Friday, 23 December 2011

Light in Darkness - The real Christmas message

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light... For unto us a Child is born ... of the increase of peace there will be no end.

In the area where I live there has been a number of attacks (possibly up to 35) on people walking home.  It is reported that he attacks from behind and does not reveal himself.  Using a knife he forces people to hand over phones and wallets.  My children are very aware of this.  I train my children to be wise (so I will collect my 12 year old son after dark rather than he walk home) but also to live in Faith not Fear.  Yesterday an older man told my children as they were playing in the street that their Mum was going to get her throat cut next.  Fear for many generates more fear - the media is a particularly good example of generating fear - think Swine Flu.  Moments like that with my childrfen are great moments to impart Faith and wisdom.  Faith in the Light of Jesus means that the darkness is put out and more importantly the darkness can never overcome it.  Keeping our perspective that we are loved by God and He has the best plans for us means that we walk in the light.   

Isaiah 9 is a fab description of the new Kingdom of Light.  When we (King's Church) decided that we wanted to demonstrate that our Arms were Wide Open this Christmas we did not anticipate the remarkable response from the Church.  The headline is that over 250 hampers were donated but there are hundreds of individual stories of Light Shining.  Friends and families who worked together to help vulnerable families.  Individuals who spoke to their work colleagues and told them what their Church was doing.  The response was amazing, here is one account from a lady who works on the Olympic accreditation and Uniforms department. 

"They were so excited to know the great work that Kings is doing." and "I was overwhelmed by the response."

The Hampers provided the perfect practical application to our Christmas Series 'Arms Wide Open' which peaked last weekend with 7 carol services welcoming 2700 people.  I was delighted that Heidi Alexander MP and Sir Steve Bullock (Mayor of Lewisham) were able to join us.  

Jesus is the light that changes everything. I hope you know the light of Jesus in your life this Christmas Time. 

Have a great Christmas.  Thanks for reading my blog in 2011, I'll be back in the New Year!

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

What does the JRP do for homeless people at Christmas?

This is a question I get asked a lot at this time of year and whilst I fully understand the sentiment of people choosing to annually help the homeless, I am utterly committed to helping homeless people 365 days a year.  You need to know that I am careful that charity is not offered to people who will use it to avoid taking responsibility with the resources and information they already have - agencies like the Jericho Road Project see many people who don't need a charity hand-out as much as they need guidance about how to live better lives.  So, for example, I am not keen for our residents to be looking or expecting a charity hand out at Christmas.  Rather, I hope that out of relationship with others (work place, church, family, other groups and social settings) they would receive as well as give much at Christmas.  In fact, for our residents, it is relational connection that is often far more important than material items.  Our residents have to stand up and take personal responsibility; sometimes they learn that in order to repay rent arrears it requires personal sacrifice and not someone giving them a hand out.

Having said all that, I can now tell you what the Jericho Road Project does for homeless people at Christmas.  We keep the Feast meeting on Wednesdays until the 21st December when we will have a big Christmas Feast Event - we are preparing for over 150 people to attend this year!  Every person will get a full Christmas dinner, a Christmas present and great entertainment which is Karaoke.  These evenings are usually great fun but fairly intense for the team.  Thankfully, every year, extra people get involved and help out.  We have had companies and families saying they will get involved.  You are very welcome to help this year!  (But remember, homeless people need help all year not just at Christmas!)

And apart from looking after our residents we don't do a lot more in the Christmas/New Year period!  (It almost sounds shocking doesn't it!)  This is because there is great provision in London for homeless people during the Christmas time.  Another value I hold to in my work is that I don't want to reproduce what someone else is doing very close to us, I would rather channel our resources into things that we can uniquely do!  CRISIS at Christmas runs from about the 22nd for about 8 days.  Each year I refer people to CRISIS and if you are interested for this year you can apply here

This year, there is an additional bonus because the 999club in Deptford has opened their winter shelter already (1st December) and are staying open right through until March.  If you need to refer someone they should make their way to the 999club - ideally in the morning - and register with Iris. 

So, just to make it clear, we send homeless people to other places to get help at Christmas - this year CRISIS and 999club.  Thankfully, we have a housing project 365 days a year that can then take people from the winter shelter, provide support, help people stand on their own 2 feet, rebuild their lives and, who knows, they may be helping at CRISIS next Christmas!

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Arms Wide Open - SEVEN Carol Services

This year King's Church is running 7 carol services, this includes 4 whole church evening events and 3 site based morning events.  This is all running within the theme of Arms Wide Open which I think is such a strong theme that links the Message (preaching), the Moment (the carol services) and Mercy together.  The 4 evening carol services will be of the usual very high standard including traditional carols, children or Youth performance, drama and readings.  In fact this year we have asked some guests to do a reading at each service.  Sir Steve Bullock, Heidi Alexander MP and Keiran Lang who is the Young Mayor of Lewisham (and also attends King's Church) have all agreed to doing a reading.  As per previous years there will be short section near the end of the carol services that profiles the Jericho Road Project.  This year I am excited that I will be bringing a prayer and a short explanation of the project.  There will be a 'retiring' offering for the project as well.

So please do attend the carol services, Friday 7.30pm, Saturday 5pm and Sunday 5pm and 7.30pm.

Please look at the King's Church Arms Wide Open website which is looking great.  (Ben and Brett have done a brilliant job on the promotion of Arms Wide Open!)

Today I am meeting Heidi Alexander MP, who is supporting our promotion of Caring Christmas Trees.  We will send out a press release later today!  I am very pleased with how the sales are progressing.  The economic downturn is very real so I am delighted that we are on course to slightly improve our sales total of last year and I am hoping that we will raise about £4000 for the project.  Lewisham Life have mentioned us in their latest edition and I understand that in their enewsletter next week there is another mention.

