The recent visit of His Holiness Mar Basilius Mar Thoma Paulose II, Catholicos of the East, to England, was not only a great blessing for the Indian (Malankara) Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom but also a significant ecumenical event. His visit marked a number of historic anniversaries: 80 years since the first celebration of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Qurbana in the Chapel of King’s College, London; 75 years since H.H.The Catholicos, Mar Baselios Geeverghese II visited the UK in 1937; 60 years since the Malayalee migration to the UK and 40 years since the formation of the St. Gregorios Congregation in London.
Abba Seraphim, accompanied by Subdeacon Daniel Malyon and Reader Trevor Maskery, attended the Divine Liturgy celebrated by the Catholicos at St. Gregorios Indian Orthodox Church in Brockley on Sunday, 8 September, and assisted in the liturgical celebration and the parochial speeches and festivities which followed.
On Monday, 9 September a Banquet of some 90 guests was held to honour the Catholicos at Lambeth Palace. In the absence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishops of Gibraltar in Europe (The Right Rev. Geoffrey Rowell) and Southwark (The Right Rev. Christopher Chessum) acted as hosts. Representatives of all the major churches were present as well as many leading members of the Malayalee community in the UK and friends of the Indian Orthodox Church. The British Orthodox Church was represented by Abba Seraphim, Father Peter Farrington and Father & Mrs. Simon Smyth.
On 19 August Subdeacon Daniel Malyon and Janice Oommen were joined together in Holy Matrimony in Kerala. The service was performed by His Grace Gabriel Mar Gregorios, Bishop of Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum) in his Domestic Chapel at Aramana, assisted by three of his priests and was conducted in both Malayalam and English in the presence of some 240 guests. On 16 August Daniel had an audience with His Holiness Baselios Mar Thoma Paulose II, Catholicos of the East, who gave them his blessing.
The Betrothal of Daniel and Janice had been performed on 16 December 2012 by Father Simon Smyth at Christ the Saviour Church in Bournemouth, where Daniel and Janice had first met.
In his letter of greeting to Mar Gregorios, Abba Seraphim had written, “The forthcoming wedding is a source of much pleasure to the clergy and faithful of the British Orthodox Church, not only because we have come to know and love Janice during her stay in the UK; but also because it symbolises the deep affection band respect with which the British Orthodox regard the venerable Orthodox Church of India, which has proved such a vibrant witness to our common faith, both here and in its homeland in Kerala.”
Mary Goodchild and Bridget McConnachie represented the British Orthodox Church South Coast congregations of Bournemouth, Southampton and Portsmouth at the celebrations to mark the one hundredth anniversary of the death of Etheldreda Anna Benett, the Reverend Mother Foundress of the Society of the Sisters of Bethany. The celebration was held on 29 July 29, the Feast of Bethany, in Saint Clement’s Church, Bournemouth where Mother Etheldreda is buried in the churchyard. His Grace Bishop Trevor Willmott (formerly Bishop of Basingstoke, then with oversight for Bournemouth) presided at the celebratory mass and service of thanksgiving, following which a memorial stone was blessed in the churchyard.
Although originally founded in Clerkenwell in 1866 (the same year as the ordination of Mar Julius as the first bishop for the British Orthodox Church) the society’s association with Bournemouth goes back well into the nineteenth century with a convent built in the 1870s and an orphanage run there for many years. The Bournemouth House of Bethany took a direct hit from an enemy bomb in the Second World War (resulting in the death of two sisters). In the early 1960s the Bournemouth House of Bethany became the Mother House for the society. This was closed in the mid 1980s and the present Mother House of Bethany opened in Southsea. The Sisters of Bethany have always been known for their ecumenical spirit (the Archbishop of Canterbury’s 1890s mission to the East Syrian Christians being a famous example of their ecumenical work) and in their early years received both Russian Orthodox and Syrian Orthodox visitors. This Orthodox link continues to this day with the British Orthodox Church of Saint Mary the Mother of God and Saint Moses the Black in Portsmouth enjoying warm relations with the Sisters of Bethany in neighbouring Southsea.
On 14 July Abba Seraphim officiated at the wedding of Ieva Karklina & Peter Takla at St. John the Evangelist Coptic Orthodox Church at Elmers End, Beckenham. He was supported in the service by Fathers Antonius Nagib and Sergius Scott from St. John’s Church. Among those attending was Ieva’s mother from Sweden and several regular worshippers of the British Orthodox Church’s London Mission, including Subdeacon Daniel Malyon and Reader Trevor Maskery.
Abba Seraphim was among the ten European Bishops of the Alexandrian Patriarchate who are met with His Holiness Pope Tawadros at a conference at St. Antonios Monastery in Obersiebenbrun near Vienna. between 27-30 May. He was accompanied by Father Simon Smyth and Tasoni Sheila Smyth, representing the clergy and laity of the British Orthodox Church.
On 27 May Pope Tawadros and the Bishops in Europe attended a Reception given by Pro Oriente to mark the 10th anniversary of the legal registration of the Coptic Church in Austria, which hosted by His Eminence Cardinal Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna at his residence in Vienna. During the proceedings Pope Tawadros graciously accepted the title of ‘Protector of Pro Oriente’