Magna Carta: "Women's Rights"

There is only one reference to ‘femina’, Latin for women, in Magna Carta.

It comes at Clause 54, which states that ‘No one shall be arrested or imprisoned, on the accusation of a woman, for the death of anyone, except her husband.’

If the accusation came from a man, the accused would be arrested; if from a woman,(unless it is the death of her husband) they only had to give sureties that they would appear and stand trial.

Magna Carta: "A Line in the Sand"

The Revd Margaret Legg

Magna Carta was revolutionary. It was iconic. It stated, for the first time, that no-one was above the law, not even the king, God’s representative on earth. The Crown was under the Law.

Magna Carta did not apply to Scotland. Perhaps this is why difficulties cropped up when the crown was inherited by the Scottish King James and his son Charles 1, who promoted the concept of the divine right of kings. He was beheaded.

Ash Wednesday: "Reshaping Relationship"

The Revd Margaret Legg

70 years ago Coventry Cathedral was destroyed by the Luftwaffe. Since the 14th century it had stood, a solid and majestic witness to God. Overnight its interior was reduced to rubble – to dust and ashes.

Today, Ash Wednesday is a day of penitence to clean the soul, to wear sackcloth and to cover one’s head with ashes. All ancient Biblical traditions. During the service you will be invited to have a cross of ashes marked on your forehead, as a sign of penitence and mortality.  The signing is accompanied by the words remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.

Before Lent: "Going Up a Hill and Down a Mountain"

The Revd Robin Sims-Williams

Reading today’s Gospel I was reminded of the film, The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain, which tells the story of two English surveyors who turn up in a fictional Welsh town to measure the mountain, which their initial measurements indicate, to the anger of the inhabitants of the village, that the mountain is in fact just short of the 1000 ft requirement for a mountain. They are held at bay until the locals can transport enough earth to the top of the hill, to ensure it remains a mountain and the pride of their village. As you might expect it’s not just the hill that’s transformed, the young englishman, played by Hugh Grant, becomes a bit less strict about the rules (and falls in love withone of the locals) and the pastor (Rev Jones) becomes a bit more pastoral.

Candlemas: "No Pain, No Gain"

The Revd Robin Sims-Williams

Before I begin I want to read from a great British Theologian of the 20th Century:

'Ooh!' said Susan, 'I'd thought he was a man. Is he - quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.'
'That you will, dearie, and no mistake,' said Mrs Beaver; 'if there's anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they're either braver than most or else just silly.'
'Then he isn't safe?' said Lucy.
'Safe?' said Mr Beaver; 'don't you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you.' [from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis]

Epiphany: "Come and See"

The Revd Margaret Legg

The pantomime is one of those traditions at this time of year that people seem either to love or to detest. I love them and try to go every year. My favourite theatre is the Hackney Empire, a palace of a building, designed by Frank Matcham, who also designed the London Coliseum. Last year they put on Jack and the Beanstalk. It featured an amazing fusion of traditional British culture with the local West Indian culture. So Jack’s mother, the panto dame, was played by a jolly and rotund Jamaican. He did rap and tucked into patties and chicken and rice. But it is a panto in Wimbledon a few years ago that sticks in my mind. We were late – terrible traffic- and the Dame – Windsor Davies – was in full flow when we slipped into the auditorium.

Christmas: "A Christmas Carol"

The Revd Margaret Legg

Glory is one of those golden threads in our faith, running through the Christmas story, through scripture and through our service. Remember the angels’ song of joy to the shepherds, ‘Glory to God in the highest and peace to his people on earth’? It is picked up in the Gloria which we sang earlier, after the Confession and Absolution: a joyful response to God’s forgiveness; our next carol ‘Angels from the realms of glory’ majors in it (watch out for the refrain) and we heard in today’s Gospel that in Jesus ‘we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son’, but, ‘the world knew him not.’ Certainly Scrooge knew him not!

Advent: "Up-talk"

The Revd Margaret Legg

My name’s Margaret? I’m preaching on John the Baptist this morning? But I could preach on Mary, or a miracle?

This is Up-Talk – you come to the end of what you’re trying to say and your voice rises in a kind of insecure, worrying way? So people know you’re really engaged with them and you really welcome their response. It could be considered polite, because you are acknowledging that the other may not agree and you are willing to hear that and adapt.

Advent: "The One Where Chandler Falls Asleep"

The Revd Robin Sims-Williams


The demand seems weighed down with a threat, a threat of what will happen to you if you fall asleep. It reminds me of an episode in the 9th series of Friends, originally aired 12 years ago! In the episode, Chandler falls asleep in a meeting, waking with a start he agrees to whatever he’s asked, fearing admitting that he’s been asleep. Instead, unknowingly, he’s agreed to move to Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Remembrance Sunday: "Remember With Fury"

The Revd Margaret Legg

The Remembrance Season reaches its climax with the ceremonies today and next Tuesday – Armistice Day, particularly important this year as we mark the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War.

How important it is to remember well. To remember well is to reflect on the valour of the many who died so we might live; it is to give thanks for the freedom we enjoy because of the sacrifice of many; it is to treasure the peace we have experienced on these shores since the Second World War and it is to spark us to work for the continuation of peace: in our lives, in our country and in the world.