Finally the Arms Wide Open Hampers project has seen such a fantastic response.  The community of King's Church has risen to this with arms wide open.  We have given out about 230 boxes in the last 2 weeks and I am expecting that we will collect about that number of full hampers in the next 2 weeks.  Boxes are to be returned by Sunday 11th December.  I am loving the stories of people from King's going into their offices and explaining that their church is collecting hampers and then the staff are deciding which items they will bring in.  I have increased the number of outlets for the boxes so now we are working with the social services teams working with at risk children, those on police protection and the young children teams, Lewisham Refugee Network, The Bridge School of English and the King's Church Pastoral care team. 

This Christmas the arms of King's Church are reaching out further than ever before.

Friday, 25 November 2011

10 reasons to buy a Caring Christmas Tree in SE London

1. Christmas is a great time to be generous to those in need.

2. The trees we sell are fabulous real Scottish freshly cut Nordmann trees.  These are the most popular selling trees in the UK.  We offer very competitive pricing as well.

3. The profit goes to the Jericho Road Project which houses very vulnerable rough sleepers in safe supportive accommodation.  We have 6 houses in the borough of Lewisham.

4. Volunteers, many who have previously experienced rough sleeping, are involved.  This includes distributing postcards, on the vans helping deliver trees and at the sites helping customers.

5. The Jericho Road Project provides about 4500 meals (3 courses) a year to people in need through the Feast which is our weekly outreach meeting.

6. The publicity helps promote the work we do to a much wider audience. 

7. We help people change but it takes time and commitment, let me tell you about one man who was referred to us about 4 years ago for support at the Feast and help with his benefits.  For the first year or two he did nothing to help himself, it was always someone else's fault and he would sit around expecting others to sort out his problems for him!  However in recent times at the Feast he has become a brilliant helper.  He doesn't need to be asked he does jobs such as emptying the bins and taking them out to the main bin.  As you can imagine, this is not a pleasant job.  He is not doing it because he has been told to do it but he has chosen to do it.  This story demonstrates that with time and a supportive environment people will change.  He has moved from being the problem to becoming part of the solution.

8. Real Christmas Trees make a room and a house smell brilliantly Christmassy.

9. The Project creates opportunities for vulnerable people to go on holiday, we go to Chepstow in March and then to an event called Encounter Camp in June.

10. Finally, we even deliver the trees to your door for a small (ish) extra fee.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Lionhearts FC - more leading than managing!

I am reading a great book called 'The 360 degree leader' by a guy called John Maxwell.  Page after page I am confronted by superb reflections on leadership; each section or even sentence requires me to reflect and question my own leadership.  For example Maxwell explains the difference between management and leadership - "managers work with processes - leaders work with people.  Both are necessary to make an organisation run smoothly, but they have different functions"

This got me thinking about the areas I 'manage' and especially Lionhearts FC which is the Saturday morning kids football team I am responsible for.  Lionhearts has increased from 1 team in the 2009-2010 season into 4 teams playing in the South London Churches League 2011-2012.  This means that we have around 50 lads between the age of 8 and 14 involved every weekend.  This is a rapid expansion of players but also managers and leaders.

Whilst I hold responsibility for the whole club there are a fantastic group of people involved.  However I get to lead the under 14's A team who as I write are undefeated after 4 league games this season.  Last year we finished bottom of the league (see a previous blog 'Managing the team at the bottom of the league') so this season's success has come after a number of major leadership challenges.   Imagine how you would motivate a team during a half time team talk when you are losing 7-0 at half time.

Managing the under 14's team requires far more working with people than working with processes.  I think that all Football Managers need to be great leaders.  It is about getting the most out of the players and this is achieved by valuing the players as people.  Seeing players flourish as part of a team is one of the great joys of being involved in Lionhearts.  That does not depend on how talented a boy is but on helping the lads develop in how they apply themselves.  On Saturday the under 14's team I coached played with amazing passion and each did their jobs so well, prepared to work hard for the whole team.  I won't name names for obvious reasons but I expect all the boys slept well on Saturday night because they worked so hard and were brilliant!  Character was shown when they responded to being behind twice in the match coming through to win 6-4.

A winning team however does not mean that leadership becomes easier.  Leadership is essential whether the team is winning or losing.  Developing character is an essential part of life as well as key to playing good football (despite the examples set in some parts of the professional game).  And when we next lose a match we will learn more about our team!

Finally a huge THANK YOU to all the Dad's who help 'manage' and also the young coaches who help with training and make Lionhearts FC a great place to be.  Let's value everyone's contribution!  And let's LEAD these young lads to become better people!

Friday, 11 November 2011

Who buys a real Christmas Tree?

Caring Christmas Trees returns for it's 3rd year in South East London.  We are aiming to raise over £4000 towards the work of the Jericho Road Project as well as increasing the profile of the project.  We are selling trees to businesses with deliveries taking place on the 30th November and 1st December.  Orders by the 21st November.  Then individuals can order trees for pick up from a choice of 4 sites, prices start at £35 (delivery is extra).  All the information is found at 

Each year we want to increase our sales so we are asking the question "who buys a real tree"?

We have produced 25K 'Do you buy a real Christmas tree?' postcards and we are getting information into magazines, newspapers and online.  However the best form of advertising is personal recommendation, so if you get a chance please put in a good word for Caring Christmas Trees. 

This year Chris Rockall has joined the Trees team adding his considerable knowledge of promotion to help us get the message out.

Heidi Alexander MP has agreed to promote the Tree project and we will release a press release following a photo opportunity with Heidi on the 1st December.

We have planned for teams to go out on Tuesday's and Thursday's between 4-7 to hand out flyers at stations, to local businesses and to homes.  If you are able to, please join us.

But if you can't make one of those teams, here are some other ways to help.

1. Buy a Tree
2. Promote Caring Christmas Trees at your work or school.  Postcards, eflyers and posters available.
3. Help us get opportunities to promote Trees, for example book bags in schools, media outlets or link us to key people who will help promote the Trees.
4. Volunteer on the sites - great opportunity to help our customers and get you into the Christmas mood.  Contact to get involved.

