Saturday, 30 June 2018

Speaking the words of God

Just ordained - Jacob Mercer our new curate after today's service in Southwark Cathedral:

We look forward to welcoming Jacob to both churches tomorrow.

As always, the words of the ordination service packed quite a punch.

'You sent your only Son Jesus Christ to take the form of a slave; he humbled himself for our sake and in obedience accepted death, even death on a cross' the Ordination Prayer stated, taking its cue from Philippians chapter 2.

That word 'slave' - rather than the usual, tamer, translation of 'servant' - struck home.

And then the link with Jacob and the other candidates: 'And now we give you thanks that you have called these your servants, whom we ordain in your name, to share as deacons in the ministry of the gospel of Christ, who came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.'

That's a high calling, or rather a properly lowly calling, patterned on Christ, and we pray for Jacob as he lives it out here.

Like all good workmen, he'll need the proper tools of his trade, and so at the end of the service, he was given a copy of the Scriptures with these words:

Receive this book, as a sign of the authority given to you this day to speak God's word to his people. Build them up in his truth, and serve them in his name.

Without the Bible Jacob has literally nothing to say, but when the message of the Bible is in his heart and on his lips, God will speak to us through him.

Now that really is a high calling - and privilege.

Friday, 29 June 2018

Proclaiming Jesus

To Westminster Central Hall for the launch of Tom Wright's biography of the Apostle Paul, a book I have just started reading.

Paul, the great enemy of Jesus became the greatest proclaimer of Jesus, and in the process got to write about half of the New Testament.

He was the greatest public intellectual of his day, according to his biographer, bishop, and bible scholar, Tom Wright.

Tonight the author introduced his book, and then Martin Bashir chaired a question and answer session, posing some of his own questions, together with a selection of those that had been submitted by the audience.

It was a great evening and it certainly whetted my appetite to get on with the book, by this great scholar who has spent a lifetime studying the writings of Paul, and who has now turned his attention to writing an account of the apostle's life.

Tom Wright's encyclopedic knowledge of Scripture and the world of the first century I am sure will combine to produce rich insights into the man who Jesus called on the road to Damascus to proclaim his name to the Gentiles.

Meanwhile at Wychcroft, the Diocesan retreat house,  our new curate, Jacob Mercer, has just completed his ordination retreat prior to his ordination tomorrow in Southwark Cathedral

Here, from the Diocesan twitter feed, are the eleven curates-to-be,  pictured with Bishop Christopher. May God bless them richly, tomorrow and throughout their ministries. (Jacob is on the far left in the picture).

Thursday, 28 June 2018

Best of times, worst of times

It's been the best of times and the worst of our times for our community here in Bermondsey.

From Southwark News
BBC Breakfast News was live today from Bermondsey's Kirby Estate ('Is this the most patriotic estate in Britain?' they asked).

It was nice to see some St James School children playing in the background, whilst the BCC interviewed the organisers of the magnificent display of flags that adorns the estate, and has attracted publicity round the world.

The organisers pointed out that the 260 England flags are joined by flags from Poland, Brazil, Morocco. 'Why is that?' asked the BBC. 'It's all about bringing the community together' they replied.

I love that vision, and I love the many community minded people and individuals in our community, the very best of Bermondsey

If occurrences like this - or our wonderful baptisms and confirmations on Sunday - are the best of times, then the current spate of knife crime represents the worst of times for us here in Bermondsey.

On Tuesday night it came very close to home with a knife attack on a young man in St James's Churchyard 

Let's pray for the police, let's pray for peace in our community, let's pray 'thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.'

Monday, 25 June 2018

Blessings all round

It was a bumper day for our churches yesterday with three special services.

Getting ready for the outdoor baptisms
First up, was our united baptism service at St James in the morning with five children baptised at the font, and three adults baptised by immersion in an inflatable  pool in the churchyard.

We had just got to that point in our sermon series from Romans where the Apostle Paul reveals the answer to our greatest question 'how can I be put right with God.'

It was great to hear his answer: 'God puts people right through their faith in Jesus Christ' and to hear each of our three adult candidates testify to their faith (below) before they were baptised.

So God bless all our candidates from the youngest, Josiah, (just two months old - he slept blissfully through the whole thing) - to the other children, Joshua, Leo, Ava, Sophia, to Gareth, Daniel, and Asha who were baptised outside.

Next up, it was to Southwark Cathedral at 3pm to see Adrian Greenwood installed as a Lay Canon, a very well deserved honour, marking his many years of service to the Diocese. not least as Lay Chair of the Diocesan Synod. Thank you. Adrian, for all you do and congratulations from all of us at St James & St Anne's.

