NEWS FROM THE BRITISH ORTHODOX CHURCH
On 17 February 2008, Antony Robin Alan WESTWOOD was ordained Reader at the Church of St. Mary & St. Felix, Babingley, Norfolk, at the hands of Abba Seraphim.
On 6 April 2008, Robin Alan WESTWOOD was ordained Subdeacon at the Church of St. Alban & St. Athanasius, Chatham, Kent at the hands of Abba Seraphim.
New Chairman of Priests’ Council
Following his move to Scotland, Father Anthony Clements offered his resignation as Chairman of the Priests’ Council, a post which he has held since 2000. After consultation with the clergy, Abba Seraphim was pleased to announce the appointment of Father Simon Smyth as new Chairman, with effect from 15 December 2007.
New Church Treasurer
Trevor Maskery was appointed Church Treasurer at the end of 2007, having served as Acting Treasurer in succession to Subdeacon Andrew Chadwick since the previous September.
Changes in Church Trustees
Following the retirement of Father Anthony Clements as a General Trustee of the Church, Abba Seraphim appointed Trevor Maskery and Professor John Charmley to serve as trustees. The new trustees attended their first meeting of the trustees in London on 18 January.
Centenary Year for Christian Unity Week
As 2008 was the centenary of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity there were a number of special events to commemorate it. On 18 January there was a Service of Celebration and Commitment at Westminster Abbey organised by Churches Together in England. The Dean of Westminster (Dr. John Hall) welcomed all the ecumenical guests including the four Presidents of CTE: The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Archbishop of Westminster, the Free Churches’ Moderator (Commissioner Elizabeth Matear) and Bishop Nathan Hovhannisian. During the service the choir of St. Yeghiche Armenian Church sang a Doxology and Bishop Nathan recited prayers in Armenian and English. Bishop Angaelos represented the Coptic Orthodox Church and Abba Seraphim, accompanied by Father Simon Smyth and Professor John Charmley, represented the British Orthodox Church.
On 19 January Abba Seraphim conducted the Raising of Evening Incense at St. Mary & St. Felix at Babingley, Norfolk, which has an established tradition of hosting this and a visiting speaker during the Week of Prayer. This year Professor Charmley spoke on “Orthodox Perspectives on Christian Unity.”
On 22 January, accompanied by Father Sergius Scott, Abba Seraphim attended an Ecumenical Evensong in the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Chapel at Lambeth Palace (at which the Archbishop preached and the Choristers of St. Margaret’s Church, Westminster, sang) followed by a Reception in the Guard Room. His Grace Bishop Angaelos was also there, representing the Coptic Orthodox Church.
Remembering Saint Felix
On 8 March, being the Feast of St. Felix, Abba Seraphim conducted the Raising of Evening Incense, with the kind permission of Lord Howard of Rising, in the Norman keep at Castle Rising, built around 1150 by William de Albini to celebrate his marriage to Queen Adeliza (of Louvain), widow of King Henry I. The service was well supported by the Orthodox congregation at Babingley as well as ecumenical friends from other churches in the King’s Lynn area. Following the service Mr. Norman Fahy gave an edifying talk on St. Felix and the many historical clues which associate him with this area including discussion about the archaeological remains which predate the Norman castle. This was followed by a private tour of the ancient Castle. The following day, Abba Seraphim celebrated the Divine Liturgy at Babingley, where the congregation celebrated the saint’s feast and Abba Seraphim preached on the spiritual legacy of St. Felix.
Abba Seraphim in Glastonbury for Lent
On 15 March Abba Seraphim celebrated the Divine Liturgy in St. Patrick’s Chapel in Glastonbury Abbey, assisted by Fr. Simon Smyth, Subdeacon Paul Ashdown and Read Antony Westwood. In his homily on the temptation of our Lord in the Wilderness, he examined the nature of these temptations and applied them to parallels facing Christians in their daily life. The previous evening Abba Seraphim had attended a meeting of the Glastonbury Antiquarian Society at which Nancy Hollinrake spoke on Recent Archaeological work in Glastonbury and Wells.