Last year nearly 380 real trees were bought by families and businesses across South East London.  This year we are reaching for more because we know that we can make a greater difference for vulnerable people.  We help many rough sleepers but we also help prevent people become homeless.  Your support helps us make a greater difference to those in need.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Lewisham Rough Sleepers Count - 9th November 2011

Tonight we are conducting a rough sleepers count in Lewisham.  This involves the agencies collating information on rough sleepers and then comparing our notes to rule out double counting.  This type of count comes in higher than if we try and spot people rough sleeping during 1 or 2 hours in the middle of the night.   Please email me if you know of any rough sleepers that you can verify meet the definition of rough sleeping below.


In 2010 the Government widened the definition of rough sleeping and when estimating or counting

it is essential that those included in the count figure fall into the following definition:

People sleeping, about to bed down (sitting on/in or standing next to their bedding) or

actually bedded down in the open air (such as on the streets, in tents, doorways, parks, bus

shelters or encampments). People in buildings or other places not designed for habitation

(such as stairwells, barns, sheds, car parks, cars, derelict boats, stations, or “bashes”).

The definition does not include people in hostels or shelters, people in campsites or other sites

used for recreational purposes or organised protest, squatters or travellers.

It does not include people who were rough sleeping in the area on a previous night or earlier in the

evening but who were not there at the time of the count. It does not include people wandering

around or empty sleeping sites.

Bedded down is taken to mean either lying down or sleeping. About to bed down includes those

who are sitting in/on or standing next to a sleeping bag or other bedding. The intention is to

establish that they are or will be rough sleeping on the night of the count. Research has found that

in many areas people seen drinking in the street or begging (even if they have a blanket or a

sleeping bag) are not necessarily sleeping rough and they should not be included unless they are

clearly bedded down or about to bed down at the time of the count.

All those who fall into this definition should be counted, regardless of nationality or eligibility for

public funds.

Further guidance details can be found on the link below;

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Arms Wide Open - Christmas Hampers

This year the theme of the Christmas services at King's Church London is 'Arms Wide Open' and as a practical demonstration of the theme we are going to be providing Hampers for families who are in need.  The main distribution will be through the Lewisham social services teams who are working with children at risk and those on protection.  One of the social services managers said "please thank the church for thinking of our families".  Until I met with one of the staff I had no idea how many families are in this position.  I know that the hampers will go to some very needy people.

Here is the plan for how people are going to provide hampers.  Very shortly we will produce a 'shopping list' which will be a mixture of everyday essentials plus Christmas treats.  And my dream is that groups of friends or families or people in community groups or perhaps in your work place will get together and buy the items so that they can fill a box and bring that to King's Church (Catford, Lee or Downham) on the 4th and 11th December.  Perhaps you can tell me your story of how you get involved in producing a hamper, perhaps it is your football team or knitting group, your youth group or community group.

But you don't have to provide a whole hamper.  It may be that people bring only a few items or part of a hamper and that will work great because people can bring their items to King's on the 4th and 11th December and add it together with other part hampers to make whole ones.  It means everyone can get involved whether it is one tin or one whole hamper.

The Hampers will have a message that reads "Happy Christmas, with love from King's Church". 

Look out for the information that is being given out in the next few weeks.  This is going to be a brilliant way of demonstrating our Arms are Wide Open to people in need this Christmas.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Life in Catford - Lasting Fruit

The challenge of leading a project like the Jericho Road Project is that much of what I do is now through others rather than getting to do it myself.  I mean that I help others to help others!  However I started doing this work because I really like working with rough sleepers, alcoholics or in fact anyone who is down trodden and rejected people around them and now I get limited opportunities to do this.  Last Wednesday gave me such a moment.

A group of  9 young men from King's Church joined us at the Feast for the evening.  I took the opportunity to take 3 of them on a tour of rough sleeping spots in Catford. To be honest I am a little out of touch who is where but I knew enough to know where to go.  But after looking though a few car parks and some more specific spots we had met no-one and we were walking back to King's Church, when on the steps of Catford Bridge station we met Neil (don't worry, as always I've not given you the name he told me).  This man was drunk and collapsed, looking like he was staying for the night. He didn't know how to get back to his flat, couldn't face the future and encapsulated everything I love about working with drunks.  He had great stories to tell of crimes, of prison, the pain he felt about his son going to Afghanistan, he couldn't face sleeping in his flat so he slept in a cemetery.  We hit it off immediately.  Some of his story made no sense at all, some of the addiction story was scripted from the manuals, he was charming and offensive at the same time.  He talked about how hard a man he was, yet all I met was a lonely lost man desperate for hope.  He had no problem believing there was a God but there was no peace in his heart.  Sure if someone had threatened him, he would have attacked first but all we met was a weak and broken man. So we helped him to get to the correct platform to get a train home.

It was a delight to be doing what I've always loved doing.  This week I will follow up with Neil and try to provide help.  But the lasting fruit is probably with the 3 young men who were with me.  Life looks very different when you view it from the bottom of the pile and for a short while we shared this man's pain, we walked with him and experienced the frustration and confusion he felt.  We watched how others reacted to him.  I hope that this man's years of destruction will provoke this group of young men to dream big dreams for how they live their lives and how they help others.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

The Big Ask

I guess that all milestones create feelings of reflection and/or plans for the future. So whether it is birthdays, new year or anniversaries there is a moment to wonder what has been and what will be. I must admit that I am far more likely to look forward than look back. I genuinely do not remember most of the bad things that have happened in the last 10 years, others have to remind me.  So today I looked through a couple of hundred photos of the events of last weekend, and there are some fabulous photos. If I was slightly more technically savvy and had a little more patience (and time!) to get the selection right I would be linking you to my facebook page to see the photos. Perhaps tomorrow!

The photos got me thinking again about the amazing people that I get to work with. People from all backgrounds and experiences are in the pictures. There are people that until recently were using cardboard as a mattress behind shopping centres. There are people who give many hours every week voluntarily to help homeless and vulnerable people get a fab 3 course meal or get their flat cleaned up. There are others who provide us with housing which means we are able to house homeless people.

But it was while I was away at a church leadership event this week that it struck me that I get to make the Big Ask of lots of people very regularly. I ask a lot of my residents hopefully with the right level of support; I ask a lot of my volunteers and I try very hard to express my Thanks; I ask a lot of the team (3 of us in total) who are employed by the Jericho Road Project. And there are others but I realised that while I was comfortable making the Big Ask for all those mentioned, I am not as good at making the Big Ask when it comes to money. I probably feel happier asking for houses than pounds. There are reasons for this, I have always wanted the work I do to be told in stories and then because we have credibility, people would want to give to the Project. This has been the case and regularly people give to the Project. I have had a reluctance to go down the grants route, concerned that it requires lots of time and then lots of time convincing someone that you are doing your job correctly and then the funding stops. I prefer fundraising that is sustainable, the Caring Christmas Trees are an example of this with customers who come back year after year.

However there are great opportunities ahead of us that hinge on fresh financial input.  For example we can with volunteers run a Money Advice Centre on an annual budget of 2.5K which by anyone's calculation is value for money. But am I able to make the Big Ask?

There is though an even bigger Ask - Am I going to pray that God would provide this and much more for all the opportunities ahead us? The Project is an adventure of faith that requires us to dig deep and trust that God will provide all our needs.

My guess is that in the next 10 years I will be making plenty of Big Asks!

Sunday, 9 October 2011

A day and a week to remember!

What a day and what a week! Today was a fabulous day as we celebrated 10 years of the JRP. Yesterday was our 1st ever Lionhearts under 14's victory. Add in the lunchtime event on Thursday and 3 Governors meetings it has a full and intense week. Thankfully I have a day off tomorrow and for once I plan to do very little. I will switch off the phone,spend the day with Rebekah and probably watch the film '127 hours', I read the book in the summer.
The response to today was great. One person who has been at Kings for some years said that today helped him understand what we are doing at Kings more than any other talk. And there were loads of other comments expressing great excitement about the day.
But it was tiring day and I will enjoy sleeping well tonight. Rest is the order of day tomorrow.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

10 Facts about 10 Years of the JRP

1. We have recorded 1131 different people who have been to the Feast.

2. Since the Feast began we have never had to do any recruitment for the team.

3. There have been 88 residents since the housing project started in 2004.

4. King's Church Sunday Attendance has grown from 250 to 1250.

5. About 14% of people who come to the Feast go on to attend Alpha.

6. We serve approximately 4400 3-course meals a year.

7. There has been a Feast table at every evening Alpha course since 2002.

8. We have taken 37 people on holiday this year.

9. I estimate that we have served 27960 meals at the Feast in the 10 years.

10. The Money Advice Service took on 60 new people in a single year.

Friday, 30 September 2011

"Have you got a Sleeping Bag?"

On Sunday 9th we are celebrating 10 years of the Jericho Road Project at all 5 meetings.  So in addition to having both Steve Tibbert and myself speaking there will be 2 short films describing the Project, I am so looking forward to the church seeing the films.  I want people to laugh, surprised and challenged by the films.  It will be a good Sunday to bring friends and family to.  We are telling great stories that will inspire you!  There will even be soup at the end of the morning meetings - another way of helping 1200 people at King's connect with the work of the Feast!

But we also wanted there to be a way that all those who come to King's can take part and so we are asking the church to donate sleeping bags or blankets to the project to help rough sleepers this winter.  This will help in emergency situations where immediate housing cannot be accessed.  The blankets are very helpful for people who are squatting - in recent months we have had families with babies squatting locally.

Some people might have a blanket or sleeping bag at home that you can bring. But others I expect will consider buying one or more and bringing them to King's on the 9th.  It would be great to have a pile of sleeping bags left at the end of the day.   Please do consider joining in, lead the way!  Ask people you know!

Finally as a way of completing the celebration on the 9th we are having a gathering at 7pm for all those who have been involved in the Project over the last 10 years.  We will have Cake, a free drink from the Coffee Bar, some Thank you's etc.  We will be joined by people who are no longer regularly at King's as well.  I am asking all the residents to join us as well as some of the famous Feast faces.  It will be a special moment.    

Friday, 9 September 2011

10 Year Celebration of the Jericho Road Project

I have now been in Catford for 10 years and so at the start of this September I have been reflecting on the last 10 years as well as looking ahead.  In this blog I am attempting to outline what is happening in the term ahead.  Obviously the Feast, support group and housing continues to help people every day/week.

Our 10 year celebration of the Jericho Road Project will take place in 2 parts.  On Thursday 6th October we will be holding a lunchtime event inviting dignitaries from the borough.  The Mayor Sir Steve Bullock, Steve Tibbert and myself will speak at that event.  I am expecting over 100 people to hear what the JRP provides, something of the story of King's as well as how King's through the Jericho Road Project plans to continue to impact South East London 

And then on the Sunday 9th October we will present the Jericho Road project at all 5 services.  Using DVD, powerpoint, preach by Steve Tibbert and myself we will celebrate all that God has done as well as look ahead.  Please invite your friends to this event, it will be a great Sunday.   King's now has over a thousand people attending on a Sunday and we can have a bigger voice to shout about justice and helping the poor to a society around us that is searching for answers.

The Flat Cleaning team will continue to meet every Tuesday to help people who are struggling to keep their flat tidy.  Contact me if you are able to help.  This is a great opportunity to help people keep their tenancies (preventing homelessness) and value themselves (a greater sense of self worth)

Encounter nights – Following the successful Encounter Camp earlier this year we are now running bi-monthly Encounter evenings.  These evenings will follow the pattern of the camp; relaxed, fun, time to wait on God, prayer, worship.  Please come along, the next one will be in November.  Further details when I know them.

Remember Caring Christmas Trees – Our biggest fundraiser of the year is selling Christmas Trees.  Work has already started and there will be the many volunteer opportunities in November and December. 

The marathon walk we did in August is on course to raise £1000 for the Feast, that means 1000 three course meals for vulnerable and homeless people!  If you are still to pay, please do!  Thanks to all those have supported us.

There is a Newfrontiers conference called Jubilee+ taking place on Saturday 1st October taking place in Milton Keynes.  This will be an excellent day looking at how Churches Can Change Communities.   Speakers include Angela Kemm, Gavin Poole, Peter Lyndon and Martin Charlesworth.  Book at 

Belmarsh and Isis Prison Fellowship have an open day on Saturday 15th October 10am-4pm.  Hear from volunteers and Chaplains plus news about Prison Fellowship.  If you want to attend please contact me for further details.

Follow me on Twitter @ simonjohnallen1

Jericho Road Project, King’s Church Centre, Catford Hill, London, SE6 4PS, 020 8690 4646

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Riot reaction

This is my last blog before I take a summer break and I will try and keep it short and sweet. 
The idea of making people, who were convicted of rioting, homeless is the most ridiculous thing I have heard in the whole 'riots' debate.  In fact when I first heard it I thought it was a joke.  There is nothing about it that makes any sense to me.  So let me run the scenario...

If someone has been convicted of being involved in the riot they are being punished by the courts and the sentences given out in the last week appear to be strong enough to provide a deterrent. (Now is not the time to discuss the value of the judicial system that sends a mother of two to prison for 5 months for handling a stolen pair of shorts! I'll save that for another day)  So if councils then evict that immediately becomes an additional punishment.  Where does the additional punishments stop, perhaps if you keep rolling out the punishments you can stop benefits, stop health provision, stop education.

And if I run the scenario of eviction, immediately people who were not involved in the riots will be evicted which seems hugely unfair.  It would cause huge disruption to an already massive challenge for inner city areas.  Because immediately the Council would be under pressure to assess the family for housing under the homelessness Act.  And many charities and other community agencies would be called upon to provide help when there are already too many homeless and vulnerable people needing help.  This plan simply will make things a lot worse.

Normally I would say that the courts would never sanction anything like this.  However the events of the last week have shown in a time when politicians are reacting strongly some normal things have been ignored. 

The answer to restoring a broken society is to help people build self respect, understanding the value of working and for all people to respect authority.  This is not achieved by seeing how much can be stripped away from people!



Tuesday, 16 August 2011

I don't do book reviews.

I have never done a book review on this blog and I'm not sure if this will count as one.  I do read books but unlike people like Matt Hosier I am usually just pleased to finish and move on without writing about them afterwards.  However, it is summer and therefore a great time to read so I am reading a few books.  In fact my wife who reads lot recently had a kindle for her birthday and the slightly strange thing is that when I look at what she is reading it is more often looking at the online bookshop rather than reading a book! 

I went to the newly refurbished library on Torridon Road yesterday which is very nice although it appears that there are far less books in the library than there were before the works. (I don't think the library was looted last Monday)  I found a book called 'Violent London' which is the story of 2000 years of riots and revolutions in London.  I read a quote in this book "What is the world coming to when you can't go to the country fair without people smashing windows", it's almost a 2011 quote!  However this book didn't feel like a summer read so I left it on the shelf.

Instead I found a book called 'Curing Hiccups with small fires' which is a totally bizarre book. 'From the endearingly odd to the dangerously maniacal, the British have always had a reputation for breeding eccentrics, Karl Shaw describes over 200 of the most hilarious, outlandish and occasionally downright weird examples.'  I have only read a handful of the characters in it but already it makes modern eccentrics seem very mild.  If there were tabloid journalists around in the 1800's they would have had more than enough to write about.

Take WG Grace, the grandfather of cricket, a Doctor, noble and upright, playing a gentlemans game.  Yeh right!  He refused to be out, famously saying "they have come to watch me bat not you bowl", ignored the umpire, one bowler got him out 4 times before the umpire dared give WG out.  His brother used the stump to threaten the officals if he didn't like the decision.

CB Fry, a remarkable sportsman, was offered to be the King of Albania, others claimed outrageous expenses, many wore shocking clothing, some delighted in being naked, many were arisocrats who took advantage of their wealth and position.  But what is amazing is that many have made such an impression on British society.  The Revd William Archibald Spooner (1844-1930) name lives on due to 'spoonerisms', when parts of two words get mixed up.  My favourite of his is when he announced a hymn 'Kinquering Congs their titles take ...'.  The Revd John Wesley, father of Methodism, wrote lots of poems to suplement his income with many odd titles including Maggots: or Poems on several subjects never handled before.

Poets, sportsmen, adventurers, polititians - this book shows that firstly there is nothing new in odd behaviour, it has been done before, but secondly it does suggest that being slightly odd is part of making an impression on British history. 

Enjoy your summer reading!

Friday, 12 August 2011

How to help society? It's always one life at a time!

Yesterday was the great marathon walk day - 26 miles over the North Downs from Cuxton to Botley Hill.  It was a tough day and my legs are feeling it today.  The current total raised is about £800 with more coming in so I am hopeful of reaching £1000.  That means 1000 3-course meals for some of the most vulnerable people in South East London.  Thank you if you have made a donation.

But the events of the last week have cast a huge shadow over South East London and probably the whole country.  So much has been said and blogged about the riots so I am not trying to summarise the issues here.  I found the scenes on Monday deeply sad and I have spent the week living with the consequences of the actions of a few.  For many we work with each week they live alone and often in great fear.  This week has seen even greater fear shown, one man came to the door and wanted the outside metal gate closed to protect himself because he was scared of people walking past.  Another was greatly angered because a friend of his had been robbed.  Others because they are vulnerable and on the streets and not positive about the police got mixed up in the troubles even though they were not looting and rioting. 

The soundtrack to Catford Centre in normal times is sirens but this week has been like no other.  Last night driving through Catford we saw blue lights coming towards us and we saw probably 15 of those riot styles police vans that have appeared in the last few days.  These were not the transit vans with grills on them, these are the vehicles that are more like tanks, something that is seen in Northern Ireland.  Where they were going I don't know but it definitely creates an impression.  Today I was helping one man and whilst in Catford I lost count of the number of emergency vehicles that were charging up and down, sirens blaring, often 2 or 3 vehicles together.  There is a major operation going on out there!

The challenge for us all is how to live through this and beyond.  There are so many questions and answers to these troubles but I want to come back to one answer that I know is true.  Helping society recover always requires us to help one person at a time.  The biggest plans for society stand or fail on the ability to help one person to change, followed by another and another.  Politicians cannot change the human heart but the gospel is the story of good news that transforms the heart.  I know that sometimes one person can take up a lot of effort or require great patience to help and you question is it worth it.  But the time spent helping one young person or vulnerable person can result in changing a community.  That is why the Feast will, where possible, help each person who comes in who needs assistance.  As a project we will continue to help the most broken and needy, one life at a time!

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Introduction to Homelessness Training

A number of our team have been on this training and have found it very useful.

Introduction to Homelessness Training
Saturday 1st October or Saturday 26th November 2011
Housing Justice runs a very popular one day training workshop on homelessness and related issues. It is particularly suitable for volunteers in churches and smaller homelessness projects or people who are new to working in the field. This one day workshop is usually over subscribed so early booking is recommended! 

The training covers: Role of the church, statutory and voluntary sector; homelessness law and local authority duties; mental health awareness; drugs and alcohol awareness; boundaries/dealing with conflict.

COST £25 per person for Housing Justice member organisations

NOTE HJ Membership includes two free places but please get in touch if cost is an issue. Some bursary places are available for unfunded churches or small organisations and for low/unwaged volunteers. 

DATES Saturday 1st October 2011 or Saturday 26th November 2011
10.00am - 4.00pm

Venue Housing Justice 22-25 Finsbury Square London EC2A 1DX
Nearest tube: Moorgate 

Further info/to book please email
Claire Garner or call 020 7920 6600

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Cleaning up a Mess

A team has formed that has taken on a fabulous task.  Mike and Jane Haley are now heading up a team that will regularly go into people's flats and homes helping them clean up, repair and generally learn some skills to maintain their homes in a better state.  They are looking for more people who will be on a team who will spend a couple of hours each month helping out.  This is such a fantastic opportunity and it can make a massive difference.  At times this has been the difference between someone staying in a house or choosing to give up and becoming homeless.

Most of the opportunities occur on weekdays but if you would like to be involved at the weekend or evening please let us know.  Perhaps you are in a group that would like to be involved.  Please contact or 020 8690 4646 if you would like to get involved.  If you have some time please do get involved. 

Also do not forget the £1 challenge - 5 ex rough sleepers walking a marathon distance over the North Downs Way on the 11th August.  If you want to be a £1 challenge supporter simply let me know and then give me the money when you see me next.  Remember: Every pound provides a hungry person with soup, main meal and a pudding.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

5 ex rough sleepers walking a marathon

FUNDRAISING FOR THE FEAST  -  The £1 challenge

The Feast is our weekly outreach meeting for homeless and vulnerable people. 
Every £1 given provides a 3 course meal for a homeless person on a Wednesday night.
5 men who are ex-rough sleepers are going to walk a marathon distance (over 26 miles) on the North Downs Way from Rochester to Botley Hill near Woldingham – 11th August 2011.
Here are the famous five ... and we asked them 2 questions.

 Malcolm  How long were you rough sleeping?  5 1/2 years
 Why support the feast?  “It’s a great place that helps people”

 Dave How long were you rough sleeping?  1 year
 Why support the feast?  “helps people get off the street”
Terry How long were you rough sleeping?  On and off for 7 years
Why support the feast?  “the people at the Feast have shown me concern and compassion. It’s time for me to give something back”
Peter How long were you rough sleeping?  On and off for 10 years
Why support the feast?  “we act as a family”

Jamie How long were you rough sleeping?  12 weeks
Why support the feast?  “How happy having a meal makes you feel. It’s the greatest thing in the world when you are on the street.”
Please help by signing up to the £1challenge - each person can give maximum £1, but if you are creative you can find a way to give more.  Perhaps pay for all those in your family, last year someone paid for their pets. Email to sign up!


Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Encounter Camp feedback night

Encounter Camp 2011 was held between 20th-24th June and was a brilliant week.  There is so much to talk about that we are holding a feedback night this evening - 7.45pm at King's Church Catford.  There will be cakes to start followed by some film footage of the Encounter fun including Darren and Malcolm dancing, not together though.  We also want to live out what we learnt at Encounter, which means that we want to give away what we have.  Therefore there will be a time of worship, prayer and prophecy. 

Everyone is welcome to attend this evening's meeting and if you like to forward plan here are the dates for 2012 - 11th -15th June. This year 17 came with us and I am hoping that 40 people from King's will come next year.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Crazy Comical Cycling

On Tuesday I cycled to Brighton and on Friday I cycled back,  It is the furthest I have ever cycled and it is something that I knew I was capable of but it was reassuring to actually achieve this.  It took me 3hours 59mins to cycle 66 miles to Brighton and 3hours 17mins to cycle back because I only needed to cycle 56 miles!  I then imagine how much faster the Tour riders are going.  Well I averaged 17.3 mph (almost 28kph on the return journey.  The tour riders average 43-45kph on flattish stages.  Remarkable speeds!

