Abba Seