On 22 February Joyce Alice Edwards became the first recorded member of the British Orthodox Church to celebrate her hundredth birthday. (The previous longest lived member was the late Martha Coppin of Bournemouth, who died in her 99th year.) Joyce Edwards was the first cousin to the late Metropolitan Georgius of Glastonbury (1905-1979) and mother to Metropolitan Seraphim of Glastonbury, so is well known to generations of church members. Previously a member of the Trotton Mission in Sussex she became an active member of the Charlton Parish when she moved back to London, following the death of her second husband, Peter Edwards in 1993.
Although physically frail and diagnosed three decades ago with heart failure, she lives in her own apartment in Charlton and has retained her mental acuity and independent spirit. Her good friend, Archimandrite Deiniol of the Wales Orthodox Mission summed things up when he wrote, “You know that I see you as a lady still young at heart, and I cannot imagine you as anything other than that.” As recently as 11 February she suffered a TIA (Transient Isceamic Attack) or mini-stroke but, by the Grace of God her indomitable spirit overcame that setback and she was able to attend all the events marking her birthday.
Birthday greetings were received from H.M. The Queen as well as from family and friends and from members of the Church both in Egypt and the United Kingdom. Foremost among these were personal greetings from His Eminence Metropolitan Bishoy of Damiette, “praying to our Lord to grant you sound health and long life since this is considered a blessing from our Lord” and from His Grace Bishop Kirollos of Milan, the Papal Deputy for Europe, who sent handwritten greetings to “Dear Joyce” and a reminder that “God walks each step of your journey with you … as you walk in life.” Flowers, gifts and messages were received from all clergy of the British Orthodox Church as well as congregations and individual members. On the evening of her birthday she attended a reception and concert in her honour at St. Thomas’s Church, Charlton, and on the next day, Sunday, 23 February, she returned to attend the Divine Liturgy and to offer thanks to God for His many mercies throughout her long life. On both occasions she had to ceremonially cut birthday cakes.
On 27 January Abba Seraphim arrived in Milan on a fraternal visit to His Grace Bishop Kyrillos, who – accompanied by some diocesan clergy – welcomed him at Malpensa airport. This was Abba Seraphim’s first visit to Milan since July 1996, when he had assisted at Bishop Kyrillos’ enthronement. The party drove to the Church of Santa Maria e Sant’ Antonio at Cinisello, where Abba Seraphim gave thanks for the journey. Here they were joined by engineer Salama Salama and his wife, who had acted as Abba Seraphim’s guide during his earlier visit.
Bishop Kyrillos conducted Abba Seraphim around many of his churches so that he could see the progress in the ministry over the past eighteen years. These included the Church of Sant’ Abramo at Vigevano, formerly a plant nursery, where the original prefabricated structures had been imaginatively adapted as a church, community hall and accommodation. The spacious Church of San Mina at Rho, had previously been a garment factory, whilst a garage in Milan now served as the spacious Church of San Giorgio with multiple chapels on two levels. An instruction class was in progress when the bishops arrived and Abba Seraphim spoke briefly to the youth who were gathered. The extensive Monastery of San Shenouda at Lachiarella (near Meltoni) had formerly been a livestock farm but was now a spiritual oasis boasting many facilities for pilgrims, with eight resident monks.
The next morning engineer Salama and Fr. Raffaele Gebrail accompanied Abba Seraphim to the Basilica of Saint Ambrose, where he was received by Mons. Arciprete Biagio Pizzi, who conducted him round the shrine housing the bodies of St. Ambrose and the martyrs Gervasius and Protassius. Following this, they were received at the Biblioteca Ambrosiana by Mons. Dr. Franco Buzzi, the Prefect of the Library; Mons. Pier Francesco Fumagalli, the Vice Prefect & Director of Far Eastern Studies at the Accademia Ambrosiana; as well as Professor Giorgo Ricchebuono, President of the Cardinal Federico Borromeo Foundation. They were joined in their tour of the library and the Pinacoteca by the Rector of the Universidad de Playa Ancha in Valparaiso, Patricio Sanhueza Vivanco, and the Pro-Rector of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Professor Maria Luisa De Natale. They were also privileged to be conducted into the vaults, where they saw the strong room used to house the Library’s extensive collection of drawings buy Leonardo de Vinci, but also to have a private view of the excavated Forum of Roman Milan, preserved beneath the Library, which was to be opened to the public the next day.
In the afternoon, accompanied by Father Antonio Ava Shenuti, Abba Seraphim travelled by train to Venice, where they were met by Bishop Kyrillos, who guided them round the extensive sight of the Coptic Cathedral of St. Marco at Campalto, on the north side of the Lagoon, facing Venice. The impressive towers, walls and roof structures are all in place and building will resume this spring. The bishops dined in Venice where Abba Seraphim stayed overnight. The next morning he travelled down the Grand Canal to St. Mark’s Square but as the acqua alta (exceptional high tide) had covered the whole of the square, the Basilica was shut. After praying at the doors of the basilica, Abba Seraphim retraced his steps to Milan.