Chatham Dedication Anniversary
In spite of an unseasonal and heavy fall of snow, Abba Seraphim presided at the celebrations for the sixth anniversary of the dedication of the Church of St. Alban & St. Athanasius at Chatham on 6 April 2008. In his homily he spoke of the importance of times and seasons in the life of the Church and of individuals as a means of reckoning the many blessings received from God.
Visit of Father Silas
Father Silas Spear, our British Orthodox priest in Northern India, stayed at the Church Secretariat at Charlton 12-14 April, en route from his home in India to Kitchener, Ontario, where he was ministering at the Coptic Church. On 13 April he accompanied Abba Seraphim to Babingley, where he participated in the Liturgy and spoke to the congregation about his work in India.
British Orthodox Day Conference
British Orthodox clergy and laity and laity gathered together withy members of the British Orthodox Fellowship for a successful Day Conference on a beautiful spring day at St. Andrew’s Church at Mickfield in Suffolk on 10 May. The theme was “The Grain of Mustard Seed: A Vision for British Orthodoxy”. After morning prayers and introductory talks by Subdeacon Peter Farrington and Abba Seraphim there were two groups of speakers followed by discussion. In the first part, “Sowing the seeds: Theory into Practice”, Peter Farrington spoke on “Orthodoxy and Evangelism”, Professor John Charmley on “Extending Fellowship” and Dr. Michael Kennedy on “British Orthodoxy & the churches”. During a break Abba Seraphim held a meeting with the Priests’ Council. In the second session “Growing up: A shared ministry”, Shelia Smyth spoke on “Women & Orthodoxy”; Father Simon Smyth spoke on “A wider diaconate” and Father Seraphim Mina spoke on “What we expect of the Priesthood”. The meeting concluded with a further talk by Peter Farrington and the Raising of Evening Incense.
International Coptic Symposium
On 15 May Abba Seraphim, accompanied by Father Sergius Scott and Mr. Trevor Maskery attended the inaugural lecture and reception of an International Symposium on Coptic Culture: Past, Present & Future held at the BP Lecture Theatre at the British Museum. Michael Jones, Associate Director of the American Research Centre in Egypt gave a stimulating illustrated lecture on “Heritage Preservation and Modern Realities: The Case of the ‘Red Monastery’ near Sohag. The Symposium continued at the Coptic Church Centre at Stevenage under the patronage of His Grace Bishop Angaelos with distinguished speakers from many countries.
Abba Seraphim in Sweden
Abba Seraphim was invited to Stockholm to address the Orthodox Group of the Christian Council of Sweden (Sveriges Kristna Råd) during a day conference “En Röst Ropar I Öknen” on 27 May. He spoke on the subject “The Orthodox Church and Ecumenism – present and future challenges”. Following this, accompanied by Fr. Gunnar Lind, he drove to the Östanbäcks kloster near Sala, which is the only male monastic community in the Church of Sweden and observes the Benedictine rule. After welcome by Abbot Caesarius and his community, Abba Seraphim joined them for supper before an informal discussion of common issues.
The following morning he attended the community’s morning mass during which he delivered a short homily. After a tour of the monastery and its activities (candle-making is one) there was an opportunity to discuss ecumenical issues. Abba Seraphim and Fr. Gunnar then drove to the Mariakyrkan at Sigtuna, where they were welcomed by the former (1993-1997) Archbishop of Uppsala, Gunnar Weman, who conducted them around the church, where he had served as parish priest prior to his episcopal consecration. After lunch at the Swedish Church in Sollentuna, where he viewed some of the social ministry of the parish’s Diaconal Life Centre, Abba Seraphim returned to the Coptic Orthodox Church in Midsommarkransen in Stockholm, where Abba Seraphim conferred with Fr. Bakhomious. In the evening Abba Seraphim attended the Högalids Church in Stockholm where he gave a talk on “Worship and Healing in the Liturgy”. At the end of the evening Abba Seraphim met with the Church Council of St. Mary & St. Paul Coptic Orthodox Church.
