NEWS FROM THE BRITISH ORTHODOX CHURCH
On 28 February 2009 Abba Seraphim completed the thirtieth anniversary of his spiritual leadership of the British Orthodox Church, having succeeded to that office on the death of his predecessor. Of his six predecessors, Abba Seraphim is the second longest serving, Metropolitan Georgius having served for 34 years, 324 days (1944-1979). To mark this Anniversary two articles examining historical links between the Coptic Church and Insular Christianity have been contributed by Dr. Niall Finneran and Subdeacon Paul Ashdown.
On 1 February 2009, Peter Norman Theodore FARRINGTON was ordained Deacon at the Church of St. Alban & St. Athanasios, Chatham, Kent, at the hands of Abba Seraphim.
On 22 February 2009, Peter Norman Theodore FARRINGTON was ordained Priest at the Church of St. Mary & St. Felix, Babingley, Norfolk, at the hands of Abba Seraphim.
On 22 February 2009, Father Simon SMYTH was ordained Hegoumenos at the Church of St. Mary & St. Felix, Babingley, Norfolk, at the hands of Abba Seraphim.
Father Michael Robson
Father Michael Robson, has been unwell since November 2007 suffering from general weakness and a lack of mobility, which has meant that he has been unable to officiate at the Chatham Church. He has now moved into Callum Welch Court, the nursing home attached to Morden College. During his absence regular services of prayer at Chatham were maintained by the subdeacons and Abba Seraphim celebrated the Liturgy when he was free from other commitments, until Father Peter Farrington was ordained in February to serve the Chatham Church. Father Michael was able to attend the Liturgy on 11 January but is still not able to celebrate himself and the sacrament is now taken to him from either the Charlton or the Chatham Church. He remains mentally alert and appreciative of the many kind messages and visits he has received.
Leaving Saint George for Christ Church
There was a certain sadness attached to the decision to close St. George’s Mission at Trotton where the British Orthodox Church has worshipped for some fifteen years, originally starting in the autumn of 1993 but, despite fond memories and holy associations, it was the right decision. Back in the earlier years it had been roughly central for the various Church members who attended but with deaths and with families moving away, there were fewer and fewer of us travelling out into the country to an area which was far from ideally situated to reach new people. So the decision was taken to re-locate to Sussex mission to the southern end of the county and to re-activate our attempts in Portsmouth as a seemingly more fruitful and practical location. Once arrangements had been agreed for the new mission the decision was acted upon and the final Trotton Liturgy was celebrated in November 2008.
Our new Sussex mission of Christ the Saviour celebrates the Divine Liturgy most months (on the fourth Sunday) in Christ Church, Sayers Common. Morning Incense is at 10 o’clock with the Divine Liturgy at 10.30. Sayers Common is just off the A23 about ten miles north of Brighton – the exact address of the Church is: Christ Church, off B2118 (Oakhurst), Sayers Common, West Sussex, BN6 9JA.
Portsmouth Mission renewed
After an absence of over five years the British Orthodox Portsmouth mission of Saint Mary the Mother of God and Saint Moses the Black recommenced worship on 10 January 2009 but at a new venue. Our services are now held in the Anglican Church of Saint Faith, 82A Craswell Street, Portsmouth, PO1 1HT. Saint Faith’s is a daughter Church of Saint Mary’s, Fratton, where our brethren of Saint Thomas Syrian Orthodox Church worship on the fourth Saturday most months. British Orthodox Liturgies are being held at Saint Faith’s every second Saturday each month throughout 2009 (though there is no celebration in August). Forthcoming dates for 2009: 12 September, 10 October, 14 November, 12 December. Morning Incense is at 10.00 am with the Divine Liturgy following at approximately 10.30 am.
Honouring Saint Gregorios
Abba Seraphim, accompanied by Fathers Sergius Scott, Simon Smyth and Seraphim Mina, with Deacon Theodore de Quincy joined Father Abraham Thomas and the congregation of Saint Gregorios Indian Orthodox Church in Brockley for their Patronal festival on 2 November 2008, after which they joined a procession through the streets. It was a special pleasure to greet Father Skariah, formerly the Indian priest in London, who was the visiting celebrant for the feast.
Oriental Orthodox Festival
The annual Oriental Orthodox Festival on 22 November 2008 was hosted by St. Gregorios Indian Orthodox Church at Brockley, in south-east London. Among the hierarchs present were His Grace. Dr. Yakub Mar Irenaios Metropolitan of Madras, along with His Grace Bishop Angaelos, President of the Council of the Oriental Orthodox Churches in the UK and Ireland and Metropolitan Abba Seraphim. The festival is centred on a common Eucharist celebrated by Clergy of all the Oriental Orthodox churches.
