To commemorate the fact that 2014 marks the twentieth anniversary of the union of the British Orthodox Church with the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria, the British Orthodox Press has published two new editions of liturgical texts, as authorised for use in The British Orthodox Church. A third edition of The Offering of the Morning and Evening Incense, with an introductory essay and bibliography by Father Gregory Tillett has been published in a handsome new casebound edition. Uniform with this edition is the second edition of The Divine Liturgy of Saint James with an introductory essay and bibliography by Abba Seraphim as well as full rubrics. Both books, published by the British Orthodox Press, are available online from our printers & distributors.
A new edition of the Congregational edition of the combined Morning & Evening Incense and the Divine Liturgy will shortly be available as well as a fully rubricated Clergy edition of the same, both in single volumes
The Offering of the Morning and Evening Incense
The Divine Liturgy of Saint James
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.