The British Orthodox Church

within the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate

Joyce Edwards buried at Bournemouth

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Following her death in London on 15 December, Abba Seraphim’s mother, Joyce Edwards, was transferred to Bournemouth for her burial in a church plot there. A Requiem Liturgy was held at the British Orthodox Church of Christ the Saviour in Osborne Road, Winton, celebrated by Abba Seraphim, assisted by Father Simon Smyth and Father Sergius Scott (who also personally represented His Grace Bishop Antony), Deacon Daniel Malyon and subdeacons John Morgan and Antony-Paul Holland. The Church was packed with family, friends and church members who stood around the open coffin in the centre of the church.

After the Liturgy, the burial service took place at the Wimborne Road Cemetery, conducted by Father Simon. The weather the day before had been windy with torrential showers, but the day of the funeral, through the goodness of God, was dry, sunny and mild. Tea was served afterwards at the Norfolk Royale Hotel.

Abba Seraphim said that he and other members of the family were much heartened by the many messages of condolence received, but also by the knowledge that prayers for his mother’s repose were being offered in a number of churches around the world. Among the many condolences received were those from Their Graces Bishop Serapion, of Los Angeles; H.G. Bishop Kyrillos of Milan and Papal Deputy; H.G. Bishop Youannes of BLESS; Bishop Theophilus of the Red Sea; H.G. Bishop Antony of Scotland, Ireland & N.E. England; H.G. Bishop Missael of Birmingham and Bishop Christopher Chessum of the Anglican Diocese of Southwark. H.G. Bishop Angaelos had written to Abba Seraphim: “God strengthened her through a valiant fight and blessed her with a good and full life” whilst His Eminence Metropolitan Bishoy of Damiette wrote, “Your beloved mother with a life time of one complete century is a great treasure in our time. This should be recorded in the history of the Coptic Orthodox Church especially that her son is one of the distinct metropolitans in this historical ancient church of Alexandria/Egypt where the most amazing civilization has existed in the history of humanity. May our merciful God repose her lovely soul through the intercession of our common and most high mother Saint Mary the Mother of God.” His Eminence Archbishop Gregorios of Thyateria & Great Britain (Ecumenical Patriarchate) wrote, “I understand that she was a distinguished and gracious lady who was independently-minded, being blessed with excellent health and mental agility even in her tenth decade, and who (for example) was not even then averse to setting off on holidays abroad despite being of an age when most people would have had neither the stamina nor the courage to do so. It goes without saying that she will have been a great support to you in ways that only a mother can be; and I am told that she became the ‘Mother’ to your Flock as she gathered around her the Faithful for whom you have pastoral care. You must give thanks to the Triune God for her life and for the long years that she lived, as well as for having had the privilege of her being with you for so many years, accompanying you and guiding you in your sacred ministry.” Messages and a floral tribute were also received from the priests, deacons and faithful of the UK subdiocese of the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo diocese of Europe as well as a number of Coptic Orthodox clergy in the UK, including Father Moussa Roshdy of Rotherham, Father Antonius Negeb of Bromley, Father Bishoy Naguib of Manchester and Father Seraphim Mina.  

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In his homily at the Requiem Liturgy, Abba Seraphim said,

“The Sacred Scriptures open with a magnificent and poetic description of the Creation of the Cosmos, of which the highlight is the creation of man, whom God formed from the dust of the ground, breathing into his nostrils the breath of life, so that he became a living soul.

Yet God, Who alone is immortal, as the creator and maker of man, decreed as the punishment for man’s disobedience, that it would be his lot to return to the ground from which he came, and from which he had been sustained during his life on earth, “For out of it wast thou taken, for dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return.”

The Russian Contakion of the Departed – one of the hymns of the Orthodox Church – witnesses to this as our common end, saying “All we go down to the dust, and weeping oe’r the grave, we make our song: Alleluia,  Alleluia, Alleluia !” It is a solemn and sobering thought when we come to part with those we have loved and cherished in life and the weeping reflects our sense of loss and grief.

Yet notice what is the song given to us to sing: “Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia !” These words, taken directly from the Hebrew by the earliest Christians, mean “Praise God” – indeed it is a superlative expression of thanksgiving, joy and triumph. In the Roman Rite it is linked particularly to Easter or Holy Pascha but not sung during Lent, as opposed to the Orthodox liturgical tradition where it is sung throughout the entire year.

To the world, – a term the Bible often uses to describe those who do not share the Christian faith – this thankfulness seems at best misplaced, or more generally altogether appears foolishness. But, who is the fool ? The Psalmist tells us, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ (Psalm LIII: 1) whilst the Apostle Paul tells us that “The wisdom of this world is foolishness with God” (1 Corinthians III: 19-20) and warns us that “The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians II: 14-15).

As Christians we do not worship a God whom we cannot know or who cares little for us, but rather we worship Him from whom “every good gift and every perfect gift” (James I: 17) is bestowed on us and “Who so loved the world (this time used to encompass all of God’s creation) that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John III: 16)     

Through the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ we see that death has been vanquished and that life and immortality are the promise that awaits us. That breath of life, which makes us living souls has not been quenched by death. St. Paul reveals the thread which links us with the creation of man, the resurrection of Christ and our own future condition, “For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Corinthians XV: 21-22).

Our father among the saints, St. John Chrysostom has left us a sermon on the Resurrection, which in the Byzantine tradition is read at the Paschal Vigil service. It eloquently expresses the Christian belief in resurrection:

“Let none fear death; for death of the Saviour has set us free.

He has destroyed death by undergoing death.

He has despoiled hell by descending into hell.

He vexed it even as it tasted of His flesh.

Isaiah foretold this when he cried:

Hell was filled with bitterness when it met Thee face to face below;

filled with bitterness, for it was brought to nothing;

filled with bitterness, for it was mocked;

filled with bitterness, for it was overthrown;

filled with bitterness, for it was put in chains.

Hell received a body, and encountered God. It received earth, and confronted heaven.

O death, where is your sting?

O hell, where is your victory?

Christ is risen! And you, o death, are annihilated!

Christ is risen! And the evil ones are cast down!

Christ is risen! And the angels rejoice!

Christ is risen! And life is liberated!

Christ is risen! And the tomb is emptied of its dead;

for Christ having risen from the dead,

is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.”

When the very first corn and other crops begin to shoot they are the promise that more is to follow. These are the biblical first-fruits, which were offered by the priest in thankfulness and faith in the rich harvest which would soon follow. St. Paul tells us that “Now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.” (1 Corinthians XV: 20). If Christ is the firstfruits then the righteous, those who have fallen asleep as well as those who remain at the coming of the Lord, are the promised harvest.

Alleluia: Thanksgiving, Joy and Triumph. Thanksgiving, for the assurance that Joyce has passed from death to life eternal; that she has a merciful and loving Saviour Who will grant her forgiveness of her sins; Joy, because she has set her hope in God, the author and maker of her being, so that she now rests in Paradise, where the Choirs of the Saints and the Glorious Assembly of the Just shine like the stars of heaven; and where sorrow and pain are no more, neither sighing, but life everlasting;  and Triumph, that she will be numbered with those who rest in the paradise of joy awaiting that great Day of Resurrection when they will dwell in newness of life.

So indeed, let us we make our song, Alleluia,  Alleluia, Alleluia !” 

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Abba Seraphim welcomes new missions in the west of England

The announcement that 2015 will begin with the inauguration of two new British Orthodox missions on the western side of England is a welcome development and we pray that God will bless the ministry in these places.

At 2.00 p.m. on Sunday, 4 January, the British Orthodox Bristol Fellowship will commence meetings under the patronage of St. Cyril the Great in the Lady Chapel of St. Peter’s Church, Filton, Bristol, BS34 7BQ with a celebration of the Divine Liturgy by Father Simon Smyth. The Fellowship co-ordinator is Dominic Prewett, who can be contacted by email: dominicprewett@hotmail.com or by mobile: 07730682526

At 6.30 p.m. on Wednesday, 21 January, the Swindon Mission, under the patronage of St. Martin of Tours, will commence meeting at St. Mary’s Church, Commonwealth Road, Swindon, SN1 4LB with a celebration of the Divine Liturgy by Father Peter Farrington.  For further details contact Father Peter Farrington.  

