Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category

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

March 27, 2018

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

March 25, 2018

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

February 5, 2018


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 – 

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 

A Christian, a Jew and a Muslim are going to the Holy Land. Will you join us?

July 15, 2017

I will confess here and now that I’m not one of those people who has always wanted to visit the Holy Land. Images of over-crowded tourist traps and of holy sites that have had huge churches built over them, let along the politics, have always put me off.

But this is different. I’m going to be visiting some very special places in the Holy Land with a group of Christians, Jews and Muslims from East London. And, at a time when faith is a matter of such tension around the world – and in East London, where people of different faiths live side-by-side – this is a risky and exciting thing to be doing. We will be learning from each other, hearing each other’s stories, and sharing the things that really matter. I am really looking forward to talking about Jesus Christ with Jews and Muslims (and of course the Christians in the group) in the very places where he called and taught his first followers. It’s going to be a very special trip.

If you think you might like to join us on this adventure, please do get in touch with me. My email address is and I’ll be glad to hear from you. See below for more details.

If we claim to be right….

March 7, 2017

Justin with Christie and Dave 2

No-one is perfect. Everyone gets it wrong sometimes. Admitting that is a foundation for building tolerance and understanding.

When asked whether he had ever asked God for forgiveness, Donald Trump replied that he had not, saying in an interview with CNN that he does not regret never asking God for forgiveness, because he doesn’t have much to apologise for.

For Christians marking the start of Lent, those words will sound a little odd. The Bible says clearly “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” Even more importantly, it says that if we claim to be perfect we make God out to be a liar!

So, whatever he says, Donald Trump is a sinner in need of God’s help. But here’s the thing: I can’t claim to be any better; I’m a sinner, too, as much in need of God’s forgiveness as anyone else, in fact. So, too, are you – and I am not saying that in order to make you feel bad about yourself, but to make this important point: When we recognise that we are not perfect it helps us to accept other people, with all their faults. And that is the start of being tolerant and generous towards others.

All faiths have times of penitence and reflection, of course. For Christians, Lent started on 1 March this year. This year, it might be a good thing if we used Lent to reflect on how we might show a bit of humility and patience in our dealings with each other.  Instead of decrying how the other side voted in the referendum, how about trying to understand why they felt that way?  Instead of worrying about your own community, how about finding out what life is like for others?  And instead of claiming always to be right, how about accepting that you might just have got things wrong occasionally?

None of us is perfect, but looking for the best in each other is worth the effort. So let’s give it a go. God knows, the world could do with some tolerance and understanding right now.


At the gate of the year…

December 29, 2016


Back in the dark days of December 1939, when our country was facing war with Germany, the young Princess Elizabeth, aged just 13, gave her father, the King, a copy of a poem. He was so moved by it that he quoted it in his Christmas Broadcast to the Empire. Known now as The Gate of Year, it originally had the title God knows, and has inspired countless people in the years since then.
The poem challenges the reader to ‘go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God’ which ‘shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way’.
As 1939 rolled into 1940, people were fearful of what the new year would bring. Memories were still strong of the carnage of ‘the Great War’ little more than twenty years earlier. The Spanish Civil War had given a taste of what a modern conflict could be like, and many people expected devastation if Hitler were to launch a ‘Blitzkrieg’ against us. Britain really was going ‘out into the darkness’. When better to put your hand into the hand of God?
As 2016 rolls into 2017, many people are again fearful of what the new year will bring. Whatever we feel about Brexit and Donald Trump, some very ugly emotions have come to the surface in our society in the past year and in many ways we have become polarised and divided as a nation. Too often, we have labelled and derided each other rather that seeing each other as fellow human beings, loved by God, whatever our differences.
No doubt there will be bad days in 2017, and times when it feels that evil has the upper hand but the message of the poem is that there is always hope. Whatever the challenges of the new year, whatever your fears, I would invite you to put your hand into the hand of God and to live your life in the light of his love for all people – including you and yours.

Happy Christmas, West Ham fans…

December 24, 2016

Slaven Bilic hopes his popularity when he was a West Ham player will help him seal the manager's job

Whether or not you’re a fan of Brexit, Donald Trump, or the move to the Olympic Park, it feels like 2016 has been a year of disagreement and discontent.  For West Ham fans trying, like our team, to find our bearings in the new ground, it has been doubly difficult. Some us find ourselves sitting among strangers who don’t watch football in the way we’re used to doing. And the players are struggling to recreate the sparkling form they showed last season at the Boleyn. We seem to be grinding out results against teams we should be beating easily, and losing to teams who we’ve beaten in recent years. All that, and the BBC lost GBBO, England the series in India, and most of us have a family member who supports a different team. We could be forgiven for feeling pretty sorry for ourselves.

Or could we? Our team is playing in the richest league in the world in a ground that seats twice as many as we were getting at Upton Park until a few years ago. We’ve got some world-class players, and we support a great club with a proud place in the world of football.  And most of us are not being bombed out of our homes, or having to flee in terror from insurgents, or wondering where the next meal is coming from.  The old adage to ‘count your blessings’ is a good one. For many who don’t have the advantages that we enjoy, the world is a pretty dark place at the moment.

As someone who has lived in east London for quite a lot of my life, I’m proud of it.  It has always been a melting-pot where different communities have been welcomed and allowed to work alongside each other happily for the most part, from the Huguenots, Irish and Jews of earlier times to those who have come more recently from Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe.  At West Ham, players from overseas, like Clyde Best, Slaven Bilic and Diafra Sakho have contributed much to that tradition, just as have home-grown players like Ronnie Boyce, Joe Cole and Mark Noble.  And, through the power of the internet, that old-style East-End West Ham family has become more of a world-wide tribe than ever before.  That, at a time when some are determined to set one community against another, is an important strength.

As Prince Charles said recently, “Normally, at Christmas, we think of the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ.  I wonder, though, if this year we might remember how the story of the Nativity unfolds – with the fleeing of the Holy Family to escape violent persecution.”

I meet plenty of people who have come to east London to get away from wars, persecution or hardship. We have a tradition of welcoming and assimilating refugees that goes back at least 250 years. The story of Joseph and Mary fleeing with their new baby to safety in another country is one that has special resonances for them.

If Christmas is a time for families, let the West Ham family be one where we remember those who are not as well-off as we are, or who are different to us. Let’s have a heart for the homeless, the displaced, and those who are far from their loved-ones. And let’s remember to cherish those who are close to us, both young and old, even if they support the wrong team.  Happy Christmas, everybody!