Thursday, 28 February 2019


The school office gets a phone call around lunchtime: tomorrow Ofsted are coming fior an inspection.

That's what happened to St James School recently and today a letter went out to parents with the result of the inspection, together with a letter from, as Chair of Governors, in which I said:

Dear Parents and Carers,

You will be aware that St James’s School recently had its OfSted inspection. I am enclosing with this letter the report from the Ofsted inspection which has just been published.

We are delighted that the inspection recognises that St James continues to be a good school. This is an outcome that recognises the hard work and dedication of our leadership team and all our staff and we congratulate them on this achievement.

The Governors and leadership team will now pay particular attention to the next steps set out in the report and we will continue to work to give our children at St James’s School the best possible educational experience during these formative years of their lives.

 You can read the OfSted report on St James here

Monday, 25 February 2019

When Churchill came to Church House

This is Church House, London HQ of the Church of England, tucked away behind Westminster Abbey.

It is here that the General Synod meets in the specially designed circular assembly hall:

What is less well known is that following the destruction of the House of Commons chamber in 1940 by enemy action, the Commons met during the years 1940, 1941, and 1944, in Church House in the rather lovely oak panelled Hoare Memorial Hall, which during meetings of General Synod, serves as the members tea room:

It is amazing to think that in this room where we meet for a chat and a coffee during synod, some of the most famous parliamentary speeches ever made were delivered to a parliament meeting during the nation's darkest hour.

 The Hoare Memorial Hall in use by the House of Commons:

The Hall today:

Sunday, 24 February 2019


Congratulations to Pandora, baptised this morning at St James by Jacob: 'There is one Lord, one faith and one baptism. By one Spirit we are all baptised into one body. We welcome you into the fellowship of faith; we are children of the same heavenly father; we welcome you'

Saturday, 23 February 2019

Synod Observer (2)

The Church of England's General Synod has just completed its four day meeting in Westminster (left).

This group of sessions has included debates on the Church Representation Rules, Parochial Fees (eg weddings, funerals etc - almost abolished in a daring synodical rebellion), homelessness, climate change, evangelism and discipleship, growing faith among children and young people, estates evangelism, the Gypsy, Roma and traveller communities, youth evangelism, advertising and gambling, and the State of the Nation.

A particular highlight was the debate on Estates Evangelism, which began with a passionate address by Bishop Philip North (right) in which (in a synodical first) he began by calling on us NOT to vote for the motion in his name - unless that is, we really believed it and meant to do something about it.

Estates - social housing estates or council estates - were the focus of this debate with a motion that set the goal of having a 'serving, loving and worshipping Christian community on every significant social housing estate in the country.'

Key issues were giving a voice to estates people, funding (a big one), and creating pathways into ordained ministry and forms of training that were customised for estates people (another big challenge).

It was great stuff (though, frustratingly, I wasn't called to speak). Now we just need to pray for action.

Synod members holding the 'Family Prayer Adventure Maps' to be distributed to school children as part of this year's Thy Kingdom Come

This was a very outward-looking synod with its great focus on evangelism. There were lots of moving stories of lives being changed by the Gospel and of all kinds of signs of new spiritual life springing up all over the country, so much to give thanks for.

The next meeting of the General Synod will be at the University of York in July.

Friday, 22 February 2019

Remembering Beattie

She was born in 1924 and she lived to the age of 94, still living independantly in the same flat she moved into when her council block was built in 1961.

She was Bermondsey born and bred. She was a widow for 53 years.

In the Second World War she narrowly escaped being killed by a doodlebug at the Blue. She was a mother, a grandmother, and a great grandmother and she was a Christian through and through.

In 2008 she was awarded the Liberty of the Old Metropolitan Borough of Bermondsey by the Mayor of Southwark in recognition of her service to the community, not least through CUM (now the Salmon Youth Centre) and St James's School (where for many years she heard children read).

Today her funeral took place in St James, the church she had attended for more than fifty years, being one of the group from CUM who came to re-open St James for worship in 1967.

We sang her favourite hymns (the King of Love my shepherd is; Amazing Grace; Abide with me) - all chosen by her, as was the bible reading (John 14.1-6) - we had some wonderful tributes and we gave thanks to God for a life lived to the full in the service of the Gospel - it was only a year ago that she finally 'retired' as a helper at St James parent and toddler group, Little Angels, alongside her great friend, Pat, who did today's bible reading.

In her Bible, was the prayer she said every night before she went to sleep.

It went like this: 'Goodnight Lord Jesus. I love you. I'll see you in the morning either here or in heaven.'

