25th September 2011 Newsletter

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St Mary Magdalene  †       St Bartholomew †       St Alban  †


Sunday 25th September 2011


What is religious discrimination?

On Tuesday, I spent a couple of hours of fun with a researcher from the University of Derby. She was part of team exploring the thorny question ‘What is religious discrimination?’ It is not an easy question to answer and I certainly can’t claim to have come to any conclusions after the extensive questioning.

The basic problem is one person’s religious observance can be offensive to another person.

A couple of examples of the tensions involved from my time as a Curate in Ilford.  An Orthodox Jewish group wanted to put up poles in our particular part of Ilford to help them in their religious observance. Should this be allowed? Or is it right to allow a local Muslim group to build a minaret on their local Mosque? Whose rights are protected under the law? The religious community or the wishes of the wider community?

Of course, there are two competing rights in both of these cases. The rights of the religious community to express their faith. Against the rights of the wider community that may object to that expression?  Of course, the hope is that these two competing rights can be resolved but often there has to be an arbiter in these disputes. Whatever way the judgement goes the losing side will feel discriminated against.  There are no easy answers but perhaps it is through holding these competing rights in tension is all we can do.



18th September 2011 Newsletter

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St Mary Magdalene  †       St Bartholomew †       St Alban  †


Sunday 18th September 2011

The Flying Eagle

Eagles are magnificent birds; effortlessly soar so high, with a keen eye sight greater than that in human beings.  Ancient cultures saw these powerful birds of prey as divine symbols, etched on pyramids or carved as statues.  Their image is still used to depict power, speed, beauty and independence.  Eagle is also a Christian symbol which represents the resurrection and renewal.  In some churches one will find the Lectionary or Bible placed on the out stretched wings of an eagle.

It is remarkable that God even compares himself to an eagle.

In Exodus 19; God tells Moses at Mount Sinai that ‘I have bore you on eagle’s wings and brought you to myself’.  Also the profound saying in Isaiah 40:31; ‘Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint’.   Eagle is a sound metaphor that speaks of overcoming our natural impossibilities, weaknesses and seeing God as our very present help.

John’s gospel portrays Jesus as the Flying Eagle, who is above and beyond the world, with broad wings and strong soaring flight, who has left the cosmic heights and come to dwell among us.

For this reason, living under the shadow of His wings, Christ helps us to soar to new heights, to acquire a broader vision of God at work in us and in the world.


11th September 2011 Newsletter

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St Mary Magdalene  †       St Bartholomew †       St Alban  †


Sunday 11th September 2011

Mammon and God

Next Tuesday (the 13th) sees the opening of Westfield Stratford City – the largest indoor shopping mall in Europe. The complex is expected to be a major economic boost to Newham and create hundreds of new jobs in its shops, restaurants, hotels and offices.

 It also forms the gateway to the Olympic Park and, I think, will bring home to many of us the reality of next year’s games and  is the first tangible step in the  regeneration of that  part of the borough. The whole development will eventually include housing, offices and, the entire Olympic Park site.

 But it isn’t all about money: God will be there too. For some years now an ad-hoc group of individual Christians and Churches, with the support of the major denominations, including this diocese,  has been meeting under the name of “inSpire” to try to establish a “Christian presence” within the development. “inSpire” has now been given the lease on the “Rest-and-Faith” space in the shopping mall,  (on the 3rd floor, near the Food Court!). This space,  called “inSpiration”, consists of a room for up to 30 people and will be available those of all faiths (or none) for prayer, contemplation, religious meetings and worship.

 It will be staffed by Christian volunteers working on a rota system between 11.00am  and  7.00pm (5.00 pm on Sundays) seven days a week. This presents quite a challenge and opportunities for Christian ministry.  If you might be interested in this please see Andrew or Shirley at Barts or go to  www.stratfordchurches.co.uk/inspire/index.html. We see this as a new “expression” of Church and the first step in developing Christian ministry in the whole complex.

But, whatever you do, please drop by when you visit Westfield and say “hello”.         



4th September 2011 Newsletter

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St Mary Magdalene  †       St Bartholomew †       St Alban  †


Sunday 4th September 2011

A new leaf??

I love September! I love the bright days and the chilly mornings and evenings,
 the wonderful colours as the leaves begin to turn and,perhaps most of all,
 I love the feeling of a new start.

I know that January is officially our opportunity to start afresh but my resolutions are lost in a haze of Christmas paper and the January sales. September, perhaps because so much of my life has been regulated by schools, my own or my children's,feels much more like a new beginning  and holds the promise of all sorts of exciting things ahead. When we went back to school after the long holidays, the smart new uniform and the shiny pencil case were the outward signs of our renewed energy and our determination to do our best.

But then, every day, every moment, holds promise and, for us, the chance to try again to bring God's love, life and liberty into this world, to be the me God wants me to be and to be the Church God wants us to be too.I made a hash of it yesterday? Well here's another opportunity today. Try again and fail better.

We can afford to take the risk as we know that the whole company of heaven is cheering us on, and every time we try,God's heart is delighted.



21st & 28th August Newsletter

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St Mary Magdalene  †       St Bartholomew †       St Alban  †


Sunday 21st & 28th August 2011

Lord have Mercy Again and Again

Henri Nouwen asserts, this prayer ‘Lord have mercy’, should never leave our lips. Not anxiously, but with confidence that God is very close to us, even when we feel attacked on all sides by seemingly irresistible forces, of waves that cover us and want to sweep us off our feet.  Such were the waves of fear and powerlessness that gripped our streets, neighbourhood and cities two weeks ago.

With eyes turned on God and trusting He will bring peace to our hearts, we say again and again Lord have Mercy.

Here is a poem by an African poet which sums up our hope.


As the dust settle,
Residents of the nation,
Ever blessed country
Comb the carnage, and 
Ransack the wreckage,
Picking up the pieces
Of their shredded lives,
And shattered dreams.
                          Once the land of honey/oil,                         
Now dried by greed.
Once a dear native land,
Now dogged by violence.
                       Where tribe and tongue                       
                         Though always differed,                       
Yet in brotherhood stood,
                    Now in hatred all severed.                   
                       Ashes of burnt houses,                      
                         Remnants of horror                             
But instead you find,

                              A people hopeful,                               
For  in their eyes,

I see their future.

                      These besieged cities,                     

Will rise again.

         And in this nation,        

                                   We will live again.  By Oliver Mbamara