Monday, 29 October 2018

The Rylands Fragment

A half term trip to Manchester provided the opportunity to view again one of the treasures of that city's John Rylands Library.

Measuring just 9&6cm, this small piece of papyrus (left), dates from between 150 and 200AD and is believed to be the oldest surviving fragment of the New Testament anywhere in the world.

It contains seven lines from John 18.

It's a reminder to us that God's word has been handed down to us through numerous manuscripts that have been patiently copied and passed on for future generations of readers of the Word. From these manuscripts we have our modern English translations of the Bible.

The fragment on display in the John Rylands Library

Friday, 26 October 2018

Through the roof

An extract from last Sunday's sermon from Luke 5.17-26 about the paralysed man who was lowered throught the roof :

'You can imagine the scene.

You can imagine the crowd waiting to hear with baited breath what Jesus would do or say.

I don’t think anyone would have predicted Jesus’s response (VERSE 20): When Jesus saw how much faith they had, he said to the man, “Your sins are forgiven, my friend.”

Isn’t Jesus missing the point? (What about the paralysis?)

Like a good doctor treating a patient he went to the very heart of the problem – to the most serious aspect of their disease – and treated it first.

The skill of the doctor dealing with an accident victim is to deal quickly and effectively with the life threatening conditions first. Other things have to wait till later

This explains the startling response of Jesus to the paralysed man. Jesus said to the man “Your sins are forgiven, my friend.”

Not because the man’s disease was caused by his sin – Jesus scotches that idea elsewhere in the Bible

But because, like an A&E doctor dealing with a road crash victim, he deals with the life threatening, life destroying problem, at the heart of this man’s life first: sin

Paralysis is a horrible condition but sin is worse – it cuts you off from God and separates you from him for eternity

If we had been there we would have seen a sick man; Jesus saw a sinful man, and he knew that that man’s greatness need, as it is mine and as it yours, is forgiveness

Jesus strategy was clear. Deal with sin and then deal with the physical condition after

However, the religious teachers were scandalised by Jesus’s claim to be able to forgive sins.  They said “Who is this man who speaks such blasphemy! God is the only one who can forgive sins!”

They were completely right and they were completely wrong. They were completely right to say only God can forgive sins. If I said to you ‘you’re sins are forgiven’ it would mean nothing. If God says to you ‘your sins are forgiven’ they really are forgiven.

They were completely right to say only God can forgive sins, but they were completely wrong to say Jesus was committing blasphemy in saying it. Why? Because what their blind eyes could not see, was that Jesus, standing there in front of them, was God incarnate, God in the flesh, the Living God, standing there in their presence with the power to forgive sins.  

So to prove that he has authority to forgive sins, Jesus performs a miracle you can see to prove that he has the authority to perform a miracle you can’t see: forgiveness: 24 I will prove to you, then, that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “I tell you, get up, pick up your bed, and go home

And Luke tells us what happened next: 25 At once the man got up in front of them all, took the bed he had been lying on, and went home, praising God. 26 They were all completely amazed! Full of fear, they praised God, saying, “What marvellous things we have seen today!

What marvellous things they had seen. A paralysed man get up and walk home. A sinful man, cleansed and forgiven, by the Son of God.

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Remember, remember

Sunday 11th November marks the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, which ended at the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month in 1918.

St James and St Anne's, like many churches, will have special Remembrance Sunday services this year to commemorate this important milestone (10.30am at St James; 10am at St Anne's).

On the day we we will be giving away copies of HopeUK's booklet, Silence, which you can hear about in the video below, together with their project of 100 days of prayer for peace, leading up to 11/11/18:

Sunday, 21 October 2018

Oi, you....

'What does 'Lo' mean?' asked a member of the congregation after church today, pointing at the famous  inscription  under St James's picture, The Ascension of our Saviour.

A quick reference to the Greek of the New Testament, made possible by a passing curate with a smartphone, shows that the King James translators (the inscription under the painting is from Matthew 28.20 in the King James Version) used the English word 'lo' to translate the Greek word 'idou.'

Idou literally means 'look' or 'behold' and it has the sense of: pay attention/sit up and listen/ open your ears and get ready for something really important.

After church we were thinking of a modern equivalent for 'lo' which is not exactly a word you hear bandied around on the streets of Bermondsey.

After a bit of deliberation we decided on 'Oi you lot.'

The really crucial thing of course is the message itself. It was given at the point of the Ascension when Jesus said to the disciples; “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

It set out the mission they were to be engaged in, and it assured them of his continuous blessing as they went out to make disciples.

As we follow in their footseteps, seeking to make disciples of all peoples, we can be confident that Jesus will be with us always, too, and that's the really important thing, the thing to sit up, and take notice as the Lord says to us: idou/lo/look/behold/oi you.

