During the celebration of the Paschal Eve Liturgy at the British Orthodox Church of St. Mary & Felix at Babingley, Norfolk, Abba Seraphim presented the church with a reliquary containing the bones of some of the Theban Legion; illustrating the common hope of all Christians in the Resurrection. Having reminded the congregation that it is appointed for all men once to die (Hebrews IX: 27) he reminded them that Christ is the firstfruits (1 Corinthians XV: 23) - the promise – of the great harvest of all men on the Day of Resurrection). We share that hope with Christians of all generations and with the saints of God, whom we call blessed souls. Abba Seraphim spoke of the faithful witness of the Theban Legion – Coptic Christians – serving under the Emperor Maximian in what is now Switzerland – who chose martyrdom in AD 286 rather than offer worship to the Emperor. In entrusting the relics to the Babingley Church he expressed the hope that they would be a source of blessing and powerful intercessors to all enter the church to pray. Assisting Abba Seraphim were Deacon Christopher Barnes and Subdeacons Roger-Kenneth Player and James Trevor Maskery.
Special prayers were also said for Deacon Mark Saunders and his wife Sybil, who were both admitted to hospital during Holy Week.
On 12 April the new BOC Stoke Mission at Stoke-on-Trent hosted its first celebration of the Divine Liturgy. This memorable event took place at St Paul’s Church, Church Square, Burslem, Stoke on Trent, ST6 4BY and was celebrated by Abba Seraphim, assisted by Fathers David Seeds, Peter Farrington, Archdeacon Alexander Astill, Deacon Daniel Malyon and Reader Petrous Louis, on his first visit to the UK from Melbourne. The celebration received warm support from our ecumenical partners and especially from the Suffragan Bishop of Stafford, (The Right Rev’d Geoff Annas), who also attended.
Following the Raising of Morning Incense, Father David received four local enquirers as catechumens with prayer and anointing with oil. There are now five adult catechumens in Stoke preparing for baptism and the first of these will take place on 7 June. Father Peter plans to visit Stoke on a fortnightly basis to build up the Mission, when he will celebrate the Liturgy, share a communal meal with them and lead a study & instruction session.
During his homily, Father Peter used the Gospel account of the raising of Lazarus to illustrate our need for commitment and responsiveness to the divine call. Following the liturgy, all those present shared a buffet lunch and time of Christian fellowship.
Having received the news of the death of His Holiness Patriarch Mar Ignatius Zakka, Abba Seraphim wrote to Archbishop Athanasius Touma, Patriarchal Vicar fore Britain of the Syriac Orthodox Church, to offer on behalf of the clergy and people of the British Orthodox Church, sincere condolences on his passing. In the tradition of the Coptic Patriarchate, the Patriarch of Antioch is commemorated at every service when prayers are offered for the Pope & Patriarch of Alexandria, and in recent months those prayers have been offered with deep intent.
In his letter Abba Seraphim wrote, “In all my personal meetings with him – in Damascus, Cairo or in London – I found him kind and gracious. Our hearts were greatly touched by his attendance both at the funeral of the late Pope Shenouda and the Enthronement of His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, even though he himself was in frail health. As his body began to fail, the strength and determination of his spirit was symbolised by the power and beauty of his voice, which remained strong.
The clergy and people of the British Orthodox Church are saddened that His Holiness ended his long and distinguished pontificate amidst such trials and tribulations for the Syriac people, especially in Iraq and Syria, as we know his heart was staunch in defending goodness and truth. We pray that he will rest in peace and awake to a joyful resurrection and trust in our Merciful Saviour to raise up a worthy successor to this great high priest”.
During the 40 days of mourning prayers for the repose of Patriarch Zakka will be offered in all British Orthodox churches and missions.
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.
- 27 July 2014
- Raising of Incense & Divine Liturgy: DoncasterRaising of Incense – 9:45am
Divine Liturgy – 10:30am
- Morning Prayer: BournemouthMorning Prayer 10.00
- Morning Prayer: Babingley10.30am Morning Prayer
- Raising of Incense & Divine Liturgy: CharltonRaising of Incense 2.00 p.m.
Divine Liturgy 2.30 p.m.
- 2 August 2014
- Morning Prayer: PortsmouthMorning Prayer 10.00