As in previous years, clergy and laity of the British Orthodox Church joined the annual Anglican Pilgrimage to Glastonbury, on 21 June. By tradition an Orthodox liturgy is generally celebrated in St. Mary’s Chapel (the Undercroft) on the morning of the pilgrimage, by Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox in alternate years.
Abba Seraphim was this year’s celebrant, but as an archaeological dig in the Undercroft was over-running schedule, the Liturgy of Saint James was celebrated in the adjacent St. Patrick’s Chapel. Assisting Abba Seraphim were Father Simon Smyth, Deacon Daniel Malyon and Subdeacons Paul Ashdown, Anthony-Paul Holland and Trevor Maskery. Abba Seraphim and his clergy later attended the Anglican Eucharist and afterwards joined the Procession of the Blessed Sacrament to the Abbey. The principal celebrant was The Right Rev’d Bishop Roger Jupp, Chairman of the Glastonbury Pilgrimage Association, who warmly welcomed Abba Seraphim and his people, and the sermon was preached by The Right Rev’d Jonathan Goodall, Bishop of Ebbsfleet, who also attended the Liturgy of Saint James. The day was further blessed by especially clement weather.
On 16 & 17 June, Abba Seraphim attended the 26th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. This is organised under the auspices of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. On 17 June he was one of a panel of witnesses who spoke at an NGO meeting on “Human Rights in Eritrea: The Impact of Gross Human Rights Violations on Vulnerable Groups within Eritrean Society.” Abba Seraphim specifically addressed the topic of Religious Persecution in Eritrea. This was sponsored jointly by Amnesty International, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), Human Rights Watch, the East & All of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, Human Rights Concern Eritrea, the International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR) and Civicus (World Alliance for Citizen Participation) and moderated by Matthew Jones of CSW.
In addition to representatives of various governments and others involved in human rights, there was also present Ms. Sheila B. Keetharuth, the first Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights in Eritrea, who was appointed in October 2012 and is currently presenting her second damning report.
In his address Abba Seraphim recounted his close involvement with the Eritrean Church in the diaspora over two decades and the steady increase in government interference in the affairs of the Orthodox Church, culminating in the uncanonical deposition of Patriarch Antonios in 2007. He traced the efforts of the Asmara government to divide and control the church communities in the diaspora and spoke of the principled support given by the late Pope Shenouda and the courage of Bishop Makarios and the priests who remained loyal to their Patriarch. Referring to the recent pastoral letter, “Where is your Brother” issued by the four Catholic bishops of Eritrea, Abba Seraphim said, “One cannot but admire the integrity of the Catholic bishops, who at great personal risk have spoken honestly about the situation in their country. Any hope that the Orthodox Church would respond in a comparable way was lost when Patriarch Antonios was silenced and the Holy Synod became a subservient mouthpiece of government policy. As the most high-profile victim of state oppression, Patriarch Antonios’s continued imprisonment and enforced silence are in fact eloquent testimony against tyranny and injustice. Yet for all his symbolic importance this mild old-man, in indifferent health, has been held unjustly in detention now for more than seven years – as have so many others – and the responsibility for this wilful oppression and other atrocities can be clearly attributed to the Eritrean government. If civilised people fail to condemn such actions and to work for humanitarian relief of its victims, they too share in the complicity of the oppressors. “
On 14 June at St. George-in-the-East, Shadwell, Abba Seraphim tonsured Christopher Shaw of Sunbury-on-Thames and ordained him as a Reader to serve the BOC Windsor Mission. In his homily Abba Seraphim spoke of the Ascension Gifts of Christ and singled out the diaconate and the lesser orders which derive from it, as representing the diakonia of the Church in which all Christians are, to some measure, called to participate. “The apostle Paul makes it clear that these Ascension gifts of Christ are not given to individuals for their personal use but for the “building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” In other words, they are for the collective benefit of the people of God. He expressed the hope that Christopher, soon to be a Reader in the House of God, would be faithful to his name, bearing Christ to all whom he meets, so that he may receive God’s mercy along with all those who have pleased God from the beginning. Assisting Abba Seraphim in the ordination were Father Peter Farrington, who presented Christopher and Deacon Daniel Malyon, who read the Charge after the ordination.
On Wednesday 11th June, Deacon Daniel Malyon spoke at Winchester University as part of the University’s Religious and Theological Studies Postgraduate Seminar. As a former student of the University’s Mth Orthodox Studies programme, he accepted the opportunity to present his research. The subject of his talk was ‘The development of the Papal Election system in the Coptic Orthodox Church,’ looking at the various influences which have influenced this system over the past two thousand years. The talk was well received and led to interesting discussions and observations on the Coptic Canonical tradition. Amongst other speakers were doctoral students and Father Nicholas Spencer of the Benedictine order, who spoke on the influence of Eastern Christian Mystical Theology on Medieval Western Christian thought. After the Seminar, the Orthodox students were invited for the Vespers service by Fr Andreas Andreopoulous of the Romanian Orthodox Church. This was followed by an address on ‘Ethics and Empathy’ by Lord Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury.