Each year in January the British Orthodox Church at Babingley hosts one of the events for Churches’ Together in King’s Lynn to mark the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which has proved very popular and has always been well attended. As British Orthodox clergy and members from the Bournemouth, London, Cusworth and Chatham parishes were planning to attend, Abba Seraphim hosted a lunch before the Unity service for members and friends at which he briefed them on the current situation in Egypt and answered questions.
By 3.00 p.m. on Saturday, 22 January, when Abba Seraphim welcomed the ecumenical guests to the Raising of Evening Incense, the church was packed. In his comments he spoke about the deep bond of prayer we all share at the present with the Catholic Diocese of East Anglia, for the health of Bishop Michael Evans, who was himself the speaker at this service in 2005. The speaker this year was Father Peter Farrington, parish priest at Chatham and also the Secretary of the Council of Oriental Orthodox Churches. His address was entitled, “Prophet, Priest and King: The high calling of the baptised.”
The severe weather which has caused a great deal of chaos in the United Kingdom over the past few weeks resulted in services being cancelled at the Babingley, Chatham and Charlton churches last weekend, 19 December. Even after the snow had stopped falling, the icy roads and wintry conditions made it dangerous to travel and public transport was largely brought to a standstill. One of Father Peter Farrington’s daughters, returning home from Spain for Christmas, found her flight diverted from Gatwick to Luton. As it landed passengers were instructed to brace themselves for an emergency-style landing. Her journey home through the snow took over six hours.
Babingley, being near the Norfolk coast, has suffered heavy snow and sub zero temperatures with Deacon Mark reporting that near him they reached -1o C, although Fr. Anthony Clements in Dumfries reported overnight temperatures there had plummetted to -17 C. At Cusworth, however, the annual Christmas Carol service was well attended with the congregation wrapped up to wiuthstand the cold. On the previous Sunday Father David Seeds baptised and chrismated two new adult members into the Church. Father Simon Smyth also reported that the main roads were clear between Portsmouth and Bournemouth and services there were uninterrupted and the new underfloor heating made quite a difference. Abba Seraphim expressed regret at the cancellation of services but said he was concerned that church members should be safe and that their welfare was paramount. By God’s grace he had not heard of any accidents to church members either when driving or through the icy conditions on the streets although he admitted that he himself had fallen over on the ice just outside the Church Secretariat, though without serious injury !
On 2 October Abba Seraphim was delighted to join the 14th annual pilgrimage in honour of St. Fursey, an Irish monk who evangelised East Anglia in the seventh century, which is held at Burgh Castle near Great Yarmouth, where it is believed the saint established his monastery. Apart from celebrating St. Fursey in services and pilgrimages, the Fursey Pilgrims have sponsored a number of lectures on the saint’s life and have published impressive and scholarly booklets on the saint and related topics.
Abba Seraphim joined a goodly gathering of the pilgrims for lunch and fellowship, where much of the conversation revealed an enthusiasm and knowledge about East Anglia’s ancient Christian heritage. Following this, a service was held at St. Peter and Paul’s Church at Burgh Castle at which Abba Seraphim was the guest preacher. He spoke of the vitality of the Irish monastic tradition and the profound influence of St. Antony and Egyptian monasticism and suggested ways we might understand the balance between monasticism and evangelism & mission. Following the service in the church, Abba Seraphim joined the pilgrims in the short walk to the area within the substantial remains of the Roman fortress walls, where St. Fursey’s community settled and the pilgrims joined in further prayers and hymns. The day concluded with tea in the parish hall and the opportunity to purchase some of the excellent publications including the latest booklet, a translation of the 8th century manuscript Life of St. Fursey,Transitus Beati Fursei, by Professor Oliver Rackham. (For details see the website: www.furseypilgrims.co.uk)
The following day, Sunday, 3 October, was the Dedication Festival of St. Felix’s Church at Babingley as an Orthodox Church, this being the ninth anniversary. Abba Seraphim spoke of his experience as a Fursey Pilgrim and said he had been struck by a prayer used which spoke of “footsteps in the sand.” This reminded him of the impact of the early British and English missionaries, including St. Felix and their contribution and lasting impact on the local Christian community. We value their legacy and hope that our ministry in Norfolk will keep faith with the past but also ensure its vitality for the future, so that our footsteps might also appear in the sand. Although we give thanks for the fine church where we worship and receive so any blessings, we need also to be conscious of the footsteps which led us there, especially the former chapel at the African Violet Centre at Terrington St. Clements. We must never lose sight of the fact that the Church is not the building but the people, and today’s lessons reminded us of this when St. Paul referred to the Christians of Corinth as an “epistle of Christ … written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God” and St. Peter spoke of us as “living stones … built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood.”
The congregation at St. Mary and St. Felix, Babingley, were delighted to welcome to their church Archimandrite Deiniol, Administrator of the Wales Orthodox Mission (Ecumenical Patriarchate), who was present for the Divine Liturgy and afterwards gave a talk on the “Holy Wells & Saints”of Wales” which was instructivive and showed how the historic church had supported local devotions but with the impact of the Reformation and modern secularism, there was a reversion to pre-Christian attitudes. Father Deiniol expressed his delight in visiting the church and meeting some of the flock and Deacon Mark marked the visit by presenting Father Deiniol with a carved wooden hand cross from the Monastery of St. Makarios.
It was a festive day at church as apart from the glorious weather, Abba Seraphim dedicated the fine new sanctuary veil which had been commissioned from the nuns of St. Theodore’s convent in Old Cairo. Gabriel Malheiro was warmly congratulated on the safe birth of his new baby daughter, who is to be called Stephanie, and love and good wishes sent from the congregation to his wife, Maria as well as singing “Happy Birthday” in honour of the new baby.
On the north side of the churchyard at Babingley a straggling clump of self-seeded saplings had grown up round the remains of the old stoke-hole or boiler-house dating from the time when the church had a coal-fired central heating system. This had long since been disconnected although holes in the skirting board in the sanctuary are reminders of the former central heating pipes.
In April 2010 the collapsed remains of this as well as the saplings were cleared from the churchyard and the surrounding ground levelled, which has improved the general appearance and will make maintenance of the churchyard easier.
- 26 May 2013
- Morning Incense & Divine Liturgy: BournemouthWorship commences 09.30
- Raising of Incense & Divine Liturgy: DoncasterRaising of Incense – 9:45am
Divine Liturgy – 10:30am
- Morning Prayer: Babingley10.00am Morning Prayer
- Morning Prayer: ChathamOrthodox Morning Prayer: 10:30 am
- Raising of Incense & Divine Liturgy: CharltonRaising of Incense 2.00 p.m.
Divine Liturgy 2.30 p.m.