Since 2002 the British Orthodox Parish of St. Mary & St. Felix at Babingley, Norfolk, has participated in the local Week of Prayer for Christian Unity by sponsoring an ecumenical lecture during The Raising of Evening Incense. This year a full church welcomed The Right Rev’d Alan Hopes, 4th Catholic Bishop of East Anglia. Introducing him to those present, Abba Seraphim spoke warmly of his predecessor, the late Bishop Michael Evans, who had been the speaker at the St. Felix ecumenical lecturer in 2005 and had also served on the Catholic-Oriental Orthodox Regional Forum alongside Abba Seraphim .
Bishop Alan began by reviewing the progress of the Catholic Church’s ecumenical dialogue in the fifty years since the IInd Vatican Council and its serious commitment to ecumenical dialogue with a wide range of Christian traditions, of which the dialogue with the Oriental Orthodox Churches was very active. Abba Seraphim later recalled that the meeting between the two newly elected Popes, Tawadros II of Alexandria and Francis I of Rome, last year was hugely significant, being the first meeting of heads of churches of both Popes, and came exactly forty years after the visit of Pope Shenouda III to Pope Paul VI in Rome.
Following the Evening Service, at which Abba Seraphim was assiated by Father David Seeds from Cusworth and Deacons Christopher Barnes and Daniel Malyon, all present joined together for a very British tea party and Bishop Alan was able to talk with local members of the British Orthodox Church as well as the wider ecumenical visitors.
The second Orthodox Education Day, organised by the Council of Oriental Orthodox Churches (COOC), took place at St. Sarkis Armenian Orthodox Church in London on Saturday, 18 January. The topic for study was “Extra Biblical Sources of Faith and Tradition.” The day began with Morning Prayer in the Armenian Orthodox tradition. After a welcome by His Grace Bishop Vahan Hovhanessian, President of COOC, Abba Seraphim introduced the topic with a talk, “What is Tradition?” in which he drew a clear distinction beteen traditions or customs and Holy Tradition. Father Peter Farrington, talking on “Tradition and Councils” examined the apostolic and earliest known local councils. After an excellent lunch Bishop Vahan explained the rich Armenian hymnic tradition with examples from the canon of sharakans, a sequence of eight hymnic chants sung in a fixed, logical succession. Deacon Daniel Malyon concluded the talks with his study of ‘The role of the canons in the formation of Orthodox Tradition”, giving some interesting examples from, the Alexandrian tradition. Summing up, Abba Seraphim spoke of the broadness of Holy Tradition, extending not only over the Sacred Scriptures, but also encompassing worship and hymnology, as well as moral and ethical issues.
On 11 January, during the celebration of The Divine Liturgy at Saint-George-in-the-East, Shadwell, where the British Orthodox London Mission of SS.George & Paul the Hermit worships, Abba Seraphim performed two ordinations. Trevor Maskery, who serves as Abba Seraphim’s PA, who has been a Reader since 2012, was advanced to the subdiaconate; whilst Daniel Malyon, who has served as a Reader and Subdeacon since February 2011 was ordained to the order of the diaconate. Deacon Daniel, who is currently completing his master’s degree in Orthodox Theology at the University of Winchester, also serves on the Council of Oriental Orthodox Churches in the UK. It was a great joy that Deacon Christopher Barnes travelled down from the Church in Babingley to serve as deacon of the liturgy and to perform the role of acting Archdeacon.
Following the ordination in London the two new ordinands and Deacon Daniel’s wife, Janice, travelled down to Bournemouth to visit the congregation there. The next morning, during his homily in the Divine Liturgy, Abba Seraphim complained that his duties had kept him away for too many months, but he was glad to return to share fellowship with the congregation there, and to welcome church members from the other South Coast Mission parishes of Portsmouth and Southampton. It was also a pleasure to return with the newly ordained Deacon Daniel, who had begun his ministry in the Portsmouth and Bournemouth congregations and had met his future wife from among the members of the Bournemouth parish. The day was characterised by warm informality as Abba Seraphim addressed the congregation on a number of issues, some of the members having been gathered almost four decades earlier, when he had immediate pastoral charge of the Bournemouth parish. Following lunch Abba Seraphim took the two new ordinands to the Wimborne Road Cemetery to pray at the grave of the late Archdeacon James Goddard (died 1993).
- 13 March 2014
- Evening Prayer & Discussion: Shadwell7.30pm Evening Prayer
7.45pm Talk and discussion
- 16 March 2014
- Raising of Incense & Divine Liturgy: DoncasterRaising of Incense – 9:45am
Divine Liturgy – 10:30am
- Raising of Incense & Divine Liturgy: Babingley10.30 a.m. Morning Incense
11.30 a.m. Divine Liturgy
- 23 March 2014
- Raising of Incense & Divine Liturgy: DoncasterRaising of Incense – 9:45am
Divine Liturgy – 10:30am
- Morning Prayer: Babingley10.30am Morning Prayer