Trinity: "Failure to Launch"

The Revd Robin Sims-Williams

Henry was hard working, but had low self-esteem. He had been hired in desperation for another body. He hadn’t been in the company for long and worried what his colleagues thought of him. He was working hard, and there were lots of people relying on him. He was in a rush, but it was raining and he was worried about his paint job, so waited in the dry for the rain to stop.

Trinity: "The Anti-Subject"

The Revd Robin Sims-Williams

I really enjoy watching a good television interview. Where the questioner has got the subject on the ropes, where they are asking a line of questions that you can tell the subject doesn’t want to answer. Maybe the subject starts talking about something they hope the interviewer hasn’t prepped on. Or the subject starts asking the interviewer questions. Making the rounds on social media this week, an amusing Channel 4 interview of Richard Ayoade conducted by Krishnan Guru Murthy has got lots of people laughing.

Trinity: "What Is She Like?"

What is she like? I don’t know if you ever said this about your parents, but this refrain of my children still rings in my ears as I remember asking them once again to ‘Close the kitchen door please to keep the cooking smell in’ or ‘Turn the music down – more!’

Our readings today show us something of what God is like. So do the jihadists currently establishing the Islamic State (IS). They reveal a God who condones unprovoked military action, has a blatant disregard for human life, persecutes and murders the innocent and causes untold suffering.

St Michael & All Angels: "Goodbye To All That"

The Revd Brutus Green

"We are approaching the close of the year. And we are approaching also… the close of my ministry among you.” Thus began the vicar of St John’s, Paddington, as this church was called, the Revd Dr Edward Goulburn’s penultimate sermon of December 1866. You may think that September is a little early to quote ‘the close of the year’, but for Bryan, our administrator, who begins his count down to Christmas each year at Epiphany, or in excitable years on Boxing Day, September 28 is most of the way there. Interestingly, Goulburn’s farewell sermons are on almost identical subjects to his successor Gilbert Karney’s, 40 years later; issues which at the time were dividing the church. So if it amazes you that the church can tear itself apart for 40 years over the same issue, do not be surprised. There is great precedent played out in the very church you are sitting in.

Horseman's Sunday I

The Revd Brutus Green

10 years ago on the 90th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I, the Princess Royal unveiled the Animals in War memorial just a short walk away on Park Lane. Its most famous inscription reads almost like a Hollywood tagline: ‘they had no choice’; a strange choice. The British army of that war was until 1916 entirely voluntary, the second largest volunteer army of all time, but there were certainly many humans who felt through the war a lack of choice.

Horseman's Sunday II: "To the Horses"

Horses in the bible are always key to victory. Famously ‘thrown into the sea’ with the chariots, as the Israelites made their escape from Egypt and in today’s reading it is the white horse and riders who overthrow the armies of hell, led by the naughty four horses of the apocalypse. It is doubtful that Scottish horses contributed to the saving of the Union this week but I’m certain if their opinion had been asked the response would have been ‘neigh’. Not what Richard III had in mind when he famously begged, ‘a horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse’, but in his case the answer was also no, which leaves us with the Union in tact and Richard freshly buried in Leicester.

Trinity: "Laughing With Enemies"

The Revd Robin Sims-Williams

It shouldn’t be a surprise, but I’ve been reminded recently that it is easier to gain passionate support by denouncing something than by standing in favour of it. Against this union of Great Britain, against politicians, against the status quo, against change. I’ve been haunted by the shouts of ‘Never, never, never’ played on the radio and television as part of the obituaries of Ian Paisley from his protest to the Ango-Irish agreement of 1985.

Trinity: "Setting Our Minds on the Heavenly Things"

The Revd Brutus Green

Within the first months of beginning my life as a priest at St John’s, five years ago, I had two experiences that capture the contrary life of the ordained. In the first, on a sunny day, I was pulled off the street over towards Bayswater by a desperate man who told me that he was about to kill himself and launched into a moving story about the death of his mother. I was utterly unprepared for such a conversation but talked to him for some time, told him to drop by at St John’s, and tried to give him some reassurance. He didn’t ask me for money, and I’ve never seen him again.

Trinity: "The Problem of Evil"

The Revd Brutus Green

One of the problems that exercised the early Church, and philosophers going back to the ancient world, is the so-called problem of evil. After centuries of persecution the first generations of Christians had plenty of first-hand experience of the evil of men, not forgetting their own founder’s. As Pascal affirmed: “Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.” And yet the Christians worshipped a God, categorically defined as good, who had alone created all things from nothing. Where then does evil come from?

Trinity: "Getting in the Zone"

The Revd Robin Sims-Williams

When I was at University, many years ago, I used to row. There was a certain sensation that every crew aspired to. Where the boat was running just right, and the crew were working together perfectly. It didn’t need you to be the strongest or toughest crew. It did need you to instinctively know each other. To trust each other. In another sport you might describe it as ‘being in the zone’. It is partly physical and partly psychological. At that moment the boat lifted, it seemed to glide over the water. Y