The British Orthodox Church

within the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate

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News of the Church from divers Quarters

The British Orthodox Church

Recent Ordinations

On 18 July 2010, Neil Boorman was ordained Reader at St. Thomas’s Church, Old Charlton, London, SE7 at the hands of Abba Seraphim.

Abba Seraphim at Glastonbury

Abba Seraphim, assisted by Father Simon Smyth and Subdeacon Paul Ashdown celebrated the Divine Liturgy in St. Mary’s Chapel in Glastonbury Abbey on 20 March. Although the weather was generally inclement (it having rained heavily the previous day) there was providentially no rain during the service. Afterwards those present inspected the wall-paintings in the newly refurbished St. Patrick’s Chapel.

Holy Week and Pascha

At the end of Holy Week, the British Orthodox parishes all celebrated the Feast of the Resurrection (4 April) with enthusiasm. This year Holy Pascha coincided with the western Easter so we received few ecumenical visitors, although attendance overall in all parishes was very good. The clergy also reported that the Holy Week services were well supported. Abba Seraphim officiated at Babingley, where the mild weather enabled the procession to go round the outside of the church; whilst at Bournemouth torrential rain made this impossible. However, for the traditional requiem service and visiting of the graves of former church members at Wimborne Road cemetery the next morning, there was a good gathering. Dyed eggs and other traditional Paschal foods were also included in the festivities, whilst “Christ is Risen!” was repeated in English, Greek, Coptic, Arabic, Russian, Portuguese, Romanian, Amharic and other tongues.

Abba Seraphim’s first visit to St. Faith’s Church

On 10 April 2010, Abba Seraphim made his first visit to the British Orthodox Mission at Portsmouth in its present venue at St. Faith’s Church in Craswell Street, Portsmouth, where he celebrated the Divine Liturgy and preached. As it was the Saturday in Bright Week, Abba Seraphim preached on the theme of the Resurrection. Afterwards, there was a buffet luncheon, during which Abba Seraphim announced that following the growth in membership he was raising the ministry at Portsmouth from a mission to that of a parish.

Babingley Churchyard

On the north side of the churchyard at Babingley a straggling clump of self-seeded saplings had grown up round the remains of the old stoke-hole or boiler-house dating from the time when the church had a coal-fired central heating system. This had long since been disconnected although holes in the skirting board in the sanctuary are reminders of the former central heating pipes. In April 2010 the collapsed remains of this as well as the saplings were cleared from the churchyard and the surrounding ground levelled, which has improved the general appearance and will make maintenance of the churchyard easier.

Oriental Orthodox Festival

The 2010 Oriental Orthodox festival was held at St. George’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral at Stevenage on 8 May with the Divine Liturgy celebrated by His Grace Bishop Angaelos and His Eminence Metropolitan Seraphim with priests of the British, Coptic, Eritrean and Ethiopian Orthodox Church, supported by many deacons of these churches. The British Orthodox clergy who attended were Fathers Simon Smyth, Seraphim Mina and Peter Farrington with Archdeacon Alexander Astill, Deacon Mark Saunders and Deacon Theodore de Quincey. They were supported by faithful from the British Orthodox parishes and communities at Babingley, Bournemouth, Charlton, Chatham, Cusworth and Portsmouth.

At the conclusion of the Liturgy the Eritrean and Ethiopian Orthodox clergy and choirs performed traditional Paschal songs and dances which never fail to delight their listeners. His Grace Bishop Angaelos spoke of the sense of unity always felt at such occasions whilst Abba Seraphim emphasised the rich diversity of the Oriental Orthodox traditions. This was followed by a buffet lunch, comprising exotic Egyptian, Ethiopian, and Keralan foods with traditional British cold meats, cheeses and salads, followed by home baked cakes and syrupy Egyptian deserts. The choir of St. Gregorious Indian Orthodox Church at Brockley, south-east London, performed a medley of traditional religious songs ending with a very lively folk song to which devotional words had been set.

It was a happy and memorable day with good fellowship, and the warm hospitality always shown by Bishop Angaelos and the staff of the Coptic Church Centre at Stevenage was appreciated by everyone. The Oriental Orthodox Festival is an annual event sponsored by the Council of Oriental Orthodox Churches in the UK and provides an opportunity for expressing our unity by a common celebration of the Divine Liturgy and a time of sharing of traditions through informal fellowship together afterwards. It is truly a family gathering.

Ecumenical prayers and reception at Lambeth Palace

On Wednesday 19th May 2010, Abba Seraphim, accompanied by Father Peter Farrington, attended the Nikaean Club’s annual ecumenical celebration of Anglican Evening Prayers in the Chapel of Lambeth Palace, the official London residence of the Archbishops of Canterbury followed by a reception hosted by the Archbishop (Dr. Rowan Williams) and his wife. Father Peter attended in his role as the Secretary of the Council of Oriental Orthodox Churches in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

The chapel was crowded with invited guests from a wide variety of Christian backgrounds. Archbishop Gregorios of Thyateira of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese and Archbishop Mar Athanasios Touma of the Syriac Orthodox Church as well as other Eastern and Oriental Orthodox clergy, were among those present.

Archbishop Rowan Williams gave a short homily during the Evening Prayers, in which he reflected on being surprised by the visitation of God in our lives, and through others. The reception following was characterised by its warm fraternal spirit with the opportunity to renew old friendships and to forge new ones.

The Nikaean Club was founded in 1925 under the auspices of Archbishop Davidson to commemorate the centenary of the first Ecumenical Council of Nicaea. It objectives are to “further relations with non-Anglican Christian churches, to assist students from such churches and to offer hospitality on behalf of the Archbishop of Canterbury to representatives of such churches”.

Pentecost Feast in Cairo

H.H.Pope Shenouda III presided over the annual meeting of the Holy Synod of the Coptic Orthodox Church on the Eve of Pentecost, Saturday, 22 May 2010 with eighty-seven members personally present.

The Synod meets in the Church of St. Antony on the second floor of the Papal Residence at Anba Rueis in Abbesaya, Cairo. From the United Kingdom the bishops attending were Metropolitan Seraphim, Bishop Antony and Bishop Angaelos. The meeting lasted from 10 a.m. to 2 pm and discussed the reports of the synodal sub committees for pastoral care, monasticism, the church rites, diocesan affairs and ecumenism. At the conclusion H.H. Pope Shenouda posed for a group photograph with the Synod members before entertaining them to lunch at the Patriarchate.

In the later afternoon Abba Seraphim, accompanied by Shenouda Mandouh and his wife, Mary, visited the Convent of Prince Theodore (Amir Tadros) in Haret-ar-Rum, where they were received by the Abbess, Tamev Adrosios, before returning to Heliopoils to dine with Mr. Mamdouh Abdou and his family.

Abba Seraphim assisted at the Divine Liturgy for the Feast of Pentecost in St. Mark’s Cathedral, Abbesseya, Cairo, on 23 May 2010. During the Divine Liturgy His Holiness Pope Shenouda III ordained a number of new priests for both the churches in Cairo and those in the lands of emigration. These included Father Boula to work alongside Fr. Kyrillos in Abagaya, where Abba Seraphim and other British Orthodox members have been regular visitors; and Fr. Mina for the Coptic Orthodox Parish of St. Mary & Archangel Mikhael at Golders Green.