Marian & Adrian after the service in the Cathedral

From the Cathedral, it was a short hop to St Mary Magdalen in Bermondsey Street for the Bermondsey Deanery Confirmation, presided over by Bishop Karowei, at which our three candidates, Gareth, Daniel, and Asha were confirmed.

It was a great conclusion to a truly blessed day. Thank you, Lord.

Here are some more pictures (thanks Pat):

Friday, 22 June 2018

Lord, have mercy

The attack happened just outside St James's School (Alexis St site) and for several days the area was cordoned  off by the police.

Now we have heard the sad news from the Evening Standard that Joshua Boadu has died after his family have been keeping an 11 day vigil.

Our hearts go out to his family as we remember them in prayer.

Earlier this week I spoke to the children about this at assembly, with the attack having been so near to the school.

Poignantly our theme, in our cycle of readings for assembly, was 'Love One Another' and in particular  Jesus's New Commandment to 'love one another as I love you'.

On this sad day for Bermondsey, and for Joshua's family in particular, let's pray for that Commandment to be heard and heeded on the streets of our City and for this appalling epidemic of knife crime to come to an end. Lord, have mercy.

Tributes to Joshua at the Blue. Photo from Southwark News

Monday, 18 June 2018

Getting ready for the baptisms

It will be a special day next Sunday when Gareth, Asha, and Daniel are baptised at St James in our morning service.

Later that day they will be confirmed by Bishop Karowei  at St Mary Magdalen Church in Bermondsey Street, alongside other candidates from the Bermondsey Deanery churches.

Yesterday we met for the final preparations for the big day, which will include the baptism of Asha's son, Daniel's twins, and two other children.

The youngsters will all be baptised at the font, but the 'grown ups' will be baptised by immersion in a pool in the Churchyard with the congregation gathering round to watch - and then we will all join in singing  'To God be the glory, great things he hath done' as we conclude our service.

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Living like a monk?

Good to see our very own Simon Lewis ('nattily dressed 38-year old dean') featuring in an Evening Standard Magazine article about the St Anselm's Community: 'These millennials have left behind their friends, families and jobs to live like a monk for a year.' You can read it here

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Come on England...

Lots of coverage in the Saturday papers of Bermondsey's Kirby Estate, where the residents are leaving no one in doubt who they will be supporting in the World Cup.

It's not the first time they have put on such a patriotic display, but this time it has gone viral on Twitter, and this great community effort has been picked up by the national press.

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Riches in Christ

To the Barbican Conference Centre in the City of London for the annual Evangelical Ministry Assembly (below) - my twenty-ninth year at the excellent EMA.

This year's conference theme was: 'The Unsearchable Riches: Preaching Christ from all Scripture.' 

As well as providing a great opportunity to meet up with old friends, the EMA is especially designed to build up and encourage ministers in the vital task of teaching and preaching God's word.

Highlights this year included Vaughan Roberts, from St Ebbe's, Oxford, in two sessions entitled 'From Study to Pulpit,' showing how he prepared messages from the Old Testament book, Habbakuk, and James Hamilton, from the southern USA, speaking on biblical theology - tracing the storyline of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation.

We also heard a fascinating talk on Charles Spurgeon, the great Victorian Baptist preacher at the Metropolitan Tabernacle at the Elephant, particularly focussing on his conversion as a 15 year old, driven to attend a small country Methodist chapel by a fierce snowstorm, that led to a life changing encounter with Jesus Christ.
The 'apostle to the grocers' at the Elephant & Castle

In time crowds flocked to the Elephant to hear Spurgeon, the prince of preachers.

Some high churchmen mockingly called him the 'apostle to the grocers' as they snobbishly  sneered at Spurgeon's congregation of tradespeople and ordinary working people - but Spurgeon with his powerful down to earth biblical messages could reach the very people the established church struggled to reach.

When he died, thousands lined the street, and on his coffin was a Bible opened at the verse from Isaiah that had changed the course of Spurgeon's life when he had heard it expounded in that country chapel by an unlearned preacher who was filling in for the minister who was stuck in the same snowstorm that, in the providence of God, had led the young Charles himself to be there.

The Barbican Centre

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

The descent of the dragon

The golden dragon weathervane of St James is safely on its way to be repaired. It will be displayed at ground level for the public to view when it returns regilded (watch this space for details).

Thanks to Sandra Price for these photos of the descent and departure of the dragon:

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

A prayer for Bermondsey

 After last night's knife attack, a prayer for the young people of Bermondsey; 'Lord, keep our young people, precious in your sight and made in your image, safe.'

Monday, 11 June 2018

Remembering Les

See Southwark News report for today's service at St James, led by Paul, 'a send off for Fisher legend and biggest fan', Les Rowe here

Saturday, 9 June 2018

Following Jesus all the way to Bermondsey

It was his second Bermondsey engagement in under a week when Jay Colwill (left) came to speak at today's men's breakfast at St James. 

Earlier in the week, Jay, who is the new Director of Mission and Evangelism for our diocese, living (as it happens) in Bermondsey, spoke to the Bermondsey Deanery Synod at St Katharine's Church, Eugenia Rd,  Bermondsey.

He told us a bit about the story of his life  and about his work for the Diocese, as well as encouraging the parishes of the deanery to get stuck in to the work of the deanery, all done with great passion and an infectious enthusiasm that had us raring to go.

Earlier in the week: at the deanery synod
Today at the Men's Breakfast Jay told us a bit more about the story of his faith.

He told us what happened when as a new Christian, and a 15 year old boy in a toughish school, a teacher asked all those boys who were Christians to put their hands up. No one did, until Jay realise he had to. So he did. (And the teacher kind of mocked him but he did it anyway).

Next he signed up with the Mission to Seamen, expecting an exotic far east posting, but God sent him to work among the dockers and seamen of Southampton,  and then one day said to Jay: 'I want you to be a priest.'

A fruitful ministry in several parishes followed, and then came the posting to Southwark.

To the men at the breakfast Jay encouraged everyone to take one step further in their journey with Jesus or to Jesus, wherever they presently were.

Here comes the bride

The church was ready:

The bridegroom was ready:

There was a great welcome message for the guests:

And then she arrived - and she looked wonderful. And then Anthony and Louise made their marriage vows to each other, and we heard from Genesis chapter 2 of marriage, God's made to measure relationship for the people he has made: 'A man shall leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and they will become one flesh' and they were pronounced man and wife and we prayed for God's blessing on them, today and always:

God bless you both

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

The (non) flight of the dragon

Lifting the dragon from its perch
They came today to take away St James's golden dragon weathervane  for repair and regilding as part of the £350k works on the church tower, currently taking place.

The dragon was successfully removed from its perch, but seemed curiously resistant to come down to ground level.

The height of the tower, the weight of the dragon, and the configuration of the scaffolding temporarilly defeated our gallant band of workers.

So the dragon remains on the top of its tower and the workmen must return with some new equipment, to safely lower the dragon to the ground.

Then the restoration work can begin, and when it is finished, the newly gilded weatherwave will be
displayed at ground level for a few days for the public to view - before its returns to its regular roost, high above Bermondsey.

Right: the church tower encased in scaffolding, pending stonework repairs, about to start.

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Road safety

I don't think you could accuse them of being over hasty, it's probably taken the best part of two years, but today the new one-way system around Thurland Rd and Old Jamaica Rd came into operation.

There will be teething problems, and no one actually welcomes new traffic restrictions, but the reason for this one is a good one.

It all began when a child from St James's school was hit by a car on their way home from school. Then school governors, councillors, and the traffic planners at Southwark put their heads together. Traffic flows and speeds were measured, Residents were consulted about various options - and today it came into operation.

It makes it a lot safer for children and others to cross the junction with Thurland Rd and Spa Rd, and one-way traffic on Thurland Rd, means that vehicles no longer need to drive on the footway to pass other vehicles, making it much safer for pedestrians, and especially the children and parents.

So, thank you, Southwark Council for making the area just a little bit safer for our children.

Obeying the Lord

Church assembly at St James's School today and we were thinking about the call of Levi, with the aid of Caravaggio's famous painting.

It was part of a series on 'obeying God' and we noticed how Levi was called by Jesus to follow him, how he obeyed and how he began a new life, following Jesus, and keeping his commands.

As part of this assembly we learnt the verse John 14.15: 'If you love me, you will obey my commands.' The children came up with some great examples of things Jesus had commanded.

I was momentarilly thrown by the lad who in responses to the question 'what did Jesus tell us to do?' said 'go fishing' - but he was spot on when he went on to say that Jesus told the fishermen to stop trying to catch fish, but now to catch men.

Here are two of the visuals we used today from Caravaggio's 'The Calling of Levi' - Jesus calling Levi, among the other tax collectors seated around the table (above) and Levi's astonished response that Jesus should actually calling him to be a follower.

Finally, at Key Stage One, the children were learning a very catchy and very appropriate new song, all about obeying.

Here are some other children dancing along to it.

Perhaps, the next thing at St James is for us to learn these actions.