What links Sunderland, West Ham and reading the Bible?

Posted October 24, 2018 by Elwin Cockett
Categories: Uncategorized


Well, I can honestly say that it was on a very long drive up to Sunderland to watch them play West Ham that I really discovered reading the Bible.

I was already a student, training for ordination, so I’d heard many Bible readings in church and I’d even led Bible studies looking at whole chapters of Scripture, but I’d never really read it in the way that you might, say, a Le Carré thriller or a Harry Potter story (or whatever else you enjoy), turning page after page and letting the story unfold.

One of my fellow students, Phil, was from the North-East, a Sunderland fan, and in a moment of madness we agreed that we would go and watch our teams play each other home and away. Hence, we found ourselves driving north when we should have been revising for a test the next day on the historical books of the Old Testament.

The solution was obvious. While one of us drove, the other would read aloud, swapping over from time to time, for five hours there and five hours back. It was meant to keep us awake, but it did much more than that. As we rattled our way through Genesis and Exodus, Numbers, Joshua and Judges and, I think, I fair bit more, we discovered that – far from being dry and heavy – these books were full of amazing stories we had either half-forgotten or had never heard in the first place about all kinds of people in all sorts of scrapes and situations – and all of them people who were part of God’s story.

I was hooked. To this day, I much prefer reading the Bible for an hour or two, really getting into it, than hearing the short passages we read in church. Those should really be the tasters that make us go back and read more. So, for example, when I was first a vicar I started a tradition of having Mark’s Gospel read aloud – all of it – in one sitting in Holy Week. I would recommend it; it really doesn’t take very long, and it’s an incredibly moving experience. We did the same with Ruth – again, a wonderful story, made all the more powerful by hearing it in one go.

There are three good reasons why this is a great thing to do.

Firstly, it helps us in our relationship with God, to love him and to know his love for us. Kriss Akabusi once likened the Bible to the letters that his wife used to send him when he was abroad on training camps, before the days of email. They were expressions of her love for him, even when they were just about what was going on at home. It was unthinkable that he’d have left them unopened in his case. The same was true, he said, of his Bible, through which God speaks to us of his love for us.

Secondly, it helps us to love people, to love our ‘neighbour’. If you think the Bible is full of plaster saints, you haven’t read much of it. All human life is there – people like you and me – rich and poor, successes and failures, men, women, black, white, old, young, people with disabilities, people who struggle – and all of them people through whom and in whom God works and who he loves and wants you to love. And so when you’re struggling to like someone, yet alone love them, you will find their equivalent in the Bible and will understand.

Finally, it helps us to encounter Christ, in whom we find our purpose, our life and our destiny. It is possible to be totally into the Bible and yet to miss out completely on knowing Jesus – like being an expert on the workings of a car but never experiencing the joy of being out on the open road, or reading cook books but never tasting real food. Imagine if Kriss Akabusi had read all his wife’s letters, knew all there was to know about her, but never actually spoke to her or spent time with her.  Apart from anything else (and it is many other things), the Bible is a lifetime of love-letters to you from God. It is an introduction to Jesus Christ, who longs for us not only to know about him, but to enjoy living in a relationship with him to spend time with him, to open up our lives to him and to place our hopes in him.

You don’t have to be a football fan to read the Bible. And you don’t have to be Kriss Akabusi to know what it is to love and to be loved.  But on this Bible Sunday, I pray that you might be inspired afresh as you read the great story of God and his creation and may find in those pages the knowledge and love of our Father in Heaven and of his Son, Jesus Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit at work within you.


Protecting the precious eco-system of Epping Forest

Posted October 23, 2018 by Elwin Cockett
Categories: Uncategorized


One of the great things about east London is its open spaces.

We have great shops, busy streets, fantastic shopping centres and any number of places of entertainment, but we also have some lovely open spaces. The need for these was recognised in the 19th century with the passing of the Epping Forest Act, protecting for all time a broad swathe of forest land from Manor Park and Forest Gate up to Epping and beyond.  Hence, while Stratford and the Olympic Park are great, it is the wonderful Wanstead Flats that have a special place for many as the start of Epping Forest.

Old photos show the bandstand and tram stop at the Forest Gate end of Wanstead Flats, and there is a long tradition of holding fairs and firework shows on the west side between Centre Road and Dames Road. But to the east, between the football changing-rooms and the City of London cemetery, lies a fabulous sanctuary of flora and fauna. Here, rare skylarks breed in the grassland, migrating birds flock to the lake, and an early morning walk can be as peaceful and tranquil here as in the depths of the countryside. It’s a blessing.