Christian Unity Week at Babingley
Father David Seeds and Archdeacon Alexander led a contingent of the Cusworth Church congregation on a visit to Babingley on 10 January 2009. Members of the two sister congregations shared a convivial lunch at the restaurant on the Sandringham Estate, presided over by Abba Seraphim. Following this they gathered at St. Felix’s Church for the traditional Saturday Vespers to mark the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, a popular local occasion. There was also a good attendance from brethren from other churches in the King’s Lynn area. Father David spoke eloquently on the subject of “The Challenge to Christianity in the Western World” and alerted all present to be vigilant against a negative and defeatist spirit.
Thirty-second visit to Egypt: 9-16 February 2009
Abba Seraphim led an ecumenical group to Egypt comprising Father Anthony Clements (BOC Dumfries), Subdeacon Christopher Barnes (BOC Babingley), Archimandrite Deiniol (Ecumenical Patriarchate, Blaenau Ffestiniog), Father Andrew Crosbie (Scottish Episcopal Church, Westminster), Mr. Trevor Maskery (BOC Treasurer) & Mr. Paul Hughes (Blaenau Ffestiniog). Arriving in Cairo late on Monday, 10 February they were met by Shenouda Mamdouh and his wife, Mary, and we driven by Ibrahim, the regular driver allocated to Abba Seraphim when in Egypt, and taken to Saint Mark’s Centre in Nasr City.
The next morning the group visited the Egyptian Museum in Cairo and the AUC Bookshop before viewing the Pyramids at Giza and shopping at the Bazaar in Khan-El-Khaleli. On Wednesday they visited Father Kyrillos and his church in Abaghia to discuss his ministry – which receives financial support via the British Orthodox Church.
Later the group visited the Citadel and Miss Haifa in her home in Heliopolis – now aged 90 but one of the first deaconesses consecrated in the Coptic Church. After a rest in the late afternoon, the party left Nasr City at 8.00 p.m. and drove through the night to Mount Sinai, arriving around 5.00 a.m on Thursday. As dawn broke, the party started its climb of the mountain, reaching the summit by mid morning, mostly on foot by some chose to ride part of the way by camel. Before leaving Sinai, a brief visit was madder to St. Catherine’s monastery. There followed another long drive, ending that evening at St. Paul’s monastery on the Red Sea, where the group was warmly welcomed by Bishop Daniel, the Abbot.
The next morning (13 February) they visited the churches and shrines of the monastery, conducted by Father Arsanios Anba Boula, before taking leave of Bishop Daniel after lunch and driving to the nearby monastery of St. Antony. Here they were conducted around the chapels and shrines by Father David El Antony. Among those they encountered at St. Antony’s were Bishop Daniel of Sydney and two Russian Orthodox photographers, Daniel & vitally, who were recording ancient Coptic Church sites. The party returned to Nasr City on Friday night.
The next morning after a stroll in El-Azhar Park, the party visited the subterranean Church of the Holy Virgin (Al-‘Adhrâ’) at Hậrat Zuwailah to view the water damage caused by the raised water table and found it improved since their last visit, although still needing drainage channels to cope with the problem. After this they travelled to Saint Theodore’s Convent in Hậrat ar-Rhun to visit the churches and shrines and lunched at the convent before returning to Saint Mark’s Centre.
On Sunday morning, 15 February Abba Seraphim and his party travelled to the Patriarchate at Abbeseya to await the return of His Holiness Pope Shenouda III, who was returning from the USA. Large crowds and a band of scouts were present when His Holiness arrived and Abba Seraphim and those accompanying him were able to greet him at the Patriarchate. Later they were joined by Mr. Sherif Makram and travelled to Old Cairo to visit the Church of the Virgin Mary, Al Moallaka (known as “The Hanging Church”); the Church of St. Sargis (where they descended to the newly renovated crypt chapel where the Holy Family stayed) and the Ben Ezra Synagogue. At St. George’s Convent they visited the newly restored underground convent church, as well as other chapels and stayed for lunch.
At sunset they boarded a falucca on the river Nile at Mahdi before returning to St. Mark’s Centre at Nasr City. Abba Seraphim and his companions returned to London on the morning of Monday, 16 February.