Now she is with him. Forever.

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Synod observer

The Church of England's General Synod, its national assembly of bishops, clergy and laity, met today in Westminster for its -four-day February meeting.

After opening worship, introduction and welcomes to new members and guests, we had a debate on the report of the business committee (essentially a discussion of what is on the agenda and why) and a debate on the dates for synod in 2021-20-23.

That sounds a little bit inward looking, but it was really about synod scheduling its meetings to maximise the number and types of lay people that can attend and take part.

And this is set to be one of the most outward looking synods ever with no less than five items on evangelism scheduled for over the four days.

The first, took the form of two perspectives on evangelism and discipleship from the wider Anglican Communion, given by a bishop from the Church of North India (right) and the Church of Kenya (above).

These were moving and powerful addresses. We heard of a church in India valiantly proclaiming the Gospel of Christ in the face of sometimes severe persecution and opposition.

Our hearts were warmed by the dynamic missionary spirit of the Kenyan church which seems to be firing on all cylinders for the gospel.

And tellingly both men spoke of how English missionaries had first brought the Gospel to their lands and the sense of a real debt of gratitude that they had to these nineteenth century Anglican pioneers.

The challenge to us was clear: to take the Gospel to our own nation and work for the re-conversion of England.

And that will be the theme of much of the rest of this group of sessions of General Synod.

It was also taken up by the Archbishop of Canterbury  in his Presidential Address (read it here ). Having got us to share with our neighbours the story of our faith in one minute  - a first for a Presidential Address at synod - he concluded on this stirring note:

"We are not, in this Church, optimists or pessimists. We are those who hope because we are all followers of the risen Christ, sinners yet justified, failures, cracked pots of clay, yet with the only treasure that is the only final answer to the bleakness of a world that too often finds its despair in seeking its own answers without Christ, and needs the light and hope of the Gospel that is in our hands to proclaim. Amen"

Friday, 15 February 2019

Moses: Early Years

Jacob was the speaker in the second instalment of our new Wednesday evening course: Moses: This is Your Life.

We looked at the events of Moses's early life, how he was found in a basket in the river by the king's daughter, and how he was adopted into the king's family, growing up as a prince of Egypt.

Then there was the moment when he killed the Egyptian who had killed a fellow Israelite, followed by a flight into exile, marriage, and the birth of his son.

Many years were to elapse before Moses would return to Egypt. In the meantime the Israelites continued to groan under the yoke of slavery. The cry went up to the Lord and he 'remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.'

Soon he would act and Moses would have a pivotal place in God's plans - but that takes us to after half term when our course resumes.

Monday, 11 February 2019

St Anselm's at St James

Pictured about: the members of St Anselm's Community at Lambeth Palace with Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury.  Community members have been spending some time with the archbishop hearing about the joys and challenges for the worldwide church and praying for God's work in the church and the world.

Our very own Simon Lewis (back row, far right), honorary curate of St James and St Anne, is Dean of the Community which draws together young people from all over the world for 'a transformative year of shared life, prayer, study and service.'

As well as organising another deanery outing to Lambeth Palace, scheduled for July, Simon will be bringing some members of the Community to St James on Sunday 3rd March to tell us more about the life and work of this new Christian community, based at the London home of the archbishop.

Saturday, 9 February 2019

Men's breakfast

Will Cookson (left) was the speaker at today's Men's Breakfast at St James.

Will is the Dean of Fresh Expressions in the Diocese of Southwark. This means he has the task of encouraging new forms of church life throughout the Diocese.

Today Will was speaking to us about his own story of faith. It was as a teenager, from a non-churchgoing home, that Will began to be aware of God drawing close to him.

He started praying, and reading the Bible, and reading Christian books from the public library. And he phoned the local vicar and asked if he could be confirmed.

People often come to faith through a friend  but that's not how it was for Will. It seemed God contacted him direct.

In time he met up with a Christian group at university and his faith grew through this. Later he worked in the world of business before sensing the call to ordination.

A key thought here was: if I am sharing the Gospel with someone I am involved in a work, the results of which will last for eternity.

Friday, 8 February 2019

Thanksgiving service

To mark the completion of the restoration work on St James's Church we are holding a Service of Thanksgiving at 10.30am on Sunday 17th March, at which the Archdeacon of Southwark, Jane Steen, will be our guest preacher.

Stonework repairs on the bell tower and portico, and the restoration of the clockfaces and dragon weathervane, together with earlier repairs of the church roof means that the external fabric of the building is now in good shape.

