10th April 2011 Newsletter

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St Mary Magdalene  †       St Bartholomew †       St Alban  †


Sunday 10th April 2011


Today, in our church we enter the Passiontide.This is name given to these last two weeks of Lent.
In St. Mary’s you will see all the crucifixes have be covered in a violet veil.Some might think this a strange practice.

Yet like many of the other symbols and actions we have inherited during this most holy time of the year the veiling of the crucifixes is designed to enable to follow in the footsteps of Christ. So you ask where do the covering of the crucifixes help us in our journey?

The veiling of the crucifixes was associated with a Gospel passage that was often read in church this morning John 8.58-59:

‘The Jews said to him, ‘You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?’* 58Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.’ 59So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.’

It was Jesus hiding of himself that our veiling of the crucifixes in church signifies. Jesus, we read in the Gospels, would quite often disappear during his ministry amongst the disciples. He would often go to a quiet place to pray or just to get away from the crowds or demands of his ministry. So the temporary symbolic absence of Jesus is for many of us a useful reminder of an important part of Jesus’ life.



3rd April 2011 Newsletter

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St Mary Magdalene  †       St Bartholomew †       St Alban  †


Sunday 3rd April 2011


The best TV advertisement ever (apparently) is the Guinness “surfer” ad which starts with a group of surfers patiently waiting, and waiting, for the perfect wave. When it comes they spring into action, grab their surfboards and ride the wave.

We are all waiting at the moment – waiting for it to get warmer and waiting for Easter which this year is almost as late as it can be. Easter, at least, is coming: today is Mother’s Day – the fourth Sunday in lent, next Sunday is Passion Sunday,  then comes Palm Sunday and  then Easter itself in three weeks time. After that things will get very busy. We have Bank Holidays, the royal wedding, Church events and, before we know it, exams, summer holidays and who knows what uncertainties the autumn and next year will bring.

These things are certain and will come in their own time. Some uncertain things are (relatively) trivial and easier to wait for, like knowing if our Olympic ticket application has been successful or if West Ham will be relegated (no). It is the other things that can be hard and stressful – medical tests, exam results, job applications, – whether for ourselves of for those around us. These things matter and it is the uncertainty and our powerlessness to alter them which makes it difficult. It is not in our hands but in the hands of others and we can do nothing.


When this waiting is over and the consequences known we can begin to deal with them. Reading the gospel accounts of Jesus’ preparation for His entry to Jerusalem, I was struck  by how He faced the same uncertainties and even anguish but, once that decision had been made, the waiting was over and the time for action and resolution could begin. We are not good at waiting.



27th March 2011 Newsletter

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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.