Martin Davy (left) finishing off his breakfast before speaking at the men's breakfast at St James this morning.

Martin is curate of St Lawrence, Morden, and he came to share  the story of his faith with us.

He had grown up in a churchgoing family, but at university he stopped going to church. He still believed in God but thought little about his faith.

After Uni he went to work as a researcher in Parliament, working for a Sadiq Khan MP (now Mayor of London).

It was another parliamentary researcher, the lady who is now Martin's wife, who helped him to find a real, living, personal faith in Christ,  and in due course came the call to ordination, and Martin's present role as curate, or kind of trainee vicar, in Morden.

In his talk Martin was encouraging us to stand firm in our faith and not to compromise what we believe - a message that chimes in well with our current Sunday sermon series at St James & St Anne's from the book of Daniel. Great spiritual food to add to the usual full cooked breakfast.

Thursday, 1 February 2018

What politicians can teach the church

Bermondsey Deanery Synod, joining together the seven parishes of our deanery plus the two Scandinavian churches, met last night at St James and we discovered what politicians can teach the churches.

Simon Hughes is a new member of the deanery synod, representing St James, and he posed us a challenge.

We were discussing the subject of Mission Action Plans, thinking about how the churches of the deanery could reach out with the message of God's love to their communities.

 'Go out and knock on the doors' he challenged us. Let people know the church is there. Ask them for their views. Find out if you can be of an help to them. Leave them a bit of literature about the church's life.

That's what the political parties do all the time. His local party, for instance, aimed to visit every home in the constituency at least once a year. Why couldn't the churches aim to do the same?

That generated a lively discussion and actually got people fired up about a project the whole deanery could get involved in. Even if we can't visit every home, we could visit some and with the Thy Kingdom Come project coming soon, with its focus on praying for the nation,  perhaps we could link in with this - letting people know we are praying for them, and finding out their prayer needs.

It was a challenge. Now the big question - as always when the church talks about mission - is whether talk will lead to action.