I learnt some things along the way.  I learnt that I couldn't attack the hills as I do on 20/30 mile rides.  I found out I had no power left so needed to go through the gears and keep the tempo high (aerobic rather than power).  Thank you to my friend Matt Cooke for his advice.  This really helped on Ditchling Beacon and on the return through Westerham which is surprisingly hilly.  It meant that I mentally was happy just to get up rather than have time targets or trying to catch up with another cyclist and then the great thing was that I was able to cycle strongly away from the top.  I also learnt that you have to stay mentally strong, even when someone shouts from their car and makes me jump or when I fell over at traffic lights in Bromley.  It was the first time I had fallen due to using cleats. (which means that my feet are attached to the pedal)  Another comical moment was when I fell over my bike in the hotel and jammed the sprocket into my ankle leaving me with some fine looking wounds.

Which obviously brings me to the joy of watching the Tour de France.  Quite simply stunning!  This event operates on so many levels and I seem to learn more about it each year.  The team dynamics are very complex but they are remarkable teams.  This article from the Toronto Star described the beauty of the
team and significant the domestiques are.  The riders are absolutely superb athletes and often appear machine-like. I like the itv4 coverage, there is great commentary and wise use of the advert breaks - Thanks!. 

But having cycled over 100 miles in 2 rides this week I have one slightly different view of the riders.
They get paid to have that much fun!  Yes they are in pain but simply cycling for a living and being part of such a brilliant event easily makes up for that. 

Thursday, 7 July 2011

"It's better to squat in England than live in Romania"

I don't like hearing the statement above when it's a single person saying it but I am especially concerned when it's said by parents, in this case there are 2 children involved (6 months and 5 years old).  The reason given is that there are no jobs in Romania; we will have to wait and see if there are jobs for him in SE London!  Having not been to Romania it is hard to make comment on why it is so tough in Romania (or Latvia, Czech Rep, Poland etc) that makes travelling to a new country and then living a dangerous life of finding squats.  Are other countries experiencing this in reverse? 

I know there are reasons why England/Britain is a good choice.  Comparatively we have it very good and our health system is still a most remarkable thing.  A different parent from Eastern Europe explained that simply having a free health care system for giving birth meant that it was better to live in England.  But these cases do leave me confused.  There are so many questions that this presents;what really goes on for a family to chose this, where are their families?, is it right to have children living in a squat knowing that any day the police might stop you from living in that property, what about health and education, food and shelter - ultimately the most basic human needs are in question.

What was remarkable about the couple last night is that they and her especially were the most upbeat and resourceful people.  She smiled and explained that because they have no electricity she persuades the owner of a fast food stall to heat up her babies bottle.  She did not complain and talked of her faith that God would provide for them.

They had a huge impact on me last night.  Just to finish, a few years ago I read a book called the The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity by Philip Jenkins which described how people groups are displaced on a global scale for many reasons and how the church becomes the light on the hill that people go to because it is visible.  Jenkins described how big churches in global cities would gather people from all over the world.  

So let the light shine!!   

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

A Feast of Delight

Lucreta has been a volunteer at the Feast for a number of years and is also an accomplished poet.  Not surprisingly she has combined the two!  She has just had her poem about the Feast published in a book called 'Here and Now'. It goes like this -

The Feast

Volunteers mingle at four pm
Preparing dishes as they come
With the background sound of laughter
In readiness for the banquet at eight pm

Plaid tablecloths; seventy place settings
Brightens up the environment
For the needy to be served with a three course meal

They listen to a fifteen minute talk and
Applause approvingly; enjoying tea and coffee; plus
A take away and extra clothing before they depart

A hope for change;one hear their cry; one see their sigh
They destitute embrace the gospel and then they comply

The Feast changes lives; the destitute enfold hope
Visible in their eyes and in their lives

A Feast of delight, to be polite on Wednesday nights
At Kings Church, SE6

I have heard Lucreta read this poem a few times and it is definitely best read in her fabulous Caribbean accent.  In fact I hope she performs a few poems when she is launching her new book Meh Landing Frock on Thursday 7th July at Catford Library. 

Lucreta’s first anthology is a poetic journey from memories of his grandmother shelling gunga peas by the side of the road, to her first impressions of the UK in the 1950s, to the emergence of multicultural London and a return visit to St Vincent, the land of her birth. Creole patois features in both Lucreta’s writing and performance.
The event is free to attend with the opportunity to buy a signed copy from Lucreta. Lucreta is Vice-Chair of the Inspired Word writing group and would be pleased to speak to anyone interested in joining in with their activities.
Thursday 7 July 2011, 5.45pm for 6-7pmCatford Library

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Life in Catford - on the buses 3

Living life on the Jericho Road (representing the dangerous and difficult places in our society) rather than hiding away in our houses or our car with the music turned up loud is still on my mind.  If social justice means anything it has to mean engagement and with parts of society that are not like me.

Today after church, I got the bus home with my 4 children.  My eldest who uses the bus every day sits on his own, happy to disown the presence of his family, whereas my 3 girls sit with me where there were empty seat at the back of the bus!  Upon sitting down, the guy next to me, on the phone, tells his listener that I have got on the bus.  He uses a term to describe me that I have never heard before and I won't put on this blog in case I find it to be deeply offensive slang.  His conversation which he is broadcasting to the whole bus then proceeds to be filled with plenty of foul language.  I can deal with that fine, I asked him to watch his language and he agrees and then tells his phone listener (and the bus) that it makes sense because the kids don't need to hear that language.  What I was unable to find a solution to, was the constant valuing of women as objects that he has authority over, anyone (thing in his vocabulary) who was female that came into view out of the window got a sexualised comment.  This guy had no shame! He might think that children shouldn't hear swearing but he was very happy to let them hear sexualised vocabulary.  When he got off the bus my eldest daughter and I started a discussion about his views on women.  She told me up to the point he got off, she was desperate to get off the bus and walk!  She really hoped that it had gone over the heads of the younger two. 

Yesterday I saw a man wearing a T-shirt that read 'made to be laid' - now I find the term 'laid' fairly offensive especially on public display but it was the word 'made' that got me thinking.  God made us and one of our key purposes is to procreate. Did this man even know that he was 'made'?  The impression was that he was the author and maker of his life and the obvious statement he was saying by wearing this T-shirt was that he had a right to use another person for his own selfish gain.  How did we end up here when God made sex for our good?

