On 22 November Abba Seraphim, Father Peter Farrington and Reader Trevor Maskery attended the annual Constantinople Lecture held at Lambeth Palace. This year’s lecture was delivered by His Grace Bishop Vahan Hovhanessian, Primate of the Armenian Church in the UK & Ireland, on the subject, “The New Testament Apocrypha and The Armenian Church Canon of the Bible.” The lecture, which was organised by the Anglican & Eastern Churches Association in conjunction with the Nikaean Club, was preceded by Choral Evensong in the Archbishop’s Chapel for St. Cecilia’s Day. Following the lecture all those present sat down for supper in the Palace’s Guard Room .
The full text of Bishop Vahan’s talk is published in the current issue of the Anglican & Eastern Churches Association journal, Koinonia, New Series No. 60 (All Saintstide 2012)
The Synod of the British Orthodox Church, which usually meets twice yearly, convened at the Church Secretariat in Charlton, London, on 24 November under the chairmanship of Abba Seraphim.
Apart from receiving reports on the progress and development of parishes and missions, the election and enthronement of Pope Tawadros II was noted with much pleasure. Immediately following the Altar Lot, Abba Seraphim had written to His Holiness to say this the news had been received with “great joy, not only because we now again have a Pope to guide and care for us but also because we are confidant that this choice is of God. We realise the awesome responsibility which has now fallen upon you and that it is out of obedience to God and love of His church that you have accepted a burden, which can only be carried with the knowledge that the Lord will sustain you at all times.” On behalf of the clergy and faithful of the British Orthodox Church, Abba Seraphim had offered “our love, obedience and constant prayers.”
A long standing concern of the Synod has been the conservation and cataloguing of the extensive archive which the British Orthodox Church has amassed over almost a century and a half. Following discussion, it was agreed that a document management strategy, extending over the next five years, should be adopted to achieve this end. It was also noted that in 2013 the Cusworth Church will celebrate the silver jubilee of its consecration as an Orthodox place of worship and Saturday, 18 May was set aside a day of special thanksgiving.
This year’s Archbishop of Canterbury’s Ecumenical Reception, held at Lambeth Palace on 28 November, marked the retirement of the Most Rev’d Rowan Williams from the See of Canterbury. Abba Seraphim and Father Peter Farrington were among the many ecumenical guests attending to show their appreciation for the past decade of Dr. Williams’s ministry. The evening began with Common Worship Evening Prayer conducted in the Archbishop’s Chapel at which Dr. Williams preached the homily, followed by a Reception in the Guard Room, organised by the Nikaean Club. Bishop Christopher Hill of Guildford introduced the archbishop with an entertaining and anecdotal speech, following which Dr. Williams spoke of the considerable progress and deepening of ecumenical relationships over the past few decades and how it would continue to have increasing influence in the future.
On 2 December, some of the congregation of St. Thomas British Orthodox Parish at Charlton joined their Anglican brethren of the Charlton United Benefice for a candlelit Advent Carol Service at St. Thomas’ Church.
Presiding at the service was the Bishop of Woolwich (The Right Rev’d Michael Ipgrave), making his first visit to the church, assisted by the Rev’d Erica Wooff, Rector of Charlton and the Rev’d Lionel Kevis, Vicar of St. Mary’s, Leigh, near Tonbridge (which has long been a partner parish to Charlton), as well as the Rev’d Bennett Spong and the Rev’d Liz Newman from the Charlton Benefice clergy team. Abba Seraphim, who joined the candlelight procession, was invited to read a lesson, offer a short meditation on “A Light of Promise” and offer a prayer. Following the service the clergy and congregation gathered together in fellowship & refreshments in the church hall.
On 5 December, Abba Seraphim and Subdeacon Daniel Malyon attended a performance of scenes from the York cycle of the mediaeval mystery plays, which was being performed at St. George-in-the-East Church at Shadwell. This was the first year that the Players of St. Peter, a long established group of amateur and professional actors, had performed at Shadwell. The extracts ranged from the Fall of the Angels and Moses and Pharoah through the Annunciation, Nativity and Baptism and concluding with the Last Judgement.
Mystery plays, depicting biblical stories from Creation to Doomsday were a common way of marking religious festivals in towns and cities and traditionally performed by different trade guilds were widespread throughout England, but fell into disuse at the Reformation when puritans disapproved of religious drama as much as they did of liturgical worship.
Commenting on the genre, Abba Seraphim observed that they had served as a catechetical device for rustic people of simple but strong faith at a time when the scriptures were not readily accessible. They were sound in doctrine and encouraged a good knowledge of both old and new testaments as well as a lively sense of good and evil. Despite our sophistication and ready access to the scriptures, we live in a society where the Bible is a little-read best seller and, apart from regular church goers, knowledge of God’s purpose in creation and redemption, is abysmal today. He commended such plays and agreed with the Players’ desire to feel in touch with a very ancient English tradition of celebrating religious festivals.
To mark forty years of Common Statements between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches, Solemn Vespers of the Blessed Virgin Mary was celebrated at St. James’s Catholic Church, Spanish Place, on 6 December, the Feast of St. Nicholas of Myra. Sponsored jointly by the Catholic-Oriental Orthodox Regional Forum (COORF) and the Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin, it was presided over by The Most Rev’d Archbishop Kevin McDonald.
The service, much of which was in Latin (and included settings by Monteverdi and Palestrina), was sung by the Choir of St. James’ Church, directed by Mr. Terry Worroll, with Mr. Simon Lloyd, Director of Music of the Carmelite Church in Kensington, as organist. It concluded with a Malankara Orthodox Syrian Hymn of the Annunciation of the Mother of God, sung by the choir of St. Gregorios Indian Orthodox Church at Brockley, directed by Dr. Thomas Jacob.
Abba Seraphim read the lesson and Archbishop Kevin spoke about the growing manifestation of unity among the churches and the work of the Forum, to which His Grace Bishop Angaelos responded. At the conclusion everyone present was invited to light refreshments, generously provided by St. James’s Church.