Saturday, 27 June 2020

Tuesday, 23 June 2020

EMA 2020

So much has had to go online as a result of the Cornavirus, including the annual Evangelical Ministry Assemly which we attend each year in London, and which began today:

You can watch today's instalment of the conference here

Bermondsey Daily Message 79

Saturday, 20 June 2020

Church open

After thirteen weeks of Coronavirus closure, St James & St Anne's re-opened today for private prayer, in accordance with Government guidelines.

St James will be open on Saturdays and Wednesday from 11am to 1pm, and St Anne's can be accessed at any time by obtaining the key from Captian Paul Warren.

A big thank you to everyone who was worked hard to get the buildings ready again for public use.

Churches re-open

Thursday, 18 June 2020

Into the Lion's Den

With professional football starting back, Jacob takes a trip to the home of Millwall FC:

Sunday, 14 June 2020

Remembering Grenfell

This evening our bell-ringers tolled the muffled tenor bell of St James 72 times, in memory of the 72 lives lost at Grenfell exactly three years ago, as part of a London-wide commemoration. You can view an excerpt above. Thank you Dockland Ringers.

Back in 2017 I wrote on this blog about my own experience of living in a high rise block in Battersea in the mid sixties:

"This is Selworthy House in Battersea where my family lived on the nineteenth floor for three years in the 1960s.

As a former tenant of a council tower block my thoughts and prayers have particularly been with the residents of Grenfell Tower over the past few days.

My younger brother and I rather enjoyed living in Selworthy. The views were terrific and each day we raced each other the 38 flights of stairs to the ground floor on our way to school, timing ourselves by the factory clock opposite. (There was a lift - but we were young and liked the run down the stairs).

Years later, for a theological college project, I interviewed my Dad about our time at Selworthy.

He said two things that have stuck in my mind.

First he said, 'it was like we were just a number, not a family.' Secondly he said, 'I always worried about how we would get out if there was a fire.'

To be honest  I have come to loathe tower blocks with a passion. Even if you get the fire safety and maintenance right (and we have seen that even that is a big if), high rise living is disastrous for family life. It doesn't work for kids and it doesn't work for parents - who like to supervise their children when they play out.

Years later I was a vicar on a council estate where they got it right: houses in streets, with gardens. The tenants loved it and community life flourished.

That estate, St Helier, was built in the 1930s. Selworthy was built in the 1960s; it was not a step forward. The small terraced houses that were demolished to make way for Selworthy could have been replaced with something similar, or just repaired. If the local people had been asked, that is what they would have said, but no one asked them.

By all means let's make our tower blocks safer, but let's also accept that sometime in the 1960s we took a wrong turning. The St Helier estate of the 1930s shows a better way forward:"

Today's service

Today's Sunday service will premiere here at 10.30am

Friday, 12 June 2020


Statues are in the news

Apart from this statue (above), I regard all other statues to be of morally flawed individuals. In fact every single one of the statues in this great city of ours is of a sinner.

If we want to rid our streets of sinners we could get rid of all of them, but, when I see a statue, here's what goes through my mind: somebody thought there was something memorable or worthy about this person to celebrate. What was it? Do I agree? 

Even if I do, I know that the individual will (like myself) be a deeply flawed individual, capable of that peculiarly human mixture of being able to do very good and very bad things.

Let's celebrate the good, and reject the bad. Let's allow our monuments to stand but let's critically evaluate our history and ourselves.

Only of Jesus was it said that he was 'without sin' (Hebrews 4.15). And his challenge, surely relevant in the present climate was, 'let him who is without sin, cast the first stone.'

Bermondsey Daily Message 71

Tuesday, 9 June 2020

All change!

The Whitsunday when everything changed in England:

Here's the title page of the book that gave the people of England the worship of God in a language they could understand:

And here's what the Articles of the Church of England have to say about it:

XXIV. Of Speaking in the Congregation in such a Tongue as the people understandeth.
It is a thing plainly repugnant to the Word of God, and the custom of the Primitive Church to have public Prayer in the Church, or to minister the Sacraments, in a tongue not understanded of the people.


Great stuff and the good thing is that the idea spread around the world so that people of every language could have the Bible and the prayer book in their language, too. 


Today we have got to keep up the challenge, using English, yes, but also the straightforward easy-to-undertstand English that anyone can understand, because anyone and everyone needs to hear the message of God's love in a way they can understand,  (that is, 'in such a Tongue as the people understandeth')


Sunday, 7 June 2020

Out of the mountain of despair, the stone of hope

'Out of the mountain of despair, the stone of hope' - the national memorial to Martin Luther King Junior in Washingtonm DC
Some concluding thoughts from my sabbatical study about slavery, civil rights, and black Christians in the southern US, as we turn to a biblical perspective:

As I consider the history of slavery and civil rights I am impressed once again by the power of biblical doctrine to explain, encompass and give value to the whole of human experience. The Christian vision of mankind points to the unique dignity and value of human beings, made in the image and likeness of God. They are the very pinnacle of creation. As the psalmist exclaims:

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?
You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honour.
You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet:

In a nutshell that is why slavery is wrong. That is why the treatment meted out to blacks after the end of slavery is wrong. It simply failed to treat people in a way consistent with their human dignity and worth as beings created in the image and likeness of God. Even for administrative purposes, to treat a human being, infinitely precious in God’s sight, as 3/5ths of a person as the US Constitution appears to do, is go against the whole grain of creation, and in biblical terms, it must be seen as an act of rebellion against the creator.