In the afternoon, Abba Seraphim, accompanied by Shenouda Mamdouh and his wife Mary, visited the Monastery of St. Macarios (Deir Abu Maqar) in the Wadi al Natrun to pray at the shrines of the three St. Makarios, St. John the Short, the 49 Martyrs of Sheheet and the more recently discovered relics of St. John the Baptist and the Prophet Elijah. They were warmly received by the fathers and entertained to lunch. Returning to Cairo Abba Seraphim invited the family of his host, Mr. Mamdouh Abdou to a Nile felucca trip.

On his way to the airport on 24 May, Abba Seraphim called at the home of Miss Effa, one of the first deaconesses to be ordained by His Holiness Pope Shenouda III. Although now frail and elderly Miss Effa is a devout witness to the Orthodox faith and has donated her large house in Heliopolis to the church, which uses it to provide a home for Coptic Orthodox girls living away from home to study for their degrees in Cairo. A number of the students and the deaconesses who take care of them joined Miss Effa to greet Abba Seraphim.

Abba Seraphim meets with Professor Ghebre-Ab

On 25 May, 2010, Abba Seraphim received at the Church Secretariat in Charlton, Deacon Habtu Ghebre-Ab, Professor of History at the University of Cincinatti and one of the board of the St. Athanasios Charitable Society (SACS) and “In Chains for Christ,”  the Voice of the Persecuted Church in Eritrea.  The Professor was in the UK attending a peace conference in Brighton but travelled to London to meet with Abba Seraphim. They discussed issues relating to the current state of the Eritrean Orthodox Church and the imprisonment of Abune Antonios, the canonical Patriarch, as well as areas of future support and co-operation.

Abba Seraphim pays his respect to departed priest

On Sunday morning, 30 May, Abba Seraphim attended the funeral, following the Divine Liturgy, of the late Father Hailemariam F. Mariam, priest of the Debre Madhanit Kidane Mehret Tewahdo Eritrean Orthodox congregation in Shepherd’s Bush, London. The service was held at St. John the Baptist Church, Holland Road, London W14 and presided over by His Eminence Archbishop Antonios of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church (shown with Abba Seraphim above).

Father Hailemariam was professed as a monk of the Waldiba monastery when he was twenty-five and came to London in January 1992 at the suggestion of H.H. Pope Shenouda III to minister to the increasing number of Eritrean refugees. He was a humble and devout priest and when the Eritrean government exiled Patriarch Antonios, Father Hailemariam was horrified by such a sacrilegious act. He visited Abba Seraphim at the Church Secretariat in Charlton in 2007 to thank him for his support for the Patriarch and to affirm his own loyalty. Father Hailemariam died on 25 May 2010 aged 75 after a long battle with cancer. He was a greatly loved pastor and the church was packed for the funeral as well as having a large number of both Eritrean and Ethiopian priests and deacons  assisting in the funeral rites. Abba Seraphim paid respect to his loyalty and integrity, “He had deep affection for both Pope Shenouda and Abune Antonios because he loved truth and justice. He is a symbol of the deep spirituality of both the Ethiopian and Eritrean Churches and those who were touched by his ministry should follow his example of fidelity to their last breath.”

Prayer Vigil for Eritrean Christians

A Prayer Vigil was held outside the Eritrean Embassy in Islington, London, on 3 June 2010 to protest at the treatment of Christians in Eritrea. It was called to mark the eighth anniversary of the closure of minority churches in Eritrea, after which even main-stream churches, like the majority Eritrean Orthodox Church have suffered systematic persecution.

The vigil was organised through the collaboration of a number of groups, including Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), Release Eritrea, Church in Chains, Release (voice of persecuted Christians), Open Doors (serving persecuted Christians Worldwide) and the British Orthodox Church. For an hour on a sunny afternoon in London, a committed group of concerned Christians stood on the pavement opposite the Eritrean Embassy – as cars and buses with intrigued spectators passed by – and prayed, read from the scriptures, sang spiritual songs and heard meditative addresses from those working with and for the suffering Christians in Eritrea, regardless of their religious affiliation. Unlike political demonstrations the tone was calm, reflective and prayerful and there was no hint of invective against the oppressors. Both the Eritrean President and the Ambassador in London were spoken of courteously and prayed for fervently. His Eminence Abba Seraphim spoke of his concerns about His Holiness Abune Antonios, the elderly Eritrean Orthodox Patriarch, who had refused to bow to pressure from the government when the persecuition began and because of his stand for truth and justice found himself deposed from office and placed under house arrest. His position of national importance and his unswerving integity made him a symbol of all who were suffering for their Christian faith. At the conclusion of the vigil Abba Seraphim, supported by The Right Rev’d Christopher Chessun, (Anglican) Bishop of Woolwich and Dr. Berhane Asmelash of Release Eritrea, called at the Embassy to deliver a letter addressed to the Ambassador expressing their concerns and asking for the release of prisoners of conscience.

Glastonbury Pilgrimage

The annual Glastonbury Pilgrimage took place on 19 June and this year Abba Seraphim was invited to be the Orthodox celebrant in the morning. By convention this invitation rotates between the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches each being the celebrant in alternate years. Abba Seraphim was assisted by Fathers Simon Smyth (Bournemouth & Portsmouth) and Peter Farrington (Chatham), Deacon John Stuart (Exeter) and Subdeacon Wulfric Ashdown (Glastonbury). The Liturgy, which was held in the Undercroft, was well attended by a number of Orthodox church members, members of the British Orthodox Fellowship as well as clergy and faithful of other churches. In his homily Abba Seraphim spoke of the important tradition of pilgrimage and gave thanks for the revival of Glastonbury as a spiritual centre after the despoliation of the Reformation, “Through God’s mercy Glastonbury was restored – not as it was – but pilgrims returned and worship was renewed. In spite of its neglect for more than three hundred years it never ceased to be a holy place and we enter with reverence and conscious that our devotions are part of the chain of prayer which links us with past ages.”

Following the Liturgy, the Orthodox clergy joined in the Procession of Witness through the town before attending the Anglican High Mass in the Abbey ruins, celebrated by The Right Rev’d John Ford, Bishop of Plymouth, the new Pilgrimage Chairman, with the Right Rev’d Peter Price, Bishop of Bath & Wells as diocesan presiding from the throne throughout and assisted by a number of Anglican bishops, including the Right Rev’d David Silk, the former Pilgrimage Chairman and the two Provincial Episcopal Visitors, the Suffagan Bishops of Ebbsfleet (The Right Rev’d Andrew Burnham) and Richborough (The Right Rev’d Keith Newton) , The Right Rev’d Edwin Barnes, Bishop Emeritus of Richborough and The Right Rev’d David Thomas, Provincial Assistant Bishop of the Church in Wales 1996-2008. The homily on Priestly Vocations by Father Darren Smith, Secretary of the Additional Curates’ Society, resonated with all Christian traditions. The weather remained dry and sunny and many pilgrims were able to picnic in the abbey grounds. Abba Seraphim and his staff, along with the Mayor of Glastonbury, were luncheon guests of the Pilgrimage Committee.

