27th March 2011 Newsletter

Posted in Parish

St Mary Magdalene  †       St Bartholomew †       St Alban  †


Sunday 27th March 2011

Minding our language……


Many groups of people, be they families, factories or professional bodies, develop their own little language – words and phrases which only they understand – and the Church of England is no exception. I’m all right with the districts, deaneries and dioceses but after all these years, I still don’t know my nave from my narthex.

So I was delighted to hear that the Church of England’s General Synod – there’s another in word! It’s a meeting of church representatives, a sort of parliament – have been talking about making the language of Christenings and  wedding services a bit more accessible to people who don’t often come to Church. I will be interested to see what they come up with.

And while I’ve no doubt that there’ll be a few people who will say that, without hellfire and damnation and forsaking and begetting, it just won’t be the same, I think it important to use words and images that people can relate to. That’s what Jesus did all the time; he talked about shepherds, sheep and fishermen, which might sound a bit romantic and unusual to us city types, but they were everyday things to the people of his time, just like Corrie and curry sauce are to us now.

People clustered around Jesus and followed him about because he told good stories, and made them laugh and think, and perhaps, most of all, because he showed them a glimpse of Heaven.

And when people come to Church for a wedding or a Christening, they’re often a bit nervous but we make them feel welcome and included; after all, they’ve come to celebrate and thank God for their love for each other and their joy at the birth of a new baby and those lovely, even Heavenly, feelings can be understood in any language.




20th March 2011 Newsletter

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St Mary Magdalene  †       St Bartholomew †       St Alban  †


Sunday 20th March 2011



By now, most of us – or someone in our household – will have received a copy of the Census Form, a long white and purple document headed ‘Household Questionnaire’.

Some people resent the request to fill in the form: they find it intrusive and feel that the government already knows too much about us.

Others perhaps are fearful that if they fill it in, the council, the police, or the immigration authorities will discover irregularities which we would rather they didn’t know about.

But if we don’t fill it in, we take away one of the best ways which government, local authorities, schools, hospitals and public services have of finding out what they should be doing, whom they are serving, and what our needs as a borough, a city, and a country are.

 And ‘needs’ is a vital word in all of this. The people who will lose out most,  if the census figures are inaccurate, are those who need most;  a poor borough like Newham is likely to do worse in terms of money from central government if it can’t point to the numbers of children in need of schooling, to the numbers of families living in overcrowded accommodation, to the number of adults out of work, and a whole range of other facts which indicate how many of us and our neighbours struggle to live well.

 The census may not be a perfect way of measuring who, what, and how the people of this country are – but it is the one which will be used for planning how we should live for the next few years.

Fill the form in! And if you feel it’s the wrong kind of form, start your campaign for a new way of measuring now, in good time for 2021, when the next census is due to be held.



13th March 2011 Newsletter

Posted in Parish

St Mary Magdalene  †       St Bartholomew †       St Alban  †


Sunday 13th March 2011

Desert Experience

 In Matthew’s gospel for this first Sunday of Lent, we will read ‘Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil’. The desert is a common theme in most if not all religions in the world and is always a symbol of times of temptations; a time to draw nearer to God and for spiritual growth.   Buddha travelled through the dry wasteland of Northern India.  Mohammed went to Mount Hira in the Arabian Desert. Moses led the Israelites through the wilderness after he had been on the run or has had his own desert experience.


Lent season is like a time in a desert.  During this season we may be led by the Spirit to our own different deserts where we may experience some temptations, like irritability because one may be fasting.  Our inner thoughts, feelings, emotions, desire for that chocolate or alcohol or whatever would be exposed. Our promise to let go of some of our comforts and associate with the poor, to fast, pray, study, learn, give generously of our time or money and our faith and prayer life will be tested.


We can rely on the power greater than ourselves during Lent, by repeating ‘The Jesus Prayer’, for at least fifteen minutes a day, will keep our minds focus on God.  This ancient desert prayer tunes our whole being to God and keeps those temptations at bay.


This very simply prayer Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner
can be said anywhere, waiting for the bus, queuing to play the lottery, at the dentist chair or at the supermarket.


It has been said that we are to rejoice if we find ourselves praying the ‘Jesus Prayer’ in our sleep or when we wake up first thing in the morning.


6th March 2011 Newsletter

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St Mary Magdalene  †       St Bartholomew †       St Alban  †


Sunday 6th March 2011




Alec reminded me this week of a story which some of you may know

‘A story about four people, named Somebody, Everybody, Anybody,  and Nobody. There was one important job to be done; Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody would do it. Nobody realised that Everybody wouldn’t do it.

In the end, Everybody blamed Somebody, when Nobody did what Anybody should have done.’


I’m very glad to say that things aren’t like that in this parish!

But the time of year has come when we need not just four people,

but many more to come forward and take responsibility for the life of our two churches. 

This Sunday we hold our Annual Meeting,

and we will be electing churchwardens, deanery synod representatives and members of our parish and district church councils.

 The idea of elections, committees, and representatives may not  fill you with excitement: but as well as being a legal necessity, these structures are a way of showing how the church belongs to and is made up of each one of us. This is OUR church, not MY church, and the responsibility for it, financially, as buildings, as people, and as a community which shows God’s love to the world, belongs to all of us.


27th February 2011 Newsletter

Posted in Parish

St Mary Magdalene  †       St Bartholomew †       St Alban  †


Sunday 27th February 2011

Arab uprising.


In the past few weeks we have seen people protesting across the Middle East and North Africa. Many of these young people have sacrificed themselves for the idea of “democracy”. Western governments have slowly come round to supporting these protesters. Yet I feel there has been a certain reticence in their stance.


We can see why, for too many years the West has supported despots and Tyrants in that region by buying their oil and selling them arms or having military bases on their land.  British Jobs was the cry from Business. Politicians said that the consequence of democracy would be the likelihood of Islamist-leaning governments coming to power.

Ordinary people of the region have paid the price of this stance. We will now have to learn to negotiate with the new leaders that emerge from these protests. We should support them as we show that "democracy" to us means the freedom to choose your own government – whatever its hue.

Our prayers will go out to those struggling for democracy but also at this time I believe we should show a bit of humility for past errors as these new leaders emerge.