PS The link with the King James version also explains the missing 's' on 'alway.' That is simply how that word was spelt in 1611.

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

A message for Bermondsey

Our repair and restoration project on St James's belltower has allowed us, with the help of a Woolwich Area mission grant (thankyou Bishop Karowei and Archdeacon Jane), to replace the rather faded scriptural panels on the front of the church, with some brand spanking new ones, specially designed to blend in with our Grade 2* heritage building.

Above is the first panel being lifted into place, and here is panel 2 being manoeuvered into position:

And here is panel one being fixed in place by the builders:

To get the full effect we await the removal of all the scaffolding, but here is the finished work on the north side. Soon passersby will be able to see both panels.

The first proclaims who Jesus is (I am the way the truth and the life). The second, extends his invitation to the people of Bermondsey to put their trust in him and find the rest that he alone can give (Come to me and I will give you rest).

Out thanks to the funders from the Woolwich Episcopal Area and St James PCC, and to our architects who have skillfully piloted the scheme through to completion.

Saturday, 13 October 2018

Men's breakfast, an AGM & a wedding, too

Our new curate, Jacob Mercer, was the speaker at today's Men's Breakfast at St James.

He told us a bit of the story of his life. How a series of events, starting with first his mum then his dad becoming Christians when he was a child, led eventually to his present role of curate (a.ka. vicar in training).

At University he learnt a lot about English Literature (his subject), but he learnt a lot more about following Christ and being a disciple, and, looking back, that was the best bit about being at Uni.

Meanwhile, this afternooon, it was the last of this year's weddings at St James. 

Our love and prayers to Yannick and Toni-Louise as they begin married life together:

After that it was time for the Annual Meeting of the Salmon Youth Centre, said to be the largest Christian youth centre in the country, founded here in Bermondsey in 1907 as the Cambridge Medical Mission Settlement (later Cambridge University Mission).

The meeting was led by Adrian Greenwood (left), the Chair of the Salmon trustees.

During the meeting we heard on video from the elderly daughter of Rev 'Pa Salmon' the orginal founder of the mission.

Walking back from leading a Bible Study in north London to his home in Streatham, 'Pa' walked through Bermondsey and was shocked by the poverty of what was then reckoned to be the most deprived community in London.

He resolved to do something about it with the aid of Christian students from Cambridge, and the rest, as they say, is history.

110 years later the Youth Centre, now bearing the name of its founder, is still going strong, serving the youth people of Bermondsey in the name of Christ.

The Bishop of Woolwich, Bishop Karowei,  leads the Thanksgiving and Commissioning Service which concluded the meeting

Friday, 12 October 2018

Farewell to Cherry Garden

For many years Cherry Garden School, the special school on Southwark Park Road, have come to St Anne's for their Harvest Festival service, but now the School is set to move to brand new, custom built, premises in Peckham.

Yesterday they tweeted: 'It was the end of an era today; our final Harvest Festival in Bermondsey at St Anne's. Thank you for your hospitality over the years, the children really enjoyed their performance' and I tweeted back: 'We have loved having you come to St Anne's and wish you well as you move to your new school building.'

We shall miss them as part of the community in Bermondsey but we are thrilled that they are going to have a brand new building, more suited to the wonderful work they do.

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

How God speaks today

Today we had the last of the fifteen classes from St James's School and Riverside School who have joined us for this year's Schools Week at St James.

Pictured (above) is the last class, 3 Denmark from St James, with some of our intrepid team of helpers who have assisted us.

Each class has visited three 'stations' looking at three ways God speaks to us (through the Bible, Baptism, and Holy Communion). Each of our speakers have given their talks a total of 45 times, so they are pretty much ingrained on on our memories.

At each station the children made a craft activity to take home (above) and learnt about such things as the baptismal font, given by a local surgeon in the 1840s, and the Baptism Register in which all baptisms that take place in St James are recorded.

They have viewed a selection of old Bibles and modern Bibles, and seen the Scriptures in their original Hebrew and Greek languages:

And they have discovered how and why we celebrate Holy Communion:

A big thank you to everyone who has taken part to make Schools Week 2018 such a great success.

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Persuasion at All Souls

To All Souls, Langham Place (left), in Central London for the Annual Evangelism Conference.

This year's theme was 'Persuasive Evangelism' and the main speaker was All Souls evangelist, Rico Tice.

I think we all agreed that this was the best year ever for a conference that is always stimulating, uplifting and encouraging.

The clarity and power of Rico Tice's teaching on evangelism, was supplemented by a series of contributions from other people involved in a variety of evangelistic projects, which really helped to 'earth' the teaching we were receiving from the front.

It was the kind of conference that made you want to get out there and share the good news. Excellent.