Anglican-Oriental Orthodox Regional Forum

A meeting of the Anglican-Oriental Orthodox Regional Forum took place at Lambeth Palace on 15 June 2010. This forum exists to promote contacts between the Anglican and Oriental Orthodox communities in the UK, and to provide a context in which discussions about the practical and spiritual challenges facing both communions can take place.

At this last meeting His Grace Bishop Angaelos of the Coptic Orthodox Church was nominated as the Oriental Orthodox co-chairman, and Father Peter Farrington of the British Orthodox Church within the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate was nominated the Oriental Orthodox co-secretary.Other Orthodox bishops present were His Eminence Metropolitan Seraphim of the British Orthodox Church, and His Grace Archbishop Athanasios of the Syrian Orthodox Church, together with Bishop Geoffrey Rowell  of Gibraltar in Europe, the Anglican co-chairman. Other Oriental Orthodox clergy represented their churches while the Anglican participation included a number of priests, including Canon Jonathan Goodall, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s chaplain and ecumenical officer.

A fruitful conversation took place among the representative Anglican and Oriental Orthodox bishops and priests, and plans were discussed for the future direction and membership of the Forum. The forum usually meets twice a year.

Archimandrite Deiniol visits Babingley

On 27 June the congregation at St. Mary and St. Felix, Babingley, were delighted to welcome to their church Archimandrite Deiniol, Administrator of the Wales Orthodox Mission (Ecumenical Patriarchate), who was present for the Divine Liturgy and afterwards gave a talk on the “Holy Wells & Saints”of Wales” which was instructivive and showed how the historic church had supported local devotions but with the impact of the Reformation and modern secularism, there was a reversion to pre-Christian attitudes. Father Deiniol expressed his delight in visiting the church and meeting some of the flock and Deacon Mark marked the visit by presenting Father Deiniol with a carved wooden hand cross from the Monastery of St. Makarios.

It was a festive day at church as apart from the glorious weather, Abba Seraphim dedicated the fine new sanctuary veil which had been commissioned from the nuns of St. Theodore’s convent in Old Cairo. Gabriel Malheiro was warmly congratulated on the safe birth of his new baby daughter, who is to be called Stephanie,  and love and good wishes sent from the congregation to his wife, Maria as well as singing “Happy Birthday” in honour of the new baby.

Abba Seraphim visits Parkminster

On 24 June 2010 Abba Seraphim, accompanied by Mr. John Wetherall and Mr. James Carr, visited St. Hugh’s Charterhouse at Parkminster, Sussex. Before the Reformation there were twelve houses of the Carthusian Order in England but they were all destroyed. The Parkminster house was founded in 1873 by monks from France and is the only Carthusian monastery now in Britain. It is constructed on a vast scale in the Carthusian tradition of individual eremetical houses around a great central cloister.

Upon arrival  Abba Seraphim and his companions were met by Dom Cyril Pierce, the Novice master (pictured above), and conducted on a tour of the monastery, including the impressive library. They concluded their visit by joining the thriving community for Vespers for the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, after which they were received by the Prior, Dom Jean Babeau. He and Abba Seraphim were able to discuss traditions and current trends common to Carthusuian and Coptic monasticism as both having the same spiritual fathers, St. Antony the first monk and St. Paul of Thebes, the first hermit.

Mediaeval Manuscripts – Inaugural Lecture

On 22 June 2010 Abba Seraphim, accompanied by Trevor Maskery, joined a packed audience at London University’s Senate House to hear Michelle Brown, Professor of Medieval Manuscript Studies, deliver her inaugural lecture on “Manuscripts from Anglo-Saxon Mercia: the Staffordshire hoard, other recent finds and the ‘new materiality’ in book history”. The lecture’s unwieldy title represented the range of resources (archaeology, stone carving, ancient metalwork as well as manuscripts) which historians now have at their disposal, but with Professor Brown as a dextereous and entertaining guide, the lecture was engaging and instructive. The previously “lost” kingdom of Mercia, whose pagan kings slaughtered their Christian neighbours, now appears to have been the source of many fine manuscripts and to have been been subject to cultural influences from both Europe and the East.

Professor Brown is a respected authority on the early Christian history of Britain and shares her specialist knowledge and enthusiasm generously. Her book, “How Christianity came to Britain and Ireland” (2006) is one of the best introductions to the subject. As a close neighbour to Abba Seraphim, ongoing discussion and debate on these topics have been both edifying and congenial.  Pictured with Abba Seraphim and Professor Brown at the lecture is Canon David Abraham from the Fursey Pilgrims, an ecumenical group dedicated to the study of the life and times of St. Fursey.

Eritrean Conferene in Stamford

At the invitation of the North American Archdiocese of the Eritrean Orthodox Church Abba Seraphim attended its twelfth annual conference, held this year in Stamford, Connecticut. Accompanied by Mr. Trevor Maskery, he was received at the Hampton Inn on Friday, 23 July by His Grace Bishop Makarios and introduced to the clergy and senior lay representatives of parishes as far afield as Oakland (California), Atlanta (Georgia), Seattle (Washington) and Toronto as well as east coast communities. From here the clergy processed the short distance to the hall of the Sacred Heart Parish in Schuyler Avenue, which was made available for conference sessions by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport. Upon arrival the clergy were greeted by a large body of laity and vested deacons who conducted them to the hall with traditional songs and the beating of drums. They were then formally welcomed by Bishop Makarios, following which Abba Seraphim spoke of his close association with the Eritrean Church since its independence and his delight at visiting the North American diocese, which had remained such a staunch supporter of His Holiness Abune Antonios. Later that evening Abba Seraphim and Bishop Makarios dined together and were able to discuss matters of common concern and interest.

On Saturday morning, 24 July, Abba Seraphim and Bishop Makarios, assisted by the priests and deacons, celebrated the Divine Liturgy (Anaphora of the Apostles) at Archangels Greek Orthodox Church in Bedford Street, Stamford, during which Professor Deacon Habtu Ghebre-Ab was ordained a priest (with the name Father Athanasios) to serve the Eritrean community in Cincinatti. The new priest had only visited Abba Seraphim at the Church Secretariat in Charlton two months previously when he had spoken of his planned ordination although at that time Abba Seraphim had not planned to be in New York this summer.

During the Liturgy Abba Seraphim  preached on the Gospel (John X: 11-21)  and illustrated the importance to the apostolic faith and traditions, which recognised Abune Antonios as the canonical Eritrean Patriarch or the one who “entereth in by the door” as “the shepherd of the sheep” in contrast to the government appointee who “enterest not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.” Abba Seraphim declared that the clergy and faithful who upheld the canonical church order were faithful to the apostolic tradition and were right not to follow a stranger but rather to “flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.” During the service special prayers were said for Abune Antonios and those imprisoned in Eritrea for their faith and the Patriarch’s picture was prominently displayed in the church.

