The first Oriental Orthodox Education Day took place on Saturday, October 9th at St Sarkis Church, Kensington, London. It took place under the sponsorship of the Council of Oriental Orthodox Churches in the UK, and had been organised by Father Vahan Hovhanessian, the primate of the Armenian Orthodox Church in the UK, and Father Peter Farrington, the Secretary of the Council, and a priest of the British Orthodox Church within the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate.
The day began with Armenian morning prayers led by Father Vahan, and Father Shnork Bagdassarian, and then those attending the day were invited to the Nevart Gulbenkian Hall where a light breakfast had been prepared. After breakfast a message of introduction and welcome by His Grace Bishop Angaelos was read and then two presentation were given during the morning in the St Sarkis Church.
The first was concerned with the Septuagint in the Orthodox Tradition and was presented by His Eminence Abba Seraphim of the British Orthodox Church. This interesting lecture began with a consideration of the origin of the Septuagint, and then explored its use as the version of the Old Testament used by the early Church. Abba Seraphim produced and spoke about several editions of the Septuagint in English.
The second presentation was given by Father Vahan and considered the role of the Bible in the Armenian Church. It was very illuminating to hear so many passages from the Armenian spiritual tradition read in English. Father Vahan explained how the Armenian people had taken the Bible to themselves when it was translated into their own language, and he provided many moving examples of Armenian prayers in which the author placed himself into the narrative of many Biblical passages as though he were participating in them himself.
There were only a few minutes for questions before lunch in the Nevart Gulbenkian Hall. The participants were very pleased to be able to sample authentic Armenian food and it was difficult to call everyone away from the warm fellowship which was enjoyed.
The final presentation of the day was given by Father Peter, and he spoke on the Bible as the source of Christology in the Orthodox Church. He described how the Bible was essentially a Christological document itself, and needed to be received as authoritative before it could be explained. Then he used several examples from the Fathers to show how they relied entirely on the Bible for their Christological insights. Father Peter stressed the need for such study to be conducted in the context of prayer, rather than as an intellectual exercise.
Father Vahan closed the day asking those who had attended if they had enjoyed the day, and would come to another, and then called on Abba Seraphim to dismiss everyone with prayer and a blessing. Afterwards many retired to the Nevart Gulbenkian Hall again for tea and coffee and to continue conversations.
There was a wide variety of attendance from many different Church backgrounds. Over 30 people had gathered together for the event. During the various breaks for refreshment many new friendships and contacts were made. It is planned to hold the next Orthodox Education Day in January, and then on a regular basis afterwards.