Friday, 30 November 2012

Happy St Andrew's Day!

St Andrew, one of the twelve Apostles, is patron of Scotland, Ukraine, Russia, Sicily, Greece, Cyprus and Romania. People with backgrounds in all of these countries live in this part of London. Have a good one!

Lord God,
  you called Saint Andrew, your apostle,
  to preach the gospel and to guide your Church.
We humbly pray
  that he may always plead for us in your presence.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
  who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
  one God, for ever and ever.

Advent is coming

In spite of the insistence of our shops to the contrary (most supermarkets seem to have had Christmas decorations up since at least Hallowe'en!) it is NOT CHRISTMAS. The handy website will confirm this.

I'm not being an old Scrooge. I love celebrating Christmas, and I love celebrating Christmas at length. Christmas doesn't end on Boxing Day. Depending on how old-fashioned you are, it finishes on the feast of the Baptism of Christ, or on Candlemas on 2nd February. My decorations will stay up until Candlemas! One of the things I hate about the way supermarkets and the like 'celebrate' Christmas is that they put up decorations in October, but then take them down a few days after Christmas Day. And you try buying a Christmas pudding in early January!

A big problem with celebrating Christmas too early is that we miss out on the feel of Advent, one of the most moving seasons of the Christian year, a time of hope and expectation. Advent begins this Sunday, the 2nd December and continues until the evening of 24th December. The Church doesn't begin celebrating Christmas until the evening of Christmas Eve. Before then, we don't sing carols, we have Christmas themed readings and prayers, we don't put flowers in the church, we wear violet vestments, and we don't place the child in our crib.

So I have a challenge for you - delay putting up your Christmas decorations! Wait at least until 17th December, a day on which the flavour of Advent changes, when it becomes more of a 'getting ready for Christmas time'. In the meantime, why not do some Advent things? Here are some ideas:

Make An Advent Wreath

The Advent Wreath is a way of 'counting down' towards Christmas. One candle is lit during each of the four weeks of Advent. Find out how to make one here.

Put Up Advent Decorations

Advent is not a gloomy time! Why not brighten up your home with decorations in the colour of Advent - purple?

Celebrate Advent Saints

Some significant feast days, with a distinct pre-Christmas feel, fall in Advent. These are associated with customs in various parts of the world:

  • December 6th - St Nicholas (Santa Claus)
  • December 8th - The Immaculate Conception.
  • December 13th St Lucy/ Lucia
 Why not find out about them, and do something to celebrate?

There is much more about Advent over at the Occupy Advent website.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Christ the King!

Today is the feast of Christ the King!

It's a busy day in our churches. I've just had the privilege of welcoming Micah by baptism into the Church at St John's, and in a couple of hours we will be welcoming the Esteem Social Club for their annual service of thanksgiving. Instead of a reflection from me, then, some words from a hymn we sang at St Matthias earlier, written by a great prophet of Christ's Kingdom, Fr Conrad Noel:

You faithful saints and martyrs who fought for truth and right,
We ask your prayers and blessings to aid us in our fight.
Your faith shall be our watchword, your cause shall be our own -
To fight against oppression till it be overthrown.

Lift up the people's banner and let the ancient cry
for justice and for freedom re-echo to the sky.

In many a golden story, on many a golden page,
The poets in their poems have sung the golden age,
The age of love and beauty, the age of joy and peace,
When everyone lived gladly and shared the earth's increase.
Lift up the people's banner…

Today the tyrants triumph and bind us for their gains,
But Jesus Christ our Saviour will free us from our chains,
And love, the only master, will strive with might and greed,
Till might is right no longer, and right is might indeed.
Lift up the people's banner…

God is the only Landlord to whom our rents are due.
God made the earth for everyone and not for just a few.
The four parts of creation -- earth, water, air, and fire --
God made and ranked and stationed for everyone's desire.
Lift up the people's banner…

God made the earth for freedom and God alone is Lord,
And we will win our birthright by truth's eternal sword;
And all the powers of darkness and all the hosts of pride
Shall pass and be forgotten for God is by our side.
Lift up the people's banner…

Christ blessed the meek and told them that they the earth should own.
And he will lead the battle from his eternal throne.
O have no fear, my comrades, cry out in holy mirth!
For God to us has promised the Kingdom here on earth.
Lift up the people's banner…

Oh, and don't forget to STIR UP today!