It is not surprising, therefore, that proposals before the Corporation of the City of London for music festivals next summer attracting as many as 30,000 people a day have met with a storm of local protests. Plans included a mainstage, extensive fenced-off areas, sound systems more usually associated with the likes of the Glastonbury Festival, and food stalls with all their inevitable packaging and waste. Quite apart from the nuisance to local residents, with clogged roads, the potential for damage to the wildlife is devastating.

The Corporation has since announced that 2019’s festivals have been shelved, but that similar plans for 2020 are to be considered soon.

We had a warning with the grass fires in the summer of 2018. Lest we forget, the London Fire Brigade had to deploy more than 200 firefighters for four days to save Wanstead Flats from a disaster. If, despite that, the Corporation allowed a music festival, with all its infrastructure and tens of thousands of fans, to go ahead the risks are very real of far greater permanent damage to the precious and fragile eco system of the grasslands around Alexandra Lake.

There are many suitable venues for a large music festival in east London, including but not only the Olympic Park, but the western end of Wanstead Flats is not one. Let’s pray that the City of London listens to us and changes its mind, not only for 2019 but also for 2020 and beyond.

(The photo at the top is one of the many fine images by Wanstead Flats Womble, whose excellent Twitter feed can be found at @womblesnaturE7 )


Thank you!

Posted May 24, 2018 by Elwin Cockett
Categories: Uncategorized

One of the highlights of the year for any archdeacon is the annual service at which churchwardens are admitted to their office. It gives the archdeacon a chance to say ‘thank you’ to them all for the service that they give week by week.

This year, I prepared this slide show to celebrate the life of the Archdeaconry of West Ham and our links with our friends in the diocese of Marsabit, in Kenya. Just click on the link, sit back and enjoy it:

West Ham 2018

Six ways your church can get involved with Thy Kingdom Come

Posted April 23, 2018 by Elwin Cockett
Categories: Uncategorized






‘Thy Kingdom Come’ is happening in May across the country. Here are six ways in which your church can get involved.

1. Initiate a prayer station (see ‘Bright ideas for your church’ for examples). Let it be somewhere that people can leave the names of the five they are praying for. If the use of candles is in your tradition invite the congregation to light a candle for their five people before the service starts.

2. Download the Morning and Evening prayer booklets and invite people to join you for the period of Thy Kingdom Come. For those at work invite them to have them on their phones and pray it either as they commute or at work. You never know it might set a new discipline for folk.

3. Sunday Intercessions. From now on, why not include one slot at which people are encouraged to name out loud, or silently, the five people they are praying for to know the love of God for themselves?

4. The 19th May is the date of a royal wedding as well as a certain football match. Why not host a fun themed event and link it to Thy Kingdom Come?

5. This year, Thy Kingdom Come prayer period coincides with Christian Aid Week. Why not encourage your people who are delivering and collecting envelopes to simply pray silently at each door way or gate way “Thy Kingdom Come here Lord?”

6. Try a community prayer walk using the Icthus fish symbols – acting as a prompt to pray for people locally to come to know Jesus Christ?

Have a look at Thykingdomcome.global website for more information on all the ideas above.

Thank you! The ‘West Ham Archdeaconry’ bike has been handed over

Posted March 27, 2018 by Elwin Cockett
Categories: Uncategorized

In Advent, I set the churches of Newham, Redbridge and Waltham Forest a challenge. Could we raise the funds to buy a motorbike for our friends in the Diocese of Marsabit, in Kenya? I had met Bishop Qampicha at the Bradwell Festival last year, and he’d told me that often a motorbike is the only way his clergy can get around his huge diocese. Hence the challenge: Could we do it?

Well, I am over-the-moon and hugely proud to say that the people of those three boroughs, along with friends from further afield, managed to raise the £2,300 needed in just four months. As a result, it was my great privilege to be able to present a brand-new Yamaha 125 to a very happy Kenyan vicar when I was there earlier this month. The bike is equipped with all the rugged fittings needed for African tracks, and was immediately pressed into service, taking Revd Silas (on the right in the picture) the 200 kms to his parish of Sololo, close to the border with Ethiopia.

