For a number of years, the British Orthodox congregation at Babingley have extended a warm welcome to their neighbours to attend a special service of Evening Prayer with a guest speaker on an ecumenical theme during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. This year, however, it was decided to offer a day-long study session and multi-media presentation on “The Orthodox Way of Prayer”, led by Father Peter Farrington, which took place on Saturday, 24 January.
Father Peter’s two talks were well received and generated a lively discussion and fraternal exchanges, as did his illustrated presentation on “Praying with Ikons”. There were also opportunities – much valued by all present – for silent prayer, in which those present could practise the Prayer of the Heart as expounded by him. The study day opened and concluded with prayers from the Agbia. It was a great joy to have Father David Seeds and Archdeacon Alexander Astill from the Cusworth congregation supporting the day.
The new British Orthodox community in Bristol, under the patronage of Saint Cyril the Great, was launched with a celebration of the Divine Liturgy led by Father Simon Smyth on Sunday 4 January. The Bristol Fellowship meets for worship in the Church of Saint Peter (Church of England), Church Road, Filton, Bristol, BS34 7BL. The beautiful Lady Chapel in which the Divine Liturgy was celebrated had a strong sense of prayer.
As well as being a great joy to celebrate the first liturgy for the new Bristol community, the occasion brought with it many family associations for Father Simon, as his parents had been married in Saint Peter’s Filton almost seventy years before, and he had himself attended there as a child during family visits to Bristol and had last been present for his aunt’s funeral a decade ago.
Further Liturgies are scheduled for February and March, as follows:
Sunday 1st February Incense (13.00) & Liturgy (13.30)
Sunday 15th March Incense (13.00) & Liturgy (13.30)
The Co-ordinator for the Bristol community is Dominic Prewett who can be contacted via email email@example.com or by mobile 07730682526
At the invitation of Alistair McKitterick, Tutor and Lecturer in Biblical and Theological Studies, two British Orthodox priests delivered lectures this month to students at Moorlands Bible College, Sopley, Christchurch, Hampshire. On 5 November Father Peter Farrington lectured on prayer and one week later, 12 November, Father Simon Smyth gave a richly illustrated presentation on icons.
Introducing himself as both a former Moorlands student (from the late ‘eighties) and a former evangelical Christian enabled his evangelical audience to more easily relate to Father Peter and more easily identify with his lecture. Referring to the teaching of Evagrius that if “you are a theologian you truly pray” and if “you truly pray you are a theologian” Father Peter emphasised the importance of knowing God through the encounter in prayer rather than academically knowing things about God. The lecture ranged through Saints Cyril of Jerusalem, John Cassian, John Chrysostom, Moses the Black and others, referring also to the contemporary Orthodox writings of Metropolitan Kallistos Ware. Father Peter was careful to emphasise the apophatic approach and how closer encounters with God in prayer contrast with the modern tendency to almost analyse or understand God. In a wide ranging talk Father Peter also spoke on the importance of fasting and, of course, the Jesus Prayer.
Father Simon gave his presentation on icons at Moorlands for the fifth time (first visiting the college in 2009). The classic text of Saint John of Damascus was discussed and the Incarnation emphasised again and again as the requirement for icons: the “very heart of Christianity is Christ, God incarnate, God made flesh…. To see Jesus is to see the (otherwise) invisible God.” The union of God with man in accordance with the teaching of Saint Cyril the Great of Alexandria was emphasised. “To speak His Name is to speak the Name of God. To see His Face is to see the Face of God. To depict Him is to depict God.” Several icons were analysed in more detail including a modern icon of our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ:
And an icon of the Apocalypse:
Several different icons of the Good Shepherd were contrasted, then of Saint Moses the Black and also of Saint Simon the Tanner; 12 November being the first of the three days added to the Advent Fast in perpetual memory of the three days of fasting and Saint Simon’s part in God’s miraculous deliverance of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the tenth century.
Some students however acceptable they found the theology of the presentation clearly struggled with an emotional response to the idea of kissing an icon. Father Simon’s honesty in frankly acknowledging (though now the most natural thing in the world for him) how difficult he had once found it, with his then evangelical protestant background, to force himself to first kiss an icon seemed to help facilitate discussion around this. The session finished with all present each sitting in prayerful silence for a few minutes before an icon of our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Father Michael Ainsworth, Rector of St. George-in-the-East Church at Shadwell for the past seven years, decided to mark his retirement on 28 September with a traditional Anglican Evensong for Michaelmas, the feast of his patron, to which members of his congregation were invited as well as clergy and friends from neighbouring parishes and across the ecumenical spectrum. As ‘tenants’ of the Church, the British Orthodox London Mission was also anxious to share in the fond farewell of a priest they have come to respect and love and Abba Seraphim attended with some of his Orthodox parishioners. During the three years during which there has been Orthodox worship in his church, Father Michael has attended many liturgies and, afterwards, shared the antidoran he has received with his own congregation the next morning. In recognition of this symbolic fellowship, Abba Seraphim baked a traditional Coptic Archangel Michael bread and presented it to Father Michael, who immediately placed it with the celebratory food marking his retirement. Father Michael and his wife, Janina, will be returning to their northern roots when Janina becomes Rector of St. Maxentius, Bradshaw, in Bolton.
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.
Raising of Incense – 9:45am
Divine Liturgy – 10:30am
10.30am Morning Prayer
9.30 am Raising of Incense
10.00 am Liturgy of St. James
11.45 am Refreshments
Raising of Incense – 9:45am
Divine Liturgy – 10:30am
10.30am Morning Prayer