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Thought for 2nd Sunday before advent

In our reading from the letter to the Hebrews the writer challenges us to "Provoke one another to love and good deeds". Hebrews 10:24

This is the job description of a Christian community. We're not talking about competitive Christianity here! The writer of Hebrews is encouraging his audience and us to be a community that meets together regularly to build each other up.

We need each other in the diversity of community to inspire, encourage and build each other up. Community is also a place for accountability, not a place for judgement, but where we are accountable to each other.

It is this kind of community that sustains Christians and allows us to work for the Kingdom of God.

And thank God we have God's Grace and the gift of the Holy Spirit and don't have to do this alone!

Monday, 19 November 2012

Stir Up!

 This Sunday our churches will keep the feast of Christ the King.

Once upon a time, though, every church in the Church of England would have kept the Sunday before Advent as the "Last Sunday After Trinity". The 1662 Book of Common Prayer collect would have been said in every church:

Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Because of the first line, this Sunday became known as Stir Up Sunday and was traditionally the day for making your Christmas pudding!

If you fancy sticking with tradition, I refer you to Nigella.

Pray for Synod!

General Synod is a body that makes important decisions within the Church of England. You can read about it here. It is meeting in London over the next few days. There is a live stream here.

Synod will be discussing a number of important topics. In particular, as you will have seen from the news, our synod representatives will be considering whether we should consecrate women as bishops, and if so what kind of provision should be made for those who are opposed to this move.

This is obviously a very important issue which people feel strongly about. We shouldn't forget to pray for Synod! It is all too easy - and I'm the worst culprit here! - to get so tied up in following debates and having opinions that we forget to pray. But we read in John's gospel that it is God's Holy Spirit who will "lead us into all truth". And it is the Spirit, given us in our baptism, who makes us all one. So we should pray for the gift of the Spirit for Synod, that it may be guided into truth. And we should pray for the gift of the Spirit for the whole of our church, that we may be helped to see through our present divisions to the fundamental unity that is ours in Jesus Christ.

Prayer to the Holy Spirit

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful,
and enkindle in them the fire of your love.
Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created,
and you shall renew the face of the earth.

Let us pray,

God, you have taught the hearts of your faithful people,
by the light of the Holy Spirit.
Grant that by the gift of the same Spirit,
we may be truly wise,
and ever rejoice in his consolation.
Through Christ our Lord,

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Advent Concerts

 At St John's we'll be putting on a series of Advent concerts. The money raised from these will go towards supporting our music fund. So cheer up those winter evenings and support a good cause by coming along!

Sat 1 December, 7.30pm
The Arch' Orchestra

Mozart Symphony No. 29 in A major, K.201
Mozart Violin Concerto No.3 in G major, K.216
Haydn Symphony No. 44 in E minor, Hob. 1/44,
Chloé van Soeterstède, conductor
Margaret Dziekonski, violin

Fri 7 December, 7.30pmSacred and Secular

A mix of sacred and secular songs, arias and
Katherine Williamson, soprano
Jasmine Adrian-Dawson, mezzo soprano
Konstantin Gensitsky, piano

Sat 15 December, 7.30pmViolin and Piano

Mozart, Chopin, Beethoven
Margaret Dziekonski, violin
Otis Beasley, piano

Fri 21 December, 7.30pmTrio Renoir
Programme to include Beethoven, Mozart
and Piazzolla

Nafis Umerkulova, piano
Svetlana Mochalova, cello
Violeta Barrena, violin

Tickets: £10/£5conc. for the concert on 1 December; £7/£4 for the rest of the
concerts. Sales at the door, reservations by email
Venue: St John the Evangelist, West Hendon, Algernon Road, London, NW4 3PX


Tube: Hendon Central (10 mins)
Rail: Hendon (3 mins)
Buses: 83, 183, 32, 142
Free parking and disabled access

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Reflection for the Third Sunday before Advent

Whilst over at St Matthias we offered a requiem for those killed in war, at St John's - whilst we prayed for the war dead - we read the readings set for the day and kept an ordinary 'green' Sunday.