The church is not the building, but the people, but it is nonetheless a cause of thanksgiving that this work on our beautiful heritage building at the heart of Bermondsey has been completed.

Please note the date and aim to join us on March 17th.

Thursday, 7 February 2019

Pharaoh, watch out!

Our new Wednesday evening course, Moses: This Is Your Life,  for St James and St Anne's got off to a great start last night.

We started with a delicious chicken curry cooked by Jacob, and then we got stuck into the first episode in the story of Moses from Exodus chapter one, looking at how a place of refuge became a prison, how a midwife became a secret agent, and how death came to the Nile.

The people of Israel were flourishing in the land of Egypt, but the were doing just a bit too well, and they were starting to alarm the king who was becoming fearful of their numbers, their power and influence.

He sets out on a horrible genocidal plan to kill all the new born Hebrews boys. He is initially outsmarted by two  wily and God-fearing midwives, but that only leads him to step up the pressure all the more.

Tables laid, ready for everyone to arrive

What the Hebrews are going to need is a saviour - and that's where this story is going...

Last night in our discussion groups we asked people this question at the end: 'If you could say something to the King of Egypt, what would you say?'

There were some great answers: 'let my people go;' 'never underestimate a woman' (a reference to the heroic midwives);' 'watch out;' 'don't mess with God;' and, my favourite: 'you'll be sorry.'

The good news man

Saddened today to hear of the death of Michael Green, a great man of the Gospel.

I only heard him speak on a couple of occasions but I have gained so much from his books, particularly as a young Christian.

He was a great,wise, and warm hearted evangelist, who loved nothing more than to share the good news about Jesus - something he was still doing as a hospital patient in the last days of his life. (According to Twitter he wrote from hospital saying: 'I want you all to know that I am full of inner joy and have lots of  opportunities to share the gospel')

He could write weighty, books of  theology. I particularly remember his book, I Believe in the Holy Spirit, and his 570 page blockbuster, Evangelism through the Local Church.

But he also had the knack of communicating the Gospel clearly, simply, and humourously to those outside the faith. One of his best books in this area was 'You Must Be Joking', subtitled 'Popular excuses for avoiding Jesus Christ' in which he answered the common objections to Christianity that had been posted to him by the 'jokers' he had met during his long ministry.

It was a model of how to communicate Christian truth.

So, thank you Michael, and thank you God for your wonderful servant who proclaimed with boldness and love 'the unsearchable riches of Christ.'

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Good news for the poor?

To St Laurence, Catford for the annual Woolwich Area (our third of the Diocese) clergy study day. This year's theme was 'Mission to the Poor.'

In the morning we had talks by Dr William Atkinson, an Elim Pentecostal theologian, and Liz Adekunle, the Archdeacon of Hackney, both encouraging us to engage with the Bible's teaching on mission and ministry to the poor.

Before lunch and mid-day prayer we had the chance to hear from two agencies, Mercy Ships and Peckham-based Pecan, engaged in sharing God's love in practical ways with those in need.

After lunch there was the chance to hear from the Diocesan Vocations Team speak about their work in encouraging vocations to lay and ordained ministry. It was good to hear of a big increase in those coming forward for ordination, particularly younger people.

Great strides forward are being made in encouraging a greater diversity in terms of race and gender of those offering for ordination but one senses that class is a harder nut to crack.  How many people from working class backgrounds are offering for ordination?

In the Q&A time one questionner recalled the Ordained Local Ministry scheme (now abolished) which sought to foster vocations among those from non-traditional backgrounds.

It was suggested in reply that the OLM scheme was abolished because it made people feel they were second class citizens.

Actually, your blogger believes it was the abolition of the scheme that made a whole group of  people feel they were second class citizens - but don't get me started on that one.

Monday, 4 February 2019

Bringing back the joy

The Bermondsey Joyslide (above) is much missed by the generations of Bermondsey children who, from 1921 until the 1980s, loved to play on it.

But, plans are afoot for a new Joyslide for St James's Churchyard and architect Fergus Carr (right), great great grandson of the original donor of the slide (Arthur Carr, chairman of Peek Freans Biscuit Factory), is greatly assisting in this project with all his skill and ingenuity, and we have just heard of a further grant of £4,000 from Southwark Council's Cleaner Greener Safer project towards the project.

So a big thank you to Councillors Anood, Hamish, and Eliza, to Fergus, and the Friends of St James's Churchyard who are sponsoring the project - and look out for Bermondsey's new joyslide for the 21st century.

Arthur Carr at the opening of the first joyslide