Before he left, Silas told me what a difference the bike will make to him. He has five congregations, the furthest of which is 75 kms from his home, so on some Sundays he has to cover at least 150 kms, mostly on rough tracks. So, not only has the bike made it much easier for him to travel to his diocese’s headquarters, but it is enabling him to carry out his ministry on Sundays, teach in schools during the week, and do far more than he was able to do before.

All this was made possible by the generous giving of lots of people, including children’s groups, prayer groups, in both big and small churches, and some who are not even attending a church yet. To all of you, I want to say a huge ‘THANK YOU’ and ask you this: Do you think we could do it again?

Serious action is needed to end the legal ‘crack Cocaine’ draining millions out of Newham

Posted March 25, 2018 by Elwin Cockett
Categories: Uncategorized

Those machines in seaside amusement arcades that we visited in our youth were not called ‘one-armed bandits’ for nothing. We knew that like real bandits they would always take our money in the end, but the amounts were small and we got a bit of fun out of it.

At the other end of the scale, and much more serious, are the Fixed Odds Betting Terminals that blight our high streets in Newham and that take an estimated £18 million out of the local economy every year, often from those who can least afford it.

The betting companies love them, because they can make up to £100 every 20 seconds. Even the Sun newspaper has called them ‘the crack Cocaine’ of gambling, so addictive are they – and so damaging to the lives of gambling addicts and their families.

Campaigners including Newham’s Mayor have long called for the maximum stake to be reduced to £2 every 20 seconds. Last week, the Gambling Commission made a wholly inadequate suggesting that it should be £30, but that would still enable each machine to take up to £5,400 an hour from addicts.  Unsurprisingly, shares in the big gambling companies soared on that news because it would mean big profits from them.

Campaigners against poverty have been united in their response. Any stake on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals higher than £2 simply does not go far enough to protect the interests of the most vulnerable, their families, and communities in Newham and across the country.

Some politicians have argued that if the maximum stake is cut the loss of tax revenues would hurt the country. That is to ignore entirely the cost of problem gambling in crime, theft, depression, family breakdown and suicides. To suggest that problem gambling benefits the nation is utter nonsense, even if you believe the libertarian argument that gamblers should be completely free to mess up their families’ lives.

Let’s be clear: We need our politicians of all parties to be courageous enough to vote to reduce the maximum stake to £2.

A West Ham Motorbike for Marsabit

Posted February 5, 2018 by Elwin Cockett
Categories: Uncategorized

Tags: , ,


West Ham are giving a motorbike to Marsabit! Will you help?

By ‘West Ham’, I don’t mean the football club, of course.  I’m referring to the lovely people who are part of Anglican churches in Newham, Redbridge and Waltham Forest which, together is the Archdeaconry of West Ham.  And by ‘Marsabit’, I mean our friends in the Anglican churches of Marsabit, which is a huge area in the north of Kenya.

Some years ago, the Bishop of Chelmsford’s Lent Appeal raised enough for quite a few motorbikes to be sent to Marsabit, where they are used to get around on territory that, in some places, would challenge any 4×4.  The bikes help widely-scattered communities keep in touch, despite all the challenges of drought, political unrest and violence that have troubled Kenya at times.

Those bikes are wearing out, as I saw when I visited in 2014 (the photo above was taken then, at Samburu, on the southern side of Marsabit).  This has been on my mind ever since, so when the Bishop of Marsabit visited the UK in 2017 I mentioned my concern to him.  I also spoke to the former bishop, who now lives in England, and to a few people in and around West Ham Archdeaconry, and together we worked out that to buy, tax, insure, service and fuel a motorbike in Marsabit for its first year would cost about £2,300.  So we launched an appeal at Christmas to every parish in Newham, Redbridge and Waltham Forest, asking whether we might be able to raise enough for new bike.

The response has been astonishing. In a little over a month, over £1,600 has arrived in cheques from parishes and individuals.  I’m so heartened by the generosity of the people of this archdeaconry that I’ve gone ahead and ordered a brand-spanking-new Yamaha motorbike to be delivered to the Bishop of Marsabit in just a couple of weeks’ time, trusting that we can raise the remaining £700 to cover the cost.

So, if you haven’t already contributed, will you help us raise the remaining £700?    If you can help, we want to say a big ‘thank you’! 

You can donate through our ‘Just Giving’ page – https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/elwin-cockett 

Or just send a cheque made out to ‘the Archdeacon of West Ham’

to ‘The Motorbike for Marsabit Appeal’                                                                                    c/o The Archdeacon of West Ham,                                                                                               86 Aldersbrook Road                                                                                                                  London E12 5DH