We read from the beginning of Mark's gospel:

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.  (Mark 1:14-20)

That invitation - "follow me" - is one that Jesus still makes. It is one that our baptism and confirmation candidates will take up when they celebrate those sacraments on the evening of 4th December.

It is also an invitation that those of us who are already baptised and confirmed have accepted. How are we doing at following Jesus?

We only have three weeks left in the Church's year (we begin a new year on Advent Sunday, 2nd December). Over these coming weeks, let's spend a bit of time assessing our discipleship, asking how generously we respond to Jesus' call to follow him. And then let's make some 'new years' resolutions', commiting ourselves to follow Jesus in the coming year!


Today's Mass at St Matthias was offered as a requiem for all those who have died, over the centuries, through war and violence.

Remembrance Sunday is first and foremost a secular celebration, observed by people of all faiths and none, promoted by the State and the British Legion. What, if anything, do we as the Church have that is distinctive to say?

Well, there's quite a bit we can't say, if we are to be faithful to the gospel. To be frank, today is one of those days when people put pressure on clergy and churches to say, or sing, or imply things that we simply cannot, if our response is to be genuinely Christian, do. Our gospel is one of peace, which sees war as a product of sin. And our vision of the Kingdom of God is transnational. We are not in the business of promoting one country, its interests, and its history at the expense of other peoples'. The Church is, as we say in the Creed, Catholic - for everyone.

But, when all that's said and done, we are left with the pain, the memories of people who never came home, the awareness that this pain is shared by people all over the world, and the ongoing realities of bloodshed that we see, and are in danger of being desensitised to, on our television screens and in our newspapers. We cannot say nothing in the face of this. What, then, do we say?

First, we acknowledge the pain, and the ongoing turmoil. Black vestments are worn at today's Mass, as we hold the tragic violent history of humanity before God. Today's liturgy felt more sombre. There was more silence; the organ was used less. Quietly and reflectively, we bring the mess of this Earth to God through his Son, who has shared our pain, and himself suffered a violent death at the hands of an occupying army.

Second, we have a message of hope. This is important. Death and violence are not the last word in human history. Nor, we pray, are they the last word in the lives of those we have loved and lost. We believe in the resurrection of the dead and the life of the word to come. However terrible, however unchanging, the violence of our world might seem, however tempted we might be to be overwhelmed by it, we believe that the ultimate victory has already been won by God in Jesus Christ. In that hope we commit ourselves to working for a peaceful and just world. In that hope also we commend all those who have died to God. We believe that, through Jesus, they have a future.

This is important: when we have no hope for the future of the dead, we have no option but to dwell exclusively on their past. If we do not believe that they can be redeemed in the future, we all too readily make futile attempts to redeem their past, by retelling their stories, by airbrushing history in a romantic way. This is when talk about remembering the war dead becomes dangerous; we forget the horror, glory in an imagined past, and sit back as a new generation are sent off to die. But, as Christians, we are set free from this. Those who have died have a future. And they have this because of Jesus. Which is why the best way to remember the dead, however they have died, is to do what we do every Sunday, to follow his command, "do this in remembrance of me".

Congratulations Fr John!

This week we've learnt who our new Archbishop will be. We hold Bishop Justin in our prayers as he prepares to take up office.

At St John's and St Matthias', however, we have a much more local reason to celebrate a new appointment. Bishop Richard announced last week that Fr John has been appointed as a prebendary of St Paul's Cathedral.

Along with three other priests from our diocese, Fr John will take up the honorary post at Evensong on Sunday 3rd March at 3.15pm in our Cathedral. Please join us for that celebration.

The Bishop said, in his letter announcing the appointment that Fr John and the other new prebendaries "are representative of so many priests and lay men and women who work tirelessly in this Diocese serving our Lord Jesus Christ, the people of God and all who live and work in this great City."

