A week at St Barnabas: some highlights!

  • It began with the admission of 7 children to first communion on Sunday. A joyous landmark in their journey of faith.
  • On Sunday evening we had a concert with music and reflections centred around the Sufi philosopher Rumi- with a chance to hear an oud; the ancestor of the lute.
  • Riversdale Primary featured a lot this week.St Barnabas has long had links with our local school- both my predecessors, David and Bertrand, having been governors- and on Monday I took an assembly there and chaired the Governors’ meeting in the evening.
  • The next day I accompanied Amy, the head-teacher, to a meeting with Wandsworth councillors, where the progress of the school and Amy’s leadership were widely praised.
  • Meanwhile Claire was busy in the office and planning for the first evening of the Night Shelter on Friday.
  • Tom Tillyard’s team were hard at work restoring the church, with Mark Kennett doing some amazing masonry repairs. Meanwhile Steve from R&S roofing was investigating the recurring leak from the parapet above the vestry window.
  • Just before 9am on Thursday The Mayor and Royal Marines joined about 200 students from Southfields Academy for the annual Remembrance Day event around the war Memorial. This is always a moving community event; which is then followed up by a further act of remembrance at the Academy. It is always good to hear about the ambitions of the students too.
  • Later on Thursday there was a meeting of the clergy representing the 4 churches, where future plans were discussed and Joy’s leadership of the Youth Group was commended. We also picked up the mince for Friday’d chilli, kindly provided at a large discount by The Village Butchers.
  • On Friday we welcomed staff from Glassdoor Shelter for the homeless, and at around 6 pm our first guests arrived, although some found it very difficult to find our church! Thanks to the team- Claire, Caroline,Jane and Helen. We confidently left the Night Staff to it at about 10 pm. All went very well.
  • Saturday morning saw our annual All Souls Service, with about 60 people in attendance. Thanks to Charles who played the organ and Margaret for organising the refreshment team.

A great weekend at St Barnabas

Thanks for all who helped  with the Quiz night which raised funds for our building project and the Ibba Girls’ School. On Saturday about 60 children and adults attended our second Messy Church event. And our brilliant concert on Sunday was not well attended but that did not stop the quality shining through, with one of the performers suggesting that in terms of atmosphere and acoustics we beat many of London’s famous venues.

National Director of Health and Wellbeing for Public Health England at St Barnabas

About 70 people attended a conference at St Barnabas on Tuesday at which Professor Kevin Fenton was a speaker. We are partners in the Wandsworth Coproduction Network which aims to develop community- centred approaches to health and well being. Representatives of  Wandsworth Council, academics ,leaders of  voluntary organisations and charities, and church leaders and leaders in the Muslim Community were all present for a morning of reflection and discussion. We saw films about Somali women sharing expertise in healthy cooking, Mosques delivering family therapies and The New Testament Assembly pioneering fitness classes for men in their middle years. All these projects are community led initiatives to help tackle mental and physical health issues at an early stage. Projects good in themselves but also a practical response to stretched NHS budgets.

Professor Fenton is an inspirational figure who has years of experience combating the spread of HIV in the USA and has a profound understanding of the role of social context- particularly housing and healthy food availability- in people’s all round well-being and the powerful part that community groups can play in changing the mind-sets and practices of politicians and health professionals.

One of the unexpected highlights for me was a conversation with one of the Muslim leaders present who enjoyed the chance to be inside a church!

An afternoon in New Scotland Yard

I had not been arrested and neither was I being interviewed about nefarious deeds in the parish. I was there because I needed an ID card for when I turn up at Wandsworth Police Station for meetings of the Independent Advisory Panel. Getting through security was an enjoyable version of negotiating the similar systems at Heathrow- everyone was good humoured and friendly, partly no doubt because the security team considerably outnumbered its sole customer. I did need to convince them though that I really did have nothing on me apart from a passport and a set of keys and I really wasn’t trying to smuggle a minute mobile phone into the building!

Faith Schools: Real concerns and ridiculous exaggerations

The journalist Catherine Bennett likes to be challenging and often succeeds, but in an article in the Observer at the weekend she ventured into the territory of insult and slur. Her underlying theme was ‘ never mind any Trojan horses in Birmingham, the real problem is faith schools per se.’ But in making her case she slipped in a completely unwarranted suggestion that Prince Charles would probably be perfectly happy with an Islamic State, and implied that one of the capital’s most prominent church schools is teaching ‘ creationism.’

The irony is that she was only able to think she could get away with that by assuming the ignorance of her readers. She cited a section 48 report on the school which said that students at the school are ‘ able to identify the contribution of a number of scholars to the Design argument for the existence of God’, as an example of ‘ irreversible  indoctrination.’

Bearing in mind that Charles Darwin was also well acquainted with such scholars before he made his own mind up, that Francis Bacon- the man with a good claim to being the inventor of the scientific method- was another of their ilk, and as was Isaac Newton, this is  a very weak argument. If the school is indeed teaching about such scholars and , very correctly, reserving discussion of them for Religious Studies classes, surely it is fulfilling its role very well.

It makes me wonder  if the writer has not inherited an unacknowledged stain from fundamentalism herself. The one that fears knowledge as a dangerous fruit, perilous to the picker!


Only 2 more days to go to the election.

Standing for the Labour party for the forthcoming elections has meant that I have been out canvassing for the first time and it has been a far more positive experience than collecting for charity. I have had quite a few good conversations with people who are not natural labour voters and one very robust discussion about the 20 mile an hour speed limit with someone who is. Off now to a meeting to discuss the future of the Southfields Business Forum.