On 15 March at St. George’s-in-the-East, Father Peter Farrington inaugurated the first of the new London Mission’s monthly evening meetings with a talk, “Lord, Teach us to pray.” Drawing on St. John Cassian’s Conferences he explored the counsels of Abba Moses on Prayer before going on to consider the different, but significant, contexts in which the Lord’s Prayer is introduced in the Gospels of Saints Matthew and Luke. Father Peter will return to the theme in his next talk on 12 April.
At the invitation of the Chaplain, The Rev’d Jeremy Frost, Abba Seraphim preached at the Choral Eucharist at the Old Royal Naval College Chapel at Greenwich. The College is now part of the University of Greenwich but the Chapel, which was constructed by Thomas Ripley to the designs of Sir Christopher Wren, was the last major part of the Royal Hospital for Seamen to be built. Following a disastrous fire in 1779, it was redecorated by James ‘Athenian’ Stuart in the Greek revival style, and today is a fine example of a complete neoclassical interior. The Chapel is dedicated to SS Peter & Paul, and is full of naval symbols, intended to remind the residents of the Royal Hospital for Seamen, who worshipped there daily, of their former lives. One of Abba Seraphim’s ancestors, Joseph Potter (1769-1855), who was decorated for his part in the fierce naval Battle of Cape St. Vincent (1797) was a pensioner at Greenwich Hospital 1842-1855.
Abba Seraphim preached on the Gospel of the day, Mark VIII: 31-38 on the theme of taking up one’s cross.
On 4 February the Armenian Parish of St. Sarkis in Kensington celebrated its Patronal Festival with an Ecumenical Service for Peace. Among the dignitaries attending were Her Excellency Mrs. Karine Kazinian, who took up her position as Armenian Ambassador to the Court of St. James last September but has quickly become a popular figure with the Armenian community here and Her Worship the Mayor of the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea (Councillor Julie Mills). Among the clergy attending were Abba Seraphim, His Grace Bishop Angaelos and His Eminence Archbishop Elisey of Sourozh (Moscow Patriarchate) as well as priests from the Catholic Church, the Church of England and the Church in Wales.
After welcoming the ecumenical guests, His Grace Bishop Vahan spoke about the life of St. Sarkis and his example of service and the pursuit of truth and peace. It has become a tradition at this annual celebration to honour the service of one of the long-serving members of the Armenian community and this year Mr. Armenag Topalian, who has served in various positions for some four decades and recently retired from his term as a Trustee of the Church (2004-2012) received a public citation of thanks.
Also attending from the British Orthodox Church were Deacon Theodore de Quincey and Reader Daniel Malyon (pictured with Bishop Vahan and Abba Seraphim).
The occasion also marks the eightieth anniversary of the church’s consecration (11 January 1923).
During the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity Father Simon made two ecumenical visits, one to his local Roman Catholic Church, Sacred Heart of Jesus and St Peter the Apostle, Waterlooville, and one to Immanuel Baptist Church, Southsea.
As the British Orthodox Portsmouth Church of Saint Mary the Mother of God and Saint Moses the Black does not yet have its own Church building and the font in the current venue, Saint Faith’s Anglican Church, is only of sufficient size for infant immersion, Immanuel Baptist Church has kindly hosted the British Orthodox congregation for three adult baptisms so far with more, it is hoped, in the months ahead. The Baptist pastor, the Reverend Elgan Evans invited Father Simon to say a little about the British Orthodox Church and the wider Oriental Orthodox family, especially the current situation in Egypt with Immanuel Baptist Church being a supporter of the Barnabus Fund. Father Simon drew a parallel between both local Church names, the British Orthodox proclaiming the central truth of Christianity, that Christ is God, through the ancient title of Saint Mary as Mother of God, that the Baby she carried within her, to Whom she gave birth, Who she fed at her breast was and is God – and the Baptists likewise proclaiming this through their name Immanuel, meaning God with us.
At Waterlooville Roman Catholic Church Father Kevin Bidgood kindly asked Father Simon to speak with people after the mass and he was engaged in conversation about the current situation of the Church both in Egypt and also Syria. One member of the congregation generously gave a donation which Father Simon explained he would pass onto the Barnabus Fund for its work in that region where it was active on behalf of both Orthodox and Eastern Rite Catholic Christians.
Although this was the first British Orthodox clergy visit to the new Roman Catholic Church in Waterlooville there is already an existing link between us through the work of David Pratt (who has family connections to the Church and lives nearby) who advised on the arts committee during the design and construction of the new building. His influence can be seen in particular in the mosaic up above the entrance to the Church showing Christ in glory with the four incorporeal creatures. The inspiration for this work was provided from an icon in the complex of the Coptic Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Mark in Abbaseya, Cairo, and photographed by one of our Church members back in 2005.