We give thanks for Fr John's life and witness in these parishes, and warmly congratulate him on this appointment.

And if, like me until a few days ago, you don't have the first clue what a prebendary is, see here!

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Fr John letter from Miami

Oh and I told everyone that I was gong to Jamaica! Well by Gods grace Desiree and I will get there in a few hours time. Our carrier over booked our flight by 51 people and so we were offered a package that was hard to resist to travel via Miami to help them out. We accepted. Those of you who know me will know that America is the last stop that I would choose to make on a world tour, and yet here I am, it is 4.00am and I have just been out jay walking trying to find an English Cup of tea from the various "Gas stations" that line the 8 lane road outside our hotel accommodation.
As I walk all alone I love the fact that I have been paid to come to America and thank God for the extraordinary set of circumstances that have led me to this land of the free.  Of course of them is my dear wife who insists I hunt and gather a cup of English tea at 4.00am in a country where no one  seems to speak English - lesson number one for fellow governors at SMSJ as we devise a curriculum for our new through school Spanish is a must. Still I manage to get a cup of hot English tea for Desiree and  I know the day will only get better as a result.  I of course chose a cup of coffee, the choice was bewildering as was the conversation between myself and the somewhat non plussed " petrol attendant ". my coffee cup has a slogan printed on it " good coffee is good for the soul  " a quote attributed to one Sean O.  As welcome as it was I am not sure it nurtured my soul but it did make smile and As I walked back in the darkness I sang to no one in particular that wonderful hymn  as a dear pants for the water, so my soul longs after you....
Now we have to open and drink a bottle of sparkling  wine for breakfast as we our cases are too full to be allowed to leave Miami - Buck's Fizz is not a bad accompaniment to the rising of the sun at the beginning of ones holiday. Peace and blessings fr John

Saturday, 3 November 2012

An extra thought for All Saints from New Zealand

Greetings from New Zealand! As we are 12 hours ahead if you I've already been to Sunday Mass before some have you have gone to bed on Saturday night!

I has the privilege if preaching at the Auckland diocesan girls school this morning for their Founder's day and the transferred feast of All Saints. It's quite a nice way of thinking of the Great Cloud of Witnesses. Those who set up the school, who established traditions and took a stand for something in the Mission of God and those with whom we are still surrounded (the Old Girls) inspire still our engagement in God's mission.

We can fall in to the trap (I think) of seeing those traditions and expectations as things we have to live up to. To emulate the lives of others. For me Jesus' words to us in the Beatitudes are not His expectations of us but His hopes for all of us, His saints, to live lives in keeping with those around and before us in the Mission of God. Not attempting to live the life of another but to live out who we are in the time and place we find ourselves. To make a stand for the glory if God.

Friday, 2 November 2012

All Souls Day

We human beings are very good at lying to ourselves. No more is this apparent than in the face of death. There is a poem which is often read at funerals. It's actually ripped out of context from a sermon by the great Canon Henry Scott Holland. It goes like this:

Death is nothing at all.
I have only slipped away to the next room.
I am I and you are you.
Whatever we were to each other,
That, we still are.

This is a lie. It is a cruel lie which doesn't take human beings, our deepest emotions, loves, and losses seriously. Death is not nothing. It is a cruel, and universal, human reality, which takes loved ones away from us. It brings tears, suffering, loneliness and unfulfilled dreams.

Today we acknowledge this reality. Without attempting to deny the bitterness of death, we bring the entire human race, living and departed, in all its brokenness to our heavenly Father. We pray for all the dead. We remember the good and the bad, the young and the old, those who were close to us and those separated by time and space. Every single human being who ever lived on this planet is today remembered by the Church, which commends them all to the God who wills that all might be saved.

We don't pretend that the hope of resurrection means that we, who still live, don't feel the pain of loss. Nor do we pretend that the dead were perfect while they lived. We commend them to God asking that loose ends be tied up, sins forgiven, and the relationships that were never healed on earth be brought to perfection in eternity.

We believe in the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. But our hope is hard won, through the Cross, through our own loss, and through that process of growth continuing through death that the Church has traditionally called 'purgatory'.

This is a bittersweet day, a day both of hope and of sadness. Come to Mass if you can - here we offer for all the departed the sacrifice of the One who wept for a dead friend, Jesus who conquered death. If you can't get to Mass, say a prayer for all the dead, asking God that they may come to share in the glory of the saints which we celebrated yesterday.

A Prayer for the Dead

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

All Saints Day

My only-slightly mispent early youth on the Isle of Wight was spent in no small part at discos. These were very much the in thing for your Isle of Wight teenager: people had them for their birthdays, schools put them on for special events. This was during the 1980s. The rest of the world had been into discos about ten years previously, and had by now moved onto other things. But this was, as I say, the Isle of Wight.

One of the the bands whose music one danced to most often at your Isle of Wight disco was the Communards. A synth-pop duo, one member of this has subsequently been ordained as a priest. I mention this because Fr Richard Coles, as he is called, has just released a book - Lives of the Improbable Saints. He has been trailing this on the Internet for some months, and I've been following it avidly. We learn about saints who sat on pillars, saints who annoyed everybody around them, saints who undertook the most absurdly pathological penances, saints who (apparently) levitated, and so on.

The saints canonised by Holy Mother Church were, on the evidence of this book, a bunch of weirdos. But they were God's Holy Weirdos.

And there's the point - frail, funny, things that human beings are, God calls us as we are, with our quirky personalities, peculiarities, weaknesses, and strengths. Warts and all God calls us to holiness, that is, to wholeness. God calls us as we are to, through his grace, be the people we were always created to be.

The saints recognised by the Church are a sign that this is possible, that God's grace can be triumphant in people like you and me. May they pray for us as we continue on our journey, growing into the people God calls us to be.

A Blessed All Saints Day

All saints day is a wonderful day when we are reminded that we are not alone in our journey of faith but indeed are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses ( Hebrews 12.1).

There is often a tension in our iconography andlanguage around the use of the term Saint. Saint often becomes associated withsinlessness – “Oh she is a saint “meaning never does any wrong. Saints seem tobe distinct from sinners in modern parlance.

It is true of course that there are those who havebeen canonised by the church as individuals who have lived an exemplary life, alife of outstanding piety and virtue that ensure that they become one of those remembered by name in the life ofthe church and even given a day upon which to be remembered. But to say thattheir life on earth was without sin cannot be correct as we are reminded inscripture “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3.23)

All Saints day therefore is not just a time tofocus on those who have gone before us and whose lives and prayer continues toinspire and strengthen us on our journey. It is also a time to give thanks forone another, fellow saints at St john and St Matthias,  all of us who are surrounded by a great cloudof witness and called by God and knit together into a holy fellowship.

So often I think of that “cloud of witness” asthose Saints in the presence of God:
“ Those saints who before us have found theirreward” and
“whose journey is ended,
whose perils are past,
they believed in the light
and its glory is round them
where the clouds of earth’s sorrow are lifted atlast” 
(In our day of thanksgiving”)

This All Saints tide I will be giving thanks foreach one of you, the Saints of St John and St Matthias, and for all that youteach me and show me that is of God and his love towards us.

I was passing through the tube this week and sawthis lady amidst the hustle and bustle of life at Hendon Tube station. I wasanxious to catch a train but paused a moment to speak with her as she collectedmoney for the British Legion.
It made me wonder what others saw and they rushedpast to catch a train of push their way out of the station, of course the truthwas that many walked on as if she was not even there.
Lady Alma has worked for 27 years at the Conventin Edgware. She showed me her CBE which was awarded her for a life timededicated to raising money for good causes. She ran the Marathon earlier thisyear, her 95th year, as she has every year since the Marathon firstcame to London.
What anamazing woman, what a saint of God – Abeloved sanctified faithful sister present in Hendon one of the great cloud ofwitnesses who surround us -
A blesses Saints tide to you all