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.
It was a great blessing to be able to celebrate two sacraments for Neil and Sue, who have been worshipping with us for some time, and had become catechumens as a mark of the seriousness of their intention to become Orthodox. Although our facilities are limited we were able to conduct the baptism in the Church using an inflatable baptistery, and after Neil and Sue had been received into the Church through immersion and chrismation, their legal marriage was blessed by the Orthodox sacrament of matrimony.
The double celebration was conducted on the 24th April, and Neil and Sue took the names Seraphim and Susanna in the Church. The following Sunday was a further milestone for them, and a blessing for Father Peter, when they received their first communion in the Orthodox Church.