After lunch Mr. Trevor Maskery, who has designed the websites for Patriarch Antonios and the British Orthodox Church, spoke about the importance of harnessing the power of the internet and directed attention to some of the opportunities which still needed to be grasped.

Abba Seraphim also gave a keynote  address, “How shall we sing the Lord’s Song in a strange Land?” addressing some of the issues which face an expatriate community which has largely fled from persecution at home. The text of this talk is now available in booklet form from www.lulu.org In the evening Abba Seraphim and Mr. Maskery dined with a group of lay leaders and explored further some of the issues raised during the day’s meeting.

On Sunday. 25 July Abba Seraphim and Bishop Makarios, assisted by the priests and deacons, celebrated the Divine Liturgy (Anaphora of St. Jacob of Serough) with St. Gabriel Eritrean Orthodox Parish of New York which worships in the basement chapel of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church at 469 W. 142nd Street, New York, which was also the commemoration of the Archangel Gabriel. After the liturgy the clergy and people went in solemn procession around the entire block as an important witness in the community where they worship. Many people came out to watch with deep respect and to share in the joy which the procession presented to all around. After a festive agape Abba Seraphim again preached on St. Gabriel and the angelic ministries and Bishop Makarios made commemorative presentations to Fr. Athanasios and those also ordained hegoumenos and reader over this blessed weekend. Abba Seraphim returned to London on 26 July.

Commenting on his visit Abba Seraphim spoke of the deep joy experienced in the opportunity to have close contact and eucharistic communion with this particular diocese of the Eritrean Orthodox Church which is notable for its integrity and fidelity to Abune Antonios and the Orthodox tradition. He was impressed by the dedication and commitment of the clergyand by their energy, which not only involved teaching the faith but also in  studying for theological degrees (often in addition to degrees already earned in other disciplines) to advance their own  knowledge. The continuing love and pastoral concern which His Holiness Pope Shenouda has always shown for the Eritrean Church was manifested recently by providing them with a bishop highly respected for his fidelity and integrity, which will provide the oversight long needed by the dio0cese.  “Under the wise leadership of Bishop Makarios, these faithful priests and people will prove to be  a  powerful witness to this authentic expression of  Orthodox ecclesiology, and with its eirenic and spiritually based ethos, this diocese will one day be the means of blessing the Orthodox in Eritrea who remain and quietly witness to their long and preciously held faith in Christ.”

Welsh Martyr honoured

On 17 July 2010, Abba Seraphim, accompanied by Deacon Theodore de Quincey, attended an Ecumenical Service at Westminster Cathedral in celebration of the 400th Anniversary of the Martyrdom of St. John Roberts.

John Roberts (1577-1610) was a Welsh gentleman, descended from the ancient British kings, who was educated at St. John’s College, Oxford, and studied law in London. Although raised a Protestant he converted to Catholicism and studied at the English College at Vallodolid in Spain. He was professed as a Benedictine monk as Brother John of Merioneth. Ordained a Catholic priest he became a frequent visitor to England where he celebrated the mass and ministered to persecuted Catholics in London, especially during outbreaks of the Plague. He was arrested and imprisoned on several occasions and deported but each time returned. For exercising his priesthood he was found guilty of high treason and executed at the age of 33 years. Commenting on the celebration Abba Seraphim noted that as a Londoner he wanted to honour the humanitarian and pastoral ministry of the saint to Londoners; and that all those who are conscious of the problems of exercising Christian ministry in times of persecution would immediately value the saint’s determination as well as realising the extraordinary sacrifice he made to fulfil his priestly vocation.

Leading this eirenic celebration were the Catholic  Archbishop of Westminster (Mgr. Vincent Nichols), the Archbishop of Canterbury (Dr. Rowan Williams), the Anglican Archbishop of Wales (The Most Rev’d Barry Morgan) and the Catholic Bishop of Wrexham (Mgr. Edwin Regan) with many other Catholic and Anglican bishops from Wales. Other Orthodox Churches were represented by His Grace Bishop Athanasios of Tropaeou (Oecumenical Patriarchate), Archbishop Elisey of Sourozh (Moscow Patriarchate), The Very Rev’d Archimadrite of the Oecumenical Throne Ephrem (Lash) and Archimandrite Deiniol, Administrator of the Wales Orthodox Mission (Ukrainian Orthodox Church within the Oecumenical Patriarchate). Large contingents from Wales were in enthusiastic attendance and the service was bi-lingual.

Abba Seraphim greets new Armenian Patriarchal Vicar

In consequence of the tragic illness of Patriarch Mesrob II Mutafyan, who has been incapacitated as a result of fronto-temporal lobe dementia, the Armenian community in Istanbul hoped to elect Archbishop Aram Ateshian as co-patriarch of Constantinople. However on 2 July 2010, the Governor of Istanbul  insisted that under the terms of the patriarchate’s own statutes there could be no co-patriarch during the lifetime of an existing patriarch (who is elected for life) and therefore named Archbishop Aram as General Vicar of the Patriarch for the term of Patriarch Mesrob’s life, with full patriarchal rights.  Archbishop Aram, who was consecrated to the episcopate in 1999 has effectively administered the see for the past two years.

Abba Seraphim and Patriarch Mesrob became personal friends when the latter was Archbishop of the Princes’ Islands and Abba Seraphim became a frequent visitor to Istanbul during the patriarchate of Karekin I.  Abba Seraphim, accompanied by the future Father Peter Farrington attended Patriarch Mesob’s enthronement on 21 November 1998.

In his letter of congratulation to Archbishop Aram, Abba Seraphim noted that “the dignified and sensitive way in which your community has responded to [the crisis over Patriarch Mesrob's health] speaks loudly for the wisdom and maturity shown and is a worthy example of Christian conduct in the face of an intractable problem.” In his reply Archbishop Aram spoke of the “strong relatiobns between two sistwer churches” and said he looked forward to a future visit to the patriarchate by Abba Seraphim with pleasure

Syrian Orthodox Cathedral consecrated

Saturday, 3 July was a memorable day for the Syriac Orthodox community in the United Kingdom as His Holiness Mohoran Mar Ignatius Zakka I Iwass, Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, had come to Lndon to consecrate their new Cathedral of St. Thomas in Acton. The Cathedral, situated at 7-11 Armstrong Road, Acton, London, W3 7JL, had been built in a mere six months at the cost of around 1.8 million pounds. It was an amazing story of a community pulling together under the dynamic leadership of His Eminence Archbishop Mor Athanasios Thoma Dawood. The Church is situated on the first floor with a spacious community hall below it and offices and clergy lving accommodation upstairs.

To the ringing of bells, His Holiness Patriarch Zakka was borne into the Cathedral on his throne, carried on the shoulders of several burly deacons, whilst the congregation clapped, the women ululated and the children threw flower petals. The proceedings opened with words of welcome and the gratitude of the community (largely Syriac Orthodox from Iraq) expressed in their warm statements about British hospitality and the singing of the British National Anthem. Among messages received were one from H.M. The Queen, The Right Hon. Gordon Brown and the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Patriarch was accompanied by a large retinue of Syriac Orthodox metropolitans and clergy and relics of St. Thomas had been brought from Mosul for the new Cathedral.