Monday, 8 October 2018

A great big thank you


St James's School came to the church this morning for their School Harvest service, bringing gifts for the work of the Manna Centre at London Bridge in their work among homeless people

Here is Penny giving her talk which began with her showing the children her favourite breakfast items, and then speaking on the parables of the growing seed and the mustard seed from Mark 4.

The school were in good voice singing Autumn Days with its chorus, 'I mustn't forget to say a great big thankyou,' and I love the Sun, a favourite with key stage 1 children (I love the sun, it shines on me, God made the Sun and God made me').

We ended with a rousing chorus of a school favourite, I've seen the Golden Shine, I have Watched the Flowers Grow, with its refrain 'they were all put there for us to share by someone so divine, and if you're a friend of Jesus, you're a friend of mine.'

It's good to give thanks.

Pictured right: two Key Stage 2 children reading the Bible Reading

Saturday, 6 October 2018

A Bermondsey day

It's been a busy day for our churches today.

First up, was our Heritage Access Morning at St James. With the repairs on the belltower, and associated restoration of the Clock and dragon weathervane, we had an open morning, as part of the conditions for the grants we have received for this project, to display the work to the public.

Four new displays have been produced by our architects, two of which are shown here. They tell the story of the original state of the stonework, the clock, and the weathervane, and then they show the work that has been done and how it has been done.

We are very grateful for funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Heritage of London Trust, and St James's PCC for this restoration work on St James's building. 

Members of the public were also able to view parts of the church not normally open to the public including the crypt, the ringing chamber and the paupers' galleries.

The latter are high up, just below the ceiling of the aisles, long since disused but orginally designed to accommodate the poor of Bermondsey in the days when you had to pay for a seat downstairs.

Thankfully, all seats in the church have long been free to everyone.

After that it was time to get ready for the wedding of Abbie and Kevin who were married at 2.30pm.

Every blessing to them as they begin married life together.

With Harvest just round the corner - Harvest Thanksgiving is at St Anne's tomorrow and at St James next Sunday - both churches met this evening at St Anne's Hall for a bring and share Harvest Supper.

We enjoyed some great food, prayed together, sang 'All good gifts around us' and watched this telling video about the challenges of life Malawi and the wonderful work of TearFund in sharing God's love in action in partnership with local churches in Malawi. You can contribute to their work here

Thursday, 4 October 2018

St James's at Borough Market

Schools across the country have been taking part in a project to grow their own vegetables and sell them in local markets.

Today the children of St James's School were at Borough Market selling their produce, grown in best Bermondsey soil, and, while they were there, the Mayor of Southwark popped in to see what they were up to.

Well done everyone.

Message on a bottle

Week Two of our Discipleship Explored course at St James and there was a gift for course members from a fellow course member, who had produced these specially Discipleship-Explored-themes bottle of water, to provide liquid refreshment for participants, alongside spiritual refreshment from Paul's Letter to the Phlippians.

Following a great meal, and an inspiring video, we got down to looking at the next section of Paul's letter, the letter from prison that is full of joy, with a special focus last night on chapter 1 verse 21: 'For me, to live is Christ, to die is gain.'

Another great evening of DE. The course continues next Wednesday at 7pm.

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Heritage Access Day

Our next Heritage Access Day at St James takes place on Saturday from 11am to 1pm.

One of the conditions of the grants we have been given towards the restoration of the church tower is that members of the public are enabled to view the heritage aspects of the building.

This Saturday will be opening parts of the building not normally open to the public, including the galleries, the paupers' galleries, the ringing chamber, the organ loft and the crypt.

Everyone is welcome to come and view these hidden parts of Bermondsey's most prominent public building.

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

The one who said thank you

Jacob took his first assembly at St James's School today.

He focussed on getting ready for harvest, and the story of the ten lepers, all of whom were healed, but only one of whom returned to Jesus to say thank you.

It was a good reminder of the importance of thankfulness as we get ready for the school harvest service in church on Monday at 9.30am.

Monday, 1 October 2018

The lad from the workhouse

Stan Hardy was born in Camberwell in 1920. He spent the three years of his life in a workhouse; the next seven shuttling between children's home and hospitals.

He served in the Second World War, married his beloved wife Maud and then together for over 40 years they were leading Liberal campaigners and activists in South London, and great supporters of Simon Hughes, the MP for Bermondsey.

Today at St James we had a brief memorial service for Stan and Maud together on the 70th anniversary of their wedding, prior to their ashes being laid to rest in the Albin's Garden of Remembrance at Rotherhithe,

It was good to hear this record of devoted community service, inspired by a firm Christian Faith.

Speaking on John 14.1-6: I said such is the grace of God, that a boy from the workhouse can end up in the Father's House.