The elevation of Father James to the episcopate is a very significant event in the history of the British Orthodox Church. The last time this happened was in 1977 when Abba Seraphim was consecrated to the same titular see with the purpose of becoming the coadjutor to the late Mar Georgius.
Abba James’ service to the church
Abba James, was born at Ashton-in Makerfield, Lancashire, on 15 July 1984, where his family had lived since 1800. Soon after his parents moved to Leeds, where he attended school and in 1993, when they moved to Surrey, he studied Computer Science at Brooklands College at Weybridge. His early involvement with the church was through his technical support for its online presence and the development of the Church websites. Following his graduation from Southampton Solent University he moved to London in July 2006 and stayed temporarily at the Church Secretariat at Charlton. Having proved himself invaluable in a number of fields, he then served as Abba Seraphim’s chauffeur and also as Church Treasurer in 2006-2009, following which in 2008 he was appointed a lay Trustee and PA to Abba Seraphim, taking up permanent residence at the Secretariat.
During his time as a catechumen he visited Egypt in 2009 and met Pope Shenouda; he also accompanied Abba Seraphim to Malabar in January 2010, to the Eritrean Community in New York in July 2010 (where he addressed the Eritrean Orthodox clergy about the website he had created for their imprisoned Patriarch, Abune Antonios and the importance of harnessing the power of the internet), to Malta in April 2011 and to the Phanar in Istanbul in July 2012, where he met the Oecumenical Patriarch.
He was finally received into the British Orthodox Church through his baptism and chrismation on 30 June, 2012. He was ordained Reader at St. Alban’s Church, Chatham, Kent, on 11 November, 2012; Subdeacon at St. George-in-the-East, Shadwell, London, on 12 January, 2014; Deacon at the Church of St. Mark & St. Hubert, Cusworth, on 6 December, 2015; Archdeacon at Cusworth on 1 May, 2016; Priest at Cusworth on 30 July 2017; Hegoumenos at the Church of Christ the Saviour, Bournemouth, on 16 December, 2018 and on 22 December, 2018 at Christ the Saviour he received the first Monastic Tonsure according to the Order for a Beginner taking the Rason and was received into the Brotherhood of Monks.
Office of the Examen
The consecration service was preceded on Friday, 22 February by the Office of the Examen, during which the Instrument of Nomination as Mafrian, with its confirmation and the Apostolic Mandate were publicly read by Archdeacon Antony Holland; the Bishop-Elect made the three solemn Professions of Faith and responded to the Interrogatories relating to his purpose, resolution and engagement concerning the duties of the episcopate, followed by his swearing the Oath of Canonical Obedience, before making a General Confession and receiving absolution.
Among those invited to attend the Consecration Liturgy as an ecumenical guest, was Mgr. Douglas Titus Lewins, Archbishop Titular of Lindisfarne & Primate of the Old Roman Catholic Church in Great Britain. In welcoming him, Abba Seraphim noted that the late Patriarch Georgius had been on personally friendly terms with the late Archbishops Bernard Mary Williams (1889-1952) and Geoffrey Paget King (1917-1991); whilst Abba Seraphim had also been a good friend of the late Archbishops James Hedley Thatcher (1921-1996) and Dennis St. Pierre (1932-1993). Archbishop Douglas, who has been a friend of the British Orthodox Church for many years, also holds firmly to the Orthodox Faith recognised by the two Acts of Union under Archbishop Arnold Harris Mathew with the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch on 5 August 1911 and with the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria on 26 February 1912.
Consecration to the Episcopate
On Saturday morning, 23 February, following the office of the Raising of Morning Incense, Father James was led into the church for his consecration. In keeping with the ancient Coptic tradition his hands were held by two bishops to prevent him from escaping from the responsibility of the episcopate. Abba David of Priddy was on one side, whilst on the other was Archbishop Douglas.
The ceremony of consecration took place following the Praxis and the congregation all joined in saluting the new Bishop with the traditional greeting, Axios! Following the laying on of hands by Abba Seraphim, assisted by Abba David, Archbishop Douglas also conferred a special blessing on the new Archbishop, after which Abba James was vested in his episcopal regalia and then concelebrated the Liturgy with Abba Seraphim and Abba David. Before assisting Abba David in communicating the congregation, Abba James received the ‘Holy Breath’ from Abba Seraphim.
At the end of the Divine Liturgy, Abba Seraphim read the traditional injunction to a new Bishop before enthroning him under the name, title and style of ‘His Eminence Abba James, Archbishop Titular of Caerleon-upon-Usk and Mafrian (perpetual coadjutor cum jure successionis) to the Metropolis of Glastonbury and British Patriarchate’. He was then invested with the pastoral staff of the late Bishop Mar Jacobus (Herford), made for him by Indian Christians in 1902 and other episcopal regalia, before receiving the congratulations of the congregation as he distributed the antidoran to them.
Following the Liturgy a reception followed in the Battie-Wrightson Memorial Hall, at which all present at the service joined in.
Photos provided by Mat Dale https://www.matdalephoto.com/