On 29 May, accompanied by Fr. Gunnar, Abba Seraphim made a fraternal visit to Mgr. Anders Arborelius, the Catholic Bishop of Stockholm and they were able to discuss a number of ecumenical issues. In the afternoon Abba Seraphim travelled to meet the Prioress (Mother Marianne Nordström) and Sisters of the Holy Spirit at Helgeandssystrarna, Alsike kloster, where they discussed religious life in the Church of Sweden and visited the mediaeval church art Alsike.
Protest at Eritrean Embassy
On 30 May Abba Seraphim joined a protest outside the Eritrean Embassy in London, calling for an end to the continued detention of Christians and other prisoners of conscience in Eritrea.
The protest was coordinated by Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), Release Eritrea and Christian Concern for Freedom of Conscience (CCFC). Abba Seraphim handed in a petition addressed to the Eritrean President calling for the release of Patriarch Antonios and later a letter was delivered by CSW National Director Stuart Windsor, Director of Release Eritrea-UK, Dr. Berhane Asmelash, and CCFC Director David Turner which urged the Eritrean Ambassador to encourage his government to release prisoners of conscience and restore basic human rights and fundamental freedoms to the Eritrean people.
Annual Glastonbury Pilgrimage
Abba Seraphim was the Orthodox celebrant on the morning of the Annual Glastonbury Pilgrimage on Saturday, 21 June 2008. He was assisted by Father Anthony Clements, who had flown down from Dumfries, Father Simon Smyth (Bournemouth) and Subdeacons Wulfric Ashdown (Baltonsborough) with Antony Westwood (Cheltenham).
In his homily Abba Seraphim preached on Revelation III: 2, “Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.” This message to the Church in Sardis was more than just a warning to be watchful, it was a call to wake up and to be perpetually vigilant. This was a call not simply to the individual Christian but to the Church corporately. The Church in Sardis had a reputation for spiritual vitality although it was spiritually dead. It had the appearance of life, but not the reality. The Lord frequently demonstrates that He is not interested in mere appearances, with His scathing references to the Pharisees as “whited sepulchres”. He is concerned with inner truth. He warns the Church of Sardis to remember what it has received and heard – the undiluted Gospel message – to keep it and to repent of their backsliding; otherwise He will come to them when they least expect it, as a thief in the night, to visit judgement on them. It is this Gospel, and its reality in their lives, which He calls to be strengthened, because it has come near to being lost completely.
There are still some in Sardis who have kept the faith, expressed through the symbolism of keeping their garments clean – like the white robes of baptism and, indeed, of martyrdom – who will be rewarded by having their names entered in the book of life and confessed before the Father, whereas the faithless – by implication – will not.
Abba Seraphim said that the invitation for Orthodox to share in this Anglican pilgrimage was – in spite of our differences – because we shared so much of that common apostolic witness. He was happy to support today’s witness because the challenges to our Christian faith in this secular society – both from outside and from within – are many. For those faithful to the Apostolic Tradition the focus of our worship is in the person of Christ, Who is actualised in the Holy Eucharist, which strengthens, nourishes and sustains us in our daily lives. Although our respective histories and our sinfulness prevent us from fully sharing communion together, we are indeed united by our sharing in the one great sacrifice of our Lord which He perpetually offers in the heavenly realm and which we mirror here on earth.
The ancient church of Glastonbury, with its distinguished history of worship, suffered defilement and was profaned when enemies from both within and without united against a Church which was not sufficiently alive spiritually or vigilant enough to see the judgement coming upon it. In God’s Providence – after centuries – it arose to new life and is now a treasured place of pilgrimage. Nevertheless, the signs – the warnings – threatening the apostolic faith and testimony, are once more there and he was not simply referring to issues currently faced by the Anglican communion, but to deeper concerns which are manifested in our rampantly secular society and the moral and spiritual vacuum which draws the confused and the disillusioned to the “certainties” of false prophets, whether of other faiths or exotic cults. He concluded by calling on all to unite in returning to those things which remain and prayed that our common witness would be for their strengthening.
Following this, he and his clergy, joined the Procession of Witness through the town and attended the Anglican concelebrated Solemn Mass in the nave of the Abbey, where the principal celebrant was the Right Rev’d Matthias Medadues-Badohu, Bishop of Ho in Ghana, and the preacher was The Right Rev’d Michael Hough, Bishop of Ballarat, Australia.
Abba Seraphim at Winchelsea
At the invitation of Canon Howard Cocks, the Rector of Winchelsea, Abba Seraphim preached at the Patronal Festival of this Ancient Town of the Cinque Port Confederation on 6 July 2008. The beautiful and historic Church, which is dedicated to St. Thomas of Canterbury, was full for the morning Eucharist as the Mayor and Jurats, wearing their traditional robes, processed into the Church from the Court Hall. In his homily Abba Seraphim examined ancient and modern perceptions of martyrdom and noted that this was not just the experience of the Early Church but an increasing part of Christian witness in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. He highlighted the events at El Kosheh in Upper Egypt on the eve of the 2000 Millennium to demonstrate the depressingly familiar pattern of attacks on a Suffering and Persecuted Church. The text of his address is now available in the publication, “Two Homilies on Martyrdom.”
Liturgy celebrated in Cheltenham
On 31 May, Abba Seraphim, assisted by Father Simon Smyth and Subdeacon Antony Westwood, celebrated the Liturgy at the Church of SS. Philip & James, Up Hatherly, Cheltenham, by kind permission of Father Roger Raven, the Parish Priest. This was to inaugurate the Midlands branch of the British Orthodox Fellowship. Since March, the Fellowship has held an Orthodox Prayer & Interest Hour on the second Tuesday of every month commencing between 7.8.00 p.m. at SS Philip and James Parish Church, Hatherley Road, Up Hatherley, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, GL51 6HX. For further details contact Subdeacon Antony Westwood, telephone: 01242 522698.
Babingley Windows Appeal
Following the Appeal for the Restoration of the leaded-glass windows at St. Felix Church, Babingley, the entire sum of £1,500 was raised through the generosity of members, friends and the Norfolk Churches Trust, which gave us a grant and has shown its support in the past. The repaired leaded-glass windows have now been installed and we are very happy with the work done by Devlin Plummer Stained Glass of Great Moulton, Norfolk. Thanksgiving Prayers will be offered and the windows rededicated during the Liturgy on 27 July.
On 30 January, Abba Seraphim and Father Sergius Scott attended Solemn Evensong at the Guild Church of St. Dunstan-in-the-West, Fleet Street, to mark the 175th Anniversary of the consecration of the present church building, at which the Bishop of Edmonton preached. This was followed by a Reception at Hoare’s Bank, hosted by Mr. Charles Hoare, one of the churchwardens.
In April, Peter Farrington, Director of the Oriental Orthodox Library, took part in a challenge to raise £4,000 to build a school in rural Africa. He and a work colleague, Chris Irons, walked 100kms of the St Cuthbert’s Way which follows the course from Melrose in Scotland to Northumbria, which St Cuthbert took when he became Bishop of Lindisfarne in the early years of the Church in Britain.
Fr Simon Smyth, accompanied and supported by Reader James Kelly, delivered a lecture on icons to students of Moorlands Bible College on 24th April. The lecture was illustrated by photos of icons from various Orthodox styles, Byzantine, Coptic, Ethiopian, and also with short extracts of film.
On 29 April Abba Seraphim welcomed Dr. John Fenwick, Bishop of the Northern Diocese of the Free Church of England and the Right Rev’d Paul Hunt, Assistant Bishop of the Southern Diocese & General Secretary, for afternoon tea at the Church Secretariat in Charlton.
On 19 June 2008, accompanied by Deacon Theodore de Quincy, Abba Seraphim attended a meeting of the Anglo-Ethiopian Society at London University’s School of Oriental & African Studies (SOAS) where Niall Finneran gave an illustrated talk entitled “Lalibela: Towards an Archaeological Context.”
Peter Farrington has been invited to participate at a World Council of Churches Global Platform for Theology & Analysis meeting in Geneva 28 September-1 October, to consider the theme “The Bible, Chaos & Catastrophe” following his submission of a paper, Natural disasters in the Sixth Century Chronicle of Pseudo Joshua.”