Among the ecumenical guests were HE Archbishop Gregorios of Thyateira (Oecumenical Patriarchate), HE Metropolitan John of Western & Central Europe (Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch), the Archbishop of Westminster (Mgr. Vincent Nichols) and the Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe (Right Rev’d Geoffrey Rowell). The Oriental Orthodox clergy, who joined the Syriac Metropolitans in the sanctuary, included HE Archbishop Antonios of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church) and from the Coptic Orthodox Church Metropolitan  Seraphim (who read the Epistle in English), HG Bishop Missael of Birmingham, HG Bishop Antony of Scotland, Ireland & NE England, HG Bishop Elia of Khartoum and  HG Bishop Angaelos (General Bishop for UK). A number of priests from the Coptic, Ethiopian, Eritrean, Armenian and Malankara churches were also present. British Orthodox clergy attending were Father Sergius Scott, Fr. Simon Smyth, Fr. Seraphim Mina and Fr. Peter Farrington.The Church was packed to overflowing and the service was relayed on a closed circuit television in the downstairs hall.  Following the anointing of the walls and altar with the Holy Myron, Mor Athanasios expressed his gratitude to those who had supported the venture and special reference was made to Dr. Patrick Sookhdeo and the Barnabas Fund on whom the Patriarch bestowed a pectoral cross and a high church decoration. In his address, Patriarch Zakka highlighted the spiritual significance of the new

Church.

A convivial evening reception was held at the Kensington Hilton in the presence of His Holiness the Patriarch who benignly presided over the rejoicing of his faithful UK flock.

Left to right: Fr Sergius Scott (BOC), Deacon Meliton Oakes, Archbishop Gregorios, Fr Peter Farrington (BOC), Fr Seraphim Mina (BOC)

Memorial Service for Father Michael Harper

On 21 August, accompanied by Deacon Theodore de Quincey, Abba Seraphim attended a Thanksgiving Service for the life and ministry of the late Archpriest Michael Harper (1931-2010), formerly Dean of the Antiochian Orthodox Deanery of the United Kingdom & Ireland. The service, which was held at St. George’s Orthodox Cathedral at Regent’s Park, London, was conducted by Archpriest Gregory Hallam, the present Dean,  and Father Alexander Tefft.

After a Molieban of Thanksgiving, Father Jonathan Hemmings gave a meditative address which was followed by six short addresses and a eulogy by an ecumenical gathering of those who had collaborated closely with Fr. Michael at different stages of his ministry. The choir was led by Father Michael’s widow, Presbytera Jeanne, and a concluding appreciative statement made by Father Samir Gholam, the priest of the Cathedral’s parish. Light refreshments and fellowship followed in the Cathedral’s hall. Abba Seraphim had been unable to attend Fr. Michael’s funeral in January as he was in Kerala, although both Fr. Simon Smyth and Fr. Peter Farrington attended in his stead.

Shenouda Mamdouh visits England

From 28 July-7 August, Shenouda Mamdouh, Abba Seraphim’s Egyptian Secretary, visited England with his wife, Mary,  as the guests of the British Orthodox Church. Shenouda was here previously in 2000 and 2007 but this was Mary’s first visit. During their stay they were largely based in Charlton, London. They had a busy schedule, which included visits to historic places and meetings with church friends.  On 29 July the Coptologist, Dr. Carol Downer and husband Deacon Richard Downer gave a welcome dinner party at their home in Redhill, Surrey,  at which were also present Abba Seraphim, Father John Whooley, Viscountess Coke, Mark Hassall and Trevor Maskery. On 30 July they visited the British Orthodox Church at Chatham and later Abba Seraphim took them to meet his mother, Joyce Edwards, who is in her ninety-seventh year, and they spent a lively time chatting with her.

On 31 July Shenouda Mamdouh joined Father Simon and Sheila Smyth as ecumenical guests at a Pontifical Mass in thanksgiving for the life of Barbara Bubb in Saint Nicholas Church, Worth, West Sussex.  The Right Rev’d Geoffrey Rowell, Anglican Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe presided.  Father Simon was seated in the sanctuary, an expression of the friendship and love, not only personal but also that exists between Bishop Geoffrey and our family of Churches, towards which he has long been a good friend.  Bishop Geoffrey is the Archbishop of Canterbury’s representative to the Oriental Orthodox Churches and co-chairman of both the international Dialogue and the local Forum between the Anglican and Oriental Orthodox Churches. Following the Mass there was a reception in the bishop’s  residence  which included a guided tour by Bishop Geoffrey of his  art collection and domestic chapel including an impressive collection of icons which included Armenian, Coptic, Ethiopian, Syrian, Greek, Russian and Romanian. Bishop Geoffrey asked Shenouda Mamdouh to convey his greetings to His Holiness Pope Shenouda whom he has met on numerous occasions over the years.

On Sunday 1 August Shenouda and Mary joined the British Orthodox congregation in the Church of Christ the Saviour, Bournemouth.  Following the Liturgy  Shenouda gave an informative talk on his personal experience of the ministry of Pope Shenouda, beginning with his baptism by His Holiness, through Sunday School and his educational studies in which the Pope always showed interest and onto his life as translator for His Holiness at ecumenical meetings.  He shared insightful knowledge into the Pope’s years under house arrest at the Monastery of Saint Bishoy, in particular emphasising His Holiness’ good humour and joy throughout that time.  Several of the points that Father Simon had made in his sermon, on the example from the Gospel for the day, of Levi who when called “left all, rose up, and followed” our Lord, were well illustrated from the life of Pope Shenouda who left all to become a monk, then a hermit and as bishop and then patriarch has always left his own will and desires in order to serve the people as a faithful shepherd.  A short time of questions and discussion followed Shenouda’s talk.

The next day, before returning to London, Shenouda and Mary, together with Father Simon and Sheila, visited Hampton Court Palace.  When visiting the Chapel Royal the party removed shoes (to the surprise of some other visitors not familiar with this act of piety on entering a church to pray) and lit candles before a Greek icon of Christ Pantocrater.  Father Simon enquired of the verger concerning a prominent silver Ethiopian processional cross and learned that this was a gift to the chapel in the 1960s.  He also explained that the oval shape in the east wall has in fact never contained a picture as mistakenly thought by many visitors but was believed to represent an egg, symbolic of the resurrection, similar to our own tradition of using ostrich eggs.

Mar Thimothios visits Church Secretariat

His Grace Dr. Mathews Mar Thimothios, Bishop of the Malankara Orthodox diocese of the UK, Europe and Africa paid a fraternal visit to the British Orthodox Church Secretariat at Charlton on 25 August, where he was wamly welcomed by Abba Seraphim.