The sexualisation of young people through clothing and music videos etc has made the headlines recently and I am relieved that there is voice of reason in the midst of this onslaught.  Yes the casual acceptance that is given to talking about and display your intentions regarding sex is deeply disturbing. 

My task as a Father of a son and three girls who live on the Jericho Road requires my full engagement and now is not the time to hide my head in the sand.  Happy Father's Day!!

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Where have all the blogs gone?

I have no simple answer to why I have not blogged for a month but it gives me an opportunity to catch up on all that is going on. (The one blog I did write, froze on me so never was published!)

Events that have happened in the last month. As a family we enjoyed some cold wet Derbyshire weather and then some hot dry Norfolk weather at half time. As I reflected on the weather differences in our relatively small country, I realised what a fascinating climate we have. My wife called it something else when we were stuck in a tent for a second wet day. Also in the last month Aston Villa Football Club have turned down or have been turned down by every unemployed manager. (Blues fans would probably argue that some who are employed as well).

Steve Tibbert has launched his book 'Good to Grow' which tells the story of King's Church over the last 15 years. It is almost 10 years since I joined the team and it is a story that I am delighted to have been part of. It also provides a resource when people ask how has King's continued to grow. The weeks since the launch of our 3 sites have seen a remarkable increase in people attending the church.

I have reached the 6 months since my knee op and last night I ran for the first time in about 10 months. I have been cycling and swimming but I was told it would take 6 months to run and the consultant was right. Even running last night I could feel it on my recovering knee although I felt it equally on my other knee so perhaps it is just par for the course when I haven't run for that long. Anyway it felt a significant step towards the goal of completing an Olympic length triathlon in the Olympic year/my 40th year. Which obviously leads to a classic blog topic 'Olympic tickets', I tried to get about £600 worth of tickets including the 100m final and I got £46 which means 2 adult tickets to an Olympic event. Still no email to inform me which one. Despite the huge criticism I was generally happy with the whole process with one major concern. The system favoured people who had more money or were willing to gamble more. The more bids you entered the more chance you had of getting tickets. Putting that aside, as a family we will thoroughly enjoy the Olympic games being on our doorstep. The free events will be great and also the big screens in the Parks should be excellent places to hang out.

Life has been very busy and I have had to remember to slow down a little and try to pace myself. Next week I am away with about 15 others from the Jericho Road Project at the Encounter Camp in rural Worcestershire. This is an event started by my friend Jim Harper who runs the event to allow people who have suffered from life controlling issues to have a place where they can meet with God and find healing. It will provide for me a different week from the usual hustle and bustle of the office/home. It will give me time to catch up with people who I might see regularly but don't have much time to catch up with.

So the blog is back, hopefully!

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Blah, blah, blah - The Art of Communication!

Communication. It's been taking up my thoughts recently. Whether it's bloggin, tweeting, website, emails, Sunday airtime at church, interviews on film, remembering what to say to which team. It has become a significant part of my work. So I am asking - Are we getting our message out? Who is on the other end? It is surprising how much is dependant on the power of the written word!

I want communication that delivers both the information but also empowers people to do something in response. I love writing this blog although some ideas require more work than others to get a finished blog. Recently I started a fortnightly email newsletter that does 3 things - it describes what has been happening, what is coming up and One story/issue. There are currently 80 people on the mailing list. If you would like to receive it, please email requesting the newsletter.

Whilst I do have a Twitter account until I get a mobile device that allows me to use it on the go I will not be Twittering.

In preparation for the 10 year celebration in October I am due to start filming people telling their stories of the last 10 years. Hopefully this will be a great resource but will be especially useful for the dignitaries event on the 6th October and the Sunday event on the 9th October, especially useful now that King's meets on 3 sites. If you have filming or editing skills that you can offer to the JRP please let me know.

Have you seen the Feast video we did last Autumn in preparation for the sale of Christmas Trees? For some reason I can't get the link to connect here - such are the joys of bloggin! Also because I have now attempted to get the link to this blog, the text has become one text rather than being spaced out with paragraphs and I've lost the spell check. In fact all I can do is type so I'll stop before the blog completely crashes!)

So communication, it's not as easy as it looks!

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Managing the team at the bottom of the table.

As the football leagues in England come to an end, lots of soul searching takes place for managers. Well that or Owners simply fire their manager who a matter of weeks, months and occasionally years ago they were convinced were the best thing for their club. 'He's the right man to take this club forward' quickly becomes 'He's taken the club as far as he possible can'. However this manager then becomes the best man for another job and so it goes on.

Another mystery of football talk is that people seem surprised that there is a club at the bottom of the table. The has always been, is now, and will always be a team who occupy the bottom place in the league. That is how a league works! One of the managers will be at the bottom. Well this year it was my turn to be the manager who was bottom of the table. It was the 1st year that Lewisham Lionhearts had run an under 14's team. For a few years now we have had an under 11's team playing in the South London Church League, last year we won the cup and finished mid table in the league. And this year we had a team in the under 14's league.

We had a very young team, mostly year 7's, playing in a league for years 7, 8 and 9. So we have got 2 more years to enjoy playing at this level. The players have made great progress in the year but being a young team brings it challenges, we were often shorter, slower, less fit, not able to pass as far, not able to shoot as hard. All in all we had a big challenge!

The highlight was seeing players respond with great attitude, working hard for the team and the low light was (twice) trying to find a way to inspire the team when we are getting thumped by the best team in the league - 'Let's aim to let in less goals in the 2nd half than we did in the 1st!' we managed this in both games. 'Let's try and score one goal!' we managed this in one of the games.

In the world of football all the talk will soon be all about next season, who is managing where.
The only threat to my managerial career is if Rebekah says that it is taking up too much time of our family time.

As far as I know I have not had a vote of confidence. Not bad for a manager at the bottom of the league!