Saint Felix hosts Ordination
Abba Seraphim ordained Deacon Peter Farrington to the Priesthood at Saint Felix on Sunday, 22 February. Assisting at the ordination were Fathers Sergius Scott, Anthony Clements, David Seeds and Simon Smyth as well as Archdeacon Alexander Astill with Deacons Mark Saunders and Theodore de Quincy. Representatives of all British Orthodox congregations were present, including Abba Seraphim’s mother, Joyce Edwards, who celebrated her 95th birthday on the same day. Among ecumenical visitors it was a great joy to have Father Gunnar Lind from the Swedish Church in Stockholm. A simple reception followed the service at the Castle Rising Golf Club.
Recently Councillor Beryl Baxter became a neighbour of our Bournemouth Church, so that when she became Mayor-elect, Father Simon and Sheila Smyth were invited to attend the Mayor-making ceremony on 29 May followed by a Civic Service on 31 May (Western Pentecost) in the Church of St Peter, Bournemouth Town Centre Parish, which she was to attend in her new capacity as the Worshipful Mayor of Bourenmouth. Father Simon and Shirley Huish represented the British Orthodox Church at the service.
Oriental Council Elections
At its triennial elections in June 2009 Father Peter Farrington was elected Secretary of the Council of Oriental Orthodox Churches in the United Kingdom, in succession to Father Abraham Thomas who will be returning to India next month. His Grace Bishop Angaelos was re-elected as President for a second term whilst His Grace Dr. Mathews Mar Thimotheos was elected Chairman in succession to Father Antonios Thabit and Father Snork Bagdassian was elected Treasurer in succession to Father Eldose Koungampillil.
Dr. Kenneth Stevenson, Anglican Bishop of Portsmouth and a good friend to the British Orthodox Church (which for several years worshipped in Wymering Parish Church in his diocese) will retire later this year. Whilst planning fore retirement, he decided to offer a large Ethiopian thurible, which had been in his possession for some years, should be “repatriated” to one of the Oriental Orthodox Churches and he generously offered it to Abba Seraphim.
The censer has an interesting history as it was “rescued” from a Coptic Church in Cairo during some insurrection by General Sir Reginald Wingate (1861-1953) who subsequently served as Sirdar of the Egyptian Army and Governor-General of the Sudan 1899-1916. When he returned to his home Knockenhair, Dunbar, as a devout Scots Episcopalian he lent it to St. Anne’s Church in Dunbar, where for many years it hung in a side chapel. Shortly before his death, he presented it to the then Rector, Edmund Ivans, who in turn gave it to Dr. Stevenson just before his death in 1998, who used it occasionally in his Cathedral at major festivals.
Abba Seraphim, accompanied by Father Simon Smyth and Subdeacon Wulfric (Paul) Ashdown, used it in the procession when he attended the annual Glastonbury Pilgrimage on 20 June 2009. Although the official Anglican procession now only has a single thurifer, it was felt that as Abba Seraphim is Metropolitan of Glastonbury it was entirely appropriate for his part of the procession to employ this magnificent artefact.
Fr. Simon & Sheila Smyth were both speakers at the Family Conference organised by the Indian Orthodox Church at All Saints’ Pastoral Centre, London Colney, 22-24 August 2008.
In December 2008 the lighting at St. Felix Church, Babingley, was overhauled and the four lights in the body of the church increased to eight. By hanging these lower the church is now much brighter, but by using long-life bulbs we have managed to avoid glare as well as reducing our electricity consumption. At the end of June a new outdoor W.C. was sited in a corner of the churchyard to replace the old one.
A series of sermons was delivered at the Bournemouth Church on the theme of Finding God was preached during Lent 2009 but then continued on through Holy Pascha (Finding God in the Resurrection) and with occasional further sermons such as Finding God in Church on St Thomas Sunday and Finding God in Chrismation on Pentecost Sunday.
After suffering for many years with pain and difficulties of kneeling and of standing too, our Reader James-Antony Kelly underwent a bypass operation to his leg which proved wonderfully successful enabling him to join in 2009 Holy Week far beyond his expectations.
On 27 June a number of our Portsmouth congregation joined the Saint Thomas Syrian Orthodox congregation of around two hundred for the Holy Qurbana (Divine Liturgy) celebrated in St Mary’s Church, Fratton, Portsmouth, to celebrate their fifth anniversary and also the Feast of St Thomas. The evening included a meeting to honour His Grace Kuriakose Theophilus, Metropolitan of Europe. The Qurbana was beautiful and the celebrations afterwards were as loud as they were enthusiastic with fabulous drumming and singing. A local cadet band led the procession around the Churchyard, interspersed with wild drumming from our energetic Orthodox musicians.