Alongside the Bible’s understanding of the dignity and worth of human beings made in the image of God, is a sober estimation of the fallenness of humanity and its capacity for evil. The Apostle Paul explains that this is a universal problem affecting the whole human race when he declares all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.’  The prophet Jeremiah locates mankind’s problem in the human heart itself: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked’; and Jesus concurs: ‘For out of the heart come evil thoughts – murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person.’

Beautiful human beings, made in the image of God, when they act in rebellion to their creator, are capable of the ugliest deeds, including the evils of slavery and racism.

If the Biblical vision explains why slavery is wrong and why it happened, it also points to its solution in the cross of Christ.

The cross demonstrates that sin and violence can be overcome. It offers a way, via repentance and forgiveness, to reconciliation.

As we have seen the American Civil Rights movement was heavily indebted to the Christian understanding of creation and salvation which provided the moral outrage against racism and slavery, and, especially through the influence of Martin Luther King, a distinctively Christian response to evil that encompassed non-violence, forgiveness and reconciliation.

It is telling that the memorial (above) to the four girls killed in the Birmingham church bombing is entitled ‘The Love that Forgives.’

Ultimately the Christian vision points to the re-creation of the re-creation of the universe, a new heaven and a new earth, where sin and suffering are no more:  

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

This eschatological vision sustained the Civil Rights movement.  In Washington DC Martin Luther King famously declared ‘I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.’

The vision of Revelation is of a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb’  King and the others knew that this vision was of how things will be and also how they should be.

It guided their work as they sought, and prayed for the day when ‘justice (would) roll down like waters. And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.’

The Hallelujah Statue at the Whitney Plamtation in Louisiana, depicting the joy of an enslaved man on the day of emancipation

Today's Service

Here is today's service for Trinity Sunday:

Saturday, 6 June 2020

A love that forgives

In the light of recent events in the US my thoughts have turned to my sabbatical study on 'Slavery, Civil Rights and Black Christians in the southern United States' and my visit to those statesL

In Birmingham, Alabama where we enjoyed the warm hospitality of a local Christian family, our first stop was the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, a wonderful museum telling the whole story of the civil rights movement in a very clear and compelling way.

Across the road from the Institute is the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, the scene of one of the great tragedies in the struggle for civil rights, when on Sunday 15th September 1963 white racists exploded a bomb beneath the front steps of the church which killed four young girls and injured 22 others.

With wonderful hospitality we were welcomed and showed around the building of this church which is still a very live and thriving community. There are many mementos of the four girls including in the main sanctuary and in this line drawing displayed in the church basement (left).

Across the road from the church and the Civil Rights movement there is a further memorial of those terrible events of September 1963 in a sculpture that bears the words: 'A Love That Forgives:'

It is well done and well said. It is good that these things are remembered in Birmingham, Alabama.

Remembering Barry

Today is the fifth anniversary of the death of Barry Albin-Dyer, and here is our special Bermondsey Daily Message tribute to Barry, that remarkable servant and friend to the people of Bermondsey:

On the day of his funeral, the streets of Bermondsey were lined with hundreds of people:

Here was the scene at the Blue:

And here is a picture of Barry with his sons Jon and Simon at Buckingham Palace when he received his OBE from the Queen:

Finally here is the account of his memorial service which, at Barry's request, took place at St James in 2016.

Friday, 5 June 2020

When a boy called Angel prayed

In the light of recent events in the US my thoughts have turned to my sabbatical study on 'Slavery, Civil Rights and Black Christians in the southern United States:'

In Montgomery, Alabama, we visited Dexter Avenue Baptist Church (left) close to the state capitol, where the young Martin Luther King Jnr (1929-1968) was the minister (1954-1959), his only pastorate.

Our guide was an African American woman, who spoke with great vigour and passion, and then, at the end of the tour, had us all join hands and sing 'we shall overcome... deep in my heart I do believe, we shall overcome, someday. ' It was a moment I shall long remember.

Then our guide asked if someone would like to pray and a father in the party nominated his teenage son, a white boy called Angel, who led us in a deeply affecting prayer.

Nearby was the Civil Rights Memorial Center, commemorating more than 40 people who lost their lives during the civil rights struggle. Inside there were brief biographies of all those who had died.

Outside was the memorial, based on the words of the prophet Amos quoted by Martin Luther King: 'until justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.'

Bermondsey Daily Message 65

Tuesday, 2 June 2020

A Mother's Dream

With events in the US my thoughts turned to my sabbatical study on 'Slavery, Civil Rights and Black Christians in the southern United States' and what happened at the Martin Luther King Jr Visitor' Center, Atlanta, just after we had heard a re-enactment of MLKJ's 'I have a dream speech' in the Ebenezer Baptist Church, nearby: 

In the visitor's center there was an exhibit that consisted of life size models of marchers, marching for racial equality - men, women, boys, and girls, black and white. 

Many visitors posed for photographs of themselves with the marchers. 

One family caught my eye. There were two boys, about 14, two younger kids, mum and dad. All black. We had seen them previously in Ebenezer Baptist Church. 

The mum wanted one of the boys to pose with one of the model marchers, a boy of about the same age as himself. 

He stood there in a slightly embarrassed but I'll do this to please mum manner and smiled for the photo. But she wasn't quite happy with the shot. There was something else she wanted. She wanted her son to hold the hand of the model white boy, which he duly and shyly did, just for a moment, while mum took her picture.

Immediately I caught on to what she was doing. Earlier in the re-enactment MLKJ's 'I have a dream speech' we heard these words: 'one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers'

That's why she wanted her black boy to hold the hand of the white boy.

She had a dream and she wanted her son to be part of it. 


Please God, may he even experience the reality of it in his life.