His Grace Mar Thimothios is in the United Kingdom for a two month stay after having travelled extensively in Africa and Europe on pastoral visits to his  diocese, which must be one of the largest in the world. He and Abba Seraphim last met during the latter’s pilgrimage to Kerala in January this year. He was accompanied by Dr. George Kutty, Secretary of St. Gregorios Orthodox Church in Brockley, South-east London, who both lunched with Abba Seraphim and Father Peter Farrington, Secretary of the Council of Oriental Orthodox Churches in the UK. During the visit the two bishops were able to discuss various pastoral issues as well as aspects of the history and traditions of the Malankara Church. Abba Seraphim presented Mar Thimothios with a copy of his A Pilgrimage to Malabar.

Pope Benedict’s State Visit to the United Kingdom

Abba Seraphim, accompanied by Fathers Simon Smyth & Peter Farrington attended an ecumenical service of Evening Prayer at Westminster Abbey on 17 September as part of the programme of events linked to the State Visit to the United Kingdom of H.H. Pope Benedict XVI.

The Council of Oriental Orthodox Churches, of which Abba Seraphim is a Vice-President, was well represented during the papal visit: H. G. Bishop Angaelos, as President of the Council, attended the reception for Pope Benedict at the Palace of Holyroodhouse on 16 September and joined in the procession of church leaders at Westminster Abbey. Also present at the Abbey were H.E. Archbishop Athanasios of the Syrian Orthodox Church and His Grace Bishop Mathews Mar Timotheos of the Malankara Orthodox Church, as well as priests from the Coptic and Syrian Orthodox Church.

Commenting on the Papal visit, Abba Seraphim said, “Pope Benedict’s visit is very important for all Christian communities in the United Kingdom as it emphasises the deep significance of our Christian heritage in shaping our culture and the values which underpin the fabric of the British way of life. Like many other European countries, in recent decades we have become a more multi-faith society but our tolerant and hospitable ethos has enabled us to welcome and respect other religious cultures. Pope Benedict’s message is no narrow or sectarian view, but encompasses all people of faith as well as respect for those with none; but it is uncompromising in upholding the dignity of each human being, created in the divine image. His warning of the dangers of an aggressively secular agenda, which marginalises religious faith, are timely and address the concerns of many religious people who feel that they have been neglected, ignored or patronised.

I hope Christians will read and digest carefully what the Pope has said during this visit, as it is supportive of Christian principles and addressses our role in contemporary society in a challenging but realistic way and I commend it to our Orthodox faithful. The eloquent comments of the Archbishop of Canterbury were totally consistent with Pope Benedict’s message, which appeared to resonate with church leaders of all mainstream denominations.”

Father Michael celebrates 77th Birthday

Father Michael Robson celebrated his 77th birthday at Callum Welch Court, the nursing home attached to Morden College at Blackheath. Although physically frail he remains in good spirits and enjoys opportunities to meet old friends. He is much loved and respected at Morden College and although he was not well enough to attend the Liturgy when Abba Seraphim last celebrated it in the college chapel on 24 August, many other members of the college attended and prayed for him. For his birthday, Father Michael had several visitors and was busily occupied opening the many cards and greetings received. Abba Seraphim, returning from the Liturgy at Babingley, brought him Holy Communion and prayed with him and gave him the latest news of the church.

Bournemouth weekend of Worship & Spirituality

The Bournemouth Church hosted a themed weekend from 24-26 September, which was supported by members of the local congregation as well as members from Portsmouth and Chatham and a catechumen from Hertfordshire. The programme was led by Father Simon Smyth and supported by Father Peter Farrington on the Saturday.

Following vespers on Friday night, the Russian film OCTOB (pronounced Ostrov) or Island, which starts with a monk in a desolated place praying the Jesus Prayer,  followed by a flash back to 1942 and the war, as the story gradually unfolds. It is a story about the human soul which tells of forgiveness, repentance, human hearts and sin, and the confrontation of each of these with the Holy.

Next day, after morning prayer, the second session began with a follow-up to several points raised by the film, including Holy Fools, such as Saint Basil of Moscow, and to show that this was not something restricted to Russian Orthodoxy, mention was also made of Saint Francis of Assisi.  It also focussed on how those who are not called to the monastic life can learn and profit from the example of monks and nuns and live lives of prayer and worship in the world, whilst also earning a living and supporting families. Brief clips were viewed from a film biography of the Scottish footballer Jimmy Johnstone (1944-2006) with colleagues and former players explaining their youthful obsession with the sport and the time and effort they put in being rewarded by the high level of skills they developed.  The parable intended had been that although working people with family commitments might not be expected to put in the hours of prayer one might more reasonably expect from monks, nonetheless the more time and effort that could be put into our spiritual lives the better the spiritual fruit.  It was also noted that these boys had not sat around lamenting that they could be good footballers if only they had a coach to teach them or even a proper football, just as we shouldn’t lament that if only we were monks or nuns or had more time we could become more spiritual. The footballing contribution was nicely balanced with a brief consideration of George Herbert’s seventeenth century poem The Elixir:

Teach me, my God and King,
In all things Thee to see,
And what I do in anything,
To do it as for Thee.

The other two morning sessions were on Prayer and then, specifically, the Jesus Prayer.  Following the Sixth Hour prayer at noon there was a long lunch break allowing time for fellowship and reflection when most of those present went for walks together.

Afternoon Prayer was prayed together at 3 o’clock,  followed by a discussion on Repentance, including a brief Power-Point presentation illustrating repentance, progress and sanctity using JCB excavators, shovels and a microscope. Some of us are like excavators and barely notice the dirt and muck not cleaned away; some have progressed sufficiently to notice the weight of dirt not cleaned off a shovel but others, like the saints on the icons who, like the high powered microscope, were aware of one speck of dirt.  Abba Sisoes was just such a one. At his death when his disciples were exclaiming that he had no sins left to repent from, he answered that he didn’t know if he had even begun to repent.  A lively discussion followed with contributions from everyone which led naturally into considerations of purification and illumination. The final session was on Silence and Stillness and included a handout on Christians striving to live a life of inner silence and prayer in New York. So the discussions came full circle to living an Orthodox spiritual life where we are, here and now.

Saturday concluded with Vespers.  During the three different hours of prayer prayed that day the psalms were recited in several ways: either antiphonally around the congregation, each person praying the psalm allocated to them or each person praying simultaneously the psalms allotted to them. This was intended to enable everyone to experience different ways of praying the services so they might choose what worked best for them in their own prayer meetings.

Sunday began with the Divine Liturgy and after lunch the final half hour of the film was viewed (which had been held  back from Friday so as not to spoil the surprise in the story) with its moving ending and the weekend concluded with Afternoon Prayer. The weekend was greatly appreciated by all those present for the opportunities for prayer and reflection and for the hard work by Fr. Simon in planning and organising the talks and discussions.

Guilio Paletta’s Photographs of Tur Abdin

On Monday, 27 September, His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury (Dr. Rowan Williams) opened an exhibition of photographs of Tur Abdin by the Italian photo-journalist, Giulio Paletta.

Tur Abdin in south-east Turkey has been the home of Syriac Christians since the early days of the church and these villages were once the flourishing centre of a great Christian culture, which suffered during the unsettled years which marked the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the persecution faced by ethnic minorities. In more recent times the Syriac Christians were caught up in the violence of Kurdish separatism and a population of some 20,00 had fallen to a mere 2,000 by 1995. Today the ancient monastery of Mor Gabriel stands as the centre of Syriac culture in this area but is under threat from predators who lay claim to ancient monastic lands.

This exhibition was organised by the Tur Abdin Focus Group to raise awareness of the Christians of Tur Abdin and to show concern and support for the problems they are facing. In welcoming the Archbishop, the Bishop of Woolwich (The Right Rev’d Christopher Chessun), who is the chairman of the  Group, read out letters of greeting and appreciation from Archbishop Samuel Aktas of Tur Abdin as well as H.H. Mor Ignatius Zakka I, the Patriarch of Antioch. Dr. Williams spoke movingly of the invaluable spiritual tradition embodied in the Tur Abdin community and of its spiritual and cultural value to the wider community.

The opening was well supported and attended both by His Excellency the Syrian Ambassador and representatives of the Turkish Embassy and covered by both Turkish and Syriac media includingSuroyo TVSuroyo SAT and Hurriyet. Metropolitan Mor Polycarpos Aydin, Patriarchal Vicar in the Netherlands, represented the Patriarch of Antioch. Abba Seraphim, attended as a member of the Tur Abdin Focus Group, and represents the Council of Oriental Orthodox Chuerches in the United Kingdom.

The photographs are not merely of churches and liturgical ceremonies but contain some very striking images of the simple rural life of the Suriani and personal portraiture which highlight the vitality and uniqueness of this community. (See: http://www.focusmorgabriel.com)

 

Norfolk Celebrations

On 2 October Abba Seraphim was delighted to join the 14th annual pilgrimage in  honour of St. Fursey, an Irish monk who evangelised East Anglia in the seventh century, which is held at Burgh Castle near Great Yarmouth, where it is believed the saint established his monastery.  Apart from celebrating St. Fursey in services and pilgrimages, the Fursey Pilgrims have sponsored a number of lectures on the saint’s life and have published impressive and scholarly booklets on the saint and related topics.

Abba Seraphim joined a goodly gathering of the pilgrims for lunch and fellowship, where much of the conversation revealed an enthusiasm and knowledge about East Anglia’s ancient Christian heritage. Following this, a service was held at St. Peter and Paul’s Church at Burgh Castle at which Abba Seraphim was the guest preacher. He spoke of the vitality of the Irish monastic tradition and the profound influence of St. Antony and Egyptian monasticism and suggested ways we might understand the balance between monasticism and evangelism & mission. Following the service in the church, Abba Seraphim joined the pilgrims in the short walk to the area within the substantial remains of the Roman fortress walls, where St. Fursey’s community settled and the pilgrims joined in further prayers and hymns. The day concluded with tea in the parish hall and the opportunity to purchase some of the excellent publications including the latest booklet, a translation of the 8th century manuscript Life of St. Fursey, Transitus Beati Fursei, by Professor Oliver Rackham. (For details see the website:www.furseypilgrims.co.uk)

The following day, Sunday, 3 October, was the  Dedication Festival of St. Felix’s Church at Babingley as an Orthodox Church, this being the ninth anniversary. Abba Seraphim spoke of his experience as a Fursey Pilgrim and said he had been struck by a prayer used which spoke of “footsteps in the sand.” This reminded him of the impact of the early British and English missionaries, including St. Felix and their contribution and lasting impact on the local Christian community. We value their legacy and hope that our ministry in Norfolk will keep faith with the past but also ensure its vitality for the future, so that our footsteps might also appear in the sand.  Although we give thanks for the fine church where we worship and receive so  any blessings, we need also to be conscious of the footsteps which led us there, especially the former chapel at the African Violet Centre at Terrington St. Clements. We must never lose sight of the fact that the Church is not the building but the people, and today’s lessons reminded us  of this when St. Paul referred to the Christians of Corinth as an “epistle of Christ … written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God” and St. Peter spoke of us as “living stones … built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood.”

 

First Orthodox Education Day

The first Oriental Orthodox Education Day took place on Saturday, 9 October 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.

Pilgrimage to Egypt

Abba Seraphim visited Egypt from 13-20 October with a small group of ecumenical pilgrims as well as members of the British Orthodox Church. Accompanying Abba Seraphim were Father Simon Smyth and Reader James-Antony Kelly from the Portsmouth parish, Dr. Katherine Mori from the Charlton parish, Dr. Gordon Beamish, James Carr, Daniel Heale, Terence Pearson and Sister Luisa Duffy of Madonna House. Arriving in Cairo on a Wednesday they were able to attend the weekly papal lecture at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Abbesseya and afterwards to greet His Holiness on his return to the papal residence. They were accompanied throughout by Shenouda Mamdouh and his wife, Mary Ezzat.

On 14 October the group travelled to St. Mina’s monastery at Maryut, where there were warmly welcomed by His Grace Bishop Kyrillos and lunched at the monastery. Following this they visited the ancient pilgrimage city of St. Menas, which is one of the seven Unesco World Heritage sites in Egypt. Daniel Heale is preparing a doctoral thesis for the University of Winchester on the conservation of historic Coptic sites, so had a particular interest in its present condition, which the Glastonbury Review previously highlighted (No. 108: July 2003) when the damage caused by rising water levels was causing serious concern. The site of the main altar is now covered by a temporary wooden church and the monks are working closely with the archaeologists and conservationists. Father Thaddeus acted as the party’s guide and invited Abba Seraphim to celebrate the Raising of Evening Incense on this historic spot. After leaving Maryut Abba Seraphim’s party stayed overnight at the Papal Residence at St. Bishoy’s monastery in the Wadi El N’atrun.

On 15 October, after visiting the church and venerating the relics at St. Bishoy’s monastery, the party visited Abba Seraphim’s own monastery, Deir El Surian to take the blessing of the churches and relics. They were received buy His Grace Bishop Mattheos, the Abbot, who sat with the group answering questions about Coptic liturgy and the monastic life. That evening the party returned to Cairo, where they used St. Mark’s Centre at Nasr City as their base.

On 16 October they were joined by Abuna Arsanios Boula and the visited the churches and monasteries of Old Cairo: Deir Abu Saifain and the tomb of the late Abbess Irene; the Hanging Church (Al-Mu‘allaqah), Ben Ezra synagogue, St. Barbara, the Church of SS. Sergius & Bacchus (Abu Sargah),  the Church of SS. Cyrus & John, the Church of the Holy Virgin, the Pot of Basil (Al-‘Adhra Qariyat ar-Rihan) and the Convent of St. George (Deir Mari Girgis), where they were received and entertained to lunch by Mother Kyria.

On 17 October they drove to the Red Sea monasteries and were received at St. Antony’s monastery by Abuna Ruwais Antony, who acted as their host during an extensive visit. Following this they travelled on to St. Paul’s monastery, where they stayed the night. The next morning Abba Seraphim, assisted by Abuna Arsanios, celebrated the Divine Liturgy in the underground chapel beside the site of St. Paul’s tomb before the party breakfasted and visit the churches and shrines in the monastery.

On 19 October Abba Seraphim, assisted by Abuna Paul Girguis of St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Church, Washington DC, celebrated the Divine Liturgy at St Theodore’s convent (Amir Tadros) in Harat ar-Rum and afterwards were entertained to breakfast by Mother Adrosis, the Abbess. The party then travelled to the Papal Residence at Abbesseya for an audience with His Holiness Pope Shenouda. Following a private meeting with Abba Seraphim, at which he was able to report to the Pope on aspects of the ministry of the British Orthodox Church as well as his visit to the North American Eritrean diocese and to discuss current issues relating to the Coptic Church, they were joined by Bishops Joannes and Ermia, the papal secretaries, and His Holiness warmly received the whole group and discussed aspects of their visit with them. The meeting concluded with His Holiness praying for the whole group and distributing gifts of books and holy ikons.

Before flying back to London on 20 October Abba Seraphim and his party visited Miss Iffa, one of the first deaconesses blessed by Pope Shenouda, at her home in Heliopolis. Although she is now 90, she remains in good spirits and warmly welcomed all her visitors.

Services for Iraqi Martyrs

The British Orthodox Church was represented by Fathers Seraphim Mina and Simon Smyth  (representing H.E. Abba Seraphim) at a service for the Christians martyred in Our Lady of Salvation Syrian Catholic Church in Baghdad on Sunday 31 October. The joint remembrance service was organised by the Christian Churches for the Iraqi Communities in the UK at Holy Trinity Syrian Catholic Church, Brook Green, Hammersith, West London, on Friday 12 November.

Also representing the Council of Oriental Orthodox Churches (COOC) were H. E. Archbishop Athanasius for the Syriac Orthodox Church, H. G. Bishop Angaelos (President of COOC and representing His Holiness Pope Shenouda) and Father Snork Bagdassarian (representing the Armenian Primate of Great Britain) as well  many priests and faithful from the Catholic,  Anglican, Byzantine & Oriental Orthodox Churches.

Messages of support and assurances of prayer were read out on behalf of H.H. Pope Shenouda, the Archbishops of Westminster  the Archbishop of Canterbury. Bishop Angaelos announced that Sunday 21 November has been designated a Sunday of prayer throughout the Coptic Orthodox Church for remembrance of the Christians of Iraq.

Fifty-two candles each in the centre of a floral cross – one for each of those martyred in Our Lady of Salvation Church – were positioned throughout the Church, along the aisles and across the front of the Church and there were  photographs of the new martyrs at the front of the Church.

Although there was  evidence of sadness and grief, Christian faith, hope, love and even joy were strongly present too.  The  emphasis on throughout was  that though in one sense separated from the departed martyrs we are still united with these who now behold God in the promised paradise, in the bosoms of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; and especially at the celebration of the Eucharist, in which heaven and earth are one.  If faith, hope and love were evident, both in the messages at the beginning and throughout the Mass in the singing and prayers, they shone forth in an inspirational sermon delivered with power and passion by the celebrating priest Father Nizar Semaan. Unusually in a church, it drew forth a standing ovation which it took some minutes to quieten before the service continued.  At the conclusion of the homily he declared,  “The heavenly Father will welcome all those who paid so dearly with their blood.  Their martyrdom will bless the Church of our Lady of Deliverance, making it a stronger bastion for future generations…”

At the invitation of the Archbishop of Westminster (Mgr. Vincent Nicholls) Abba Seraphim, accompanied by Father Seraphim Mina, attended a Mass at Westminster Cathedral on 26 November to commemorate all those who have died or been injured in recent weeks in Iraq, especially in the bombing of Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad on 31 October. White floral crosses with lighted candles and photographs of those killed, displayed  at the entrance to the sanctuary, were a poignant reminder of the victims. The congregation included a large number of  Iraqi and Middle Eastern Christians and prominent among the clergy attending those from the Syriac Orthodox (led by H.E. Archbishop Mar Athanasius Touma), Chaldean, Assyrian and Maronite churches. The intercessions were offered by Iraqi children and before the final blessing messages were read from the Christian community in Iraq, expressing appreciation for the prayerful support being offered by churches in England and Wales, as well as an affirmation of support by the Iraqi Christian communities in the United Kingdom.

Deacon John Stuart suffers a stroke

Deacon John Stuart is in hospital recovering from a  stroke. Following  several recent incidents in which he lost his balance and fell over, he was diagnosed as having a blood clot on the part of his brain which controls balance. He has been undergoing tests and treatment and is now recovering in hospital and, happily,  making good progress.  Abba Seraphim has not only sent him good wishes for a full and complete recovery but asked  for prayers for him and his family. Deacon John, who is 63, exercises a ministry as a hospital chaplain in Exeter. He was ordained a full deacon in Exeter by Abba Seraphim in February 2001.

St. Mary of Zion Festival

On Saturday, 27 November, Abba Seraphim attended the St. Mary of Zion (Tserha Sion) Festival of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church held at St. James the Great Parish Church at Lower Clapton, London, E5. The Festival is not only a Marian celebration but also commemorates the taking of the Ark of the Covenant to Ethiopia by the Emperor Menelik I and its placing in St. Mary of Zion Church in Axum, where many Ethiopian Emperors were later crowned. The festivities were presided over by Archbishop Antonios and following the Divine Liturgy there were traditional hymns and dances before the Holy Tabot was processed around the church amid much jubilation.

Following this Abba Seraphim addressed the congregation and offered congratulations on behalf of the British Orthodox Church and the Council of Oriental Orthodox Churches. St. Mary of Zion is the oldest of the Ethiopian Orthodox congregations in the United Kingdom although it has gathered in a number of different places in the three and a half decades since it was founded. Abba Seraphim fondly recalled his visit  to one of the first services held at a Church in Notting Hill in 1976 when the priest was the late Archimandrite Aba Aregawi Welde Gebriel (later consecrated as Archbishop Johannes) and the congregation was still very small. Under its present priest, Malake Sion Habte Marian Field, the congregation is actively fund raising to purchase their own property and Abba Seraphim looked forward to the day, with God’s grace, when he would have the privilege of attending the consecration of their own church and recognising the fruits of so many years of faithful service. A festive lunch was held in the church hall afterwards, with traditional Ethiopian cuisine, which Abba Seraphim was delighted to share.

Snippets

Abba Seraphim presided over the half-yearly Synod of the British Orthodox Church which was held at the Church Secretariat at Charlton on Saturday morning, 3 July.  The Synod was established by article 10 of the 1994 Protocol and exists to assist the Metropolitan in the day to day administration of the Church. After receiving reports from all the churches and missions, as well as other church committees, it reviewed the previous six months and planned strategies for future mission and activities.

Abba Seraphim and Father Peter Farrington were among those who attended the annual Constantinople lecture on 25 November, which this year was given by Dr. Harry Hagopian at St. Mary at Hill, Lovat Lane in the City of London. The lecture, entitled “The Armenian Genocide: A Way Forward?” is sponsored by the Anglican & Eastern Churches Association and followed Evening Prayer led by the Rector, Canon Flora Winfield.




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