The distance between both missions is only 36.9 miles (or an estimated driving time of 44 minutes) and we hope that there will be mutual support and co-operation between them.

Joyce Edwards dies

Joyce Alice Edwards, the oldest member of the British Orthodox Church and mother of Abba Seraphim died at 2.00 a.m. on 15 December, in her 101st year. Memory Eternal !  

Since 28 November when she was released from Lewisham Hospital following a stroke, Joyce Edwards has been staying at the Bevan Rehabilitation Unit in West Thamesmead. She had entered the Unit suffering from pneumonia but responded well to the treatment given there and her health had been showing signs of improvement. During Sunday evening, however, the staff became concerned about her breathing and she was transferred to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital at Woolwich, where her condition rapidly deteriorated and she lapsed into unconsciousness. She passed away as Abba Seraphim was arriving at the hospital but he was able to pray the commendatory prayers over her and took the last kiss. 

 

Annual Constantinople Lecture

On 27 November, Deacon Daniel Malyon attended the Annual Constantinople Lecture, organised jointly by the Anglican & Eastern Churches’ Association [AECA] and Fellowship of Saint Alban and Saint Sergius at St. Mellitus College, London, SW5. The event was well attended by members of various Christian communities who showed their support for this ecumenical endeavour.

This year’s speaker was Father John Behr, Dean of St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Christian Seminary in New York. The title of his lecture was ‘Take Back Death! Christian Witness in the 21st Century,’ and addressed matters of bioethics and epistemology in the context of the contemporary Western world. Father John drew heavily on the works of St. Irenaeus of Lyons and especially his approach to martyrdom and patristic understanding of what it truly means to be ‘a living person’ in comparison to the modern medical and social framework for the term.

The lecture proved extremely relevant and thought provoking, especially with regards to the prevalence of the theological response to death amongst scholars today.  With the growing importance of this topic foreseen by eminent theologians, such as Metropolitan Kallistos Ware, further examination of the anthropological aspect of theology is needed regarding the concept of personhood.  Father John’s analysis of these matters and links to the patristic approach demonstrate the strong foundations that today’s Orthodox academics have at their disposal as they prepare to tackle these areas.

Following the talk, Father John offered an informal question and answer session, at which point Deacon Daniel had the opportunity to engage him on his recent publication [Irenaeus of Lyons, Identifying Christianity, Oxford University Press: 2013] and discuss approaches to teaching Irenaeus’ works to students of Philosophy. Following this, Father John also presented Deacon Daniel with a signed copy of his book ‘Becoming Human.’ [Becoming Human. Meditations on Christian Anthropology in Word & Image, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press: 2013].

 

Father Michel Jalkh, Secretary of MECC, meets COOC leaders

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On 26 November His Grace Bishop Vahan Hovhannesian, in his capacity as President of the Council of Oriental Orthodox Churches (COOC) hosted a luncheon at the Randa Restaurant, Kensington, in order to introduce The Reverend Dr. Michel Jalkh, General Secretary of the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC) to some of the senior members of the Council. Among those present were HG Bishop Angaelos, HE Archbishop Athanasios Touma, HE Metropolitan Seraphim, Father Aphrem and Dr. Harry Hagopian and Dr. David Ryall ( Secretary of the Department of International Affairs of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference for England & Wales [CBCEW]). Father Michel, who is a priest of the Maronite Church, was visiting London as the guest of CBCEW as well as meeting other religious leaders and politicians to discuss the current situation of the churches in the Middle East. 


Upcoming events

25 January 2015
Raising of Incense & Divine Liturgy: Doncaster

Raising of Incense – 9:45am
Divine Liturgy – 10:30am

Raising of Incense & Divine Liturgy: Babingley

10.30 a.m. Morning Incense
11.30 a.m. Divine Liturgy

1 February 2015
Raising of Incense & Divine Liturgy: Doncaster

Raising of Incense – 9:45am
Divine Liturgy – 10:30am

Morning Prayer: Babingley

10.30am Morning Prayer

7 February 2015
Raising of Incense & Divine Liturgy: Shadwell

9.30 am Raising of Incense
10.00 am Liturgy of St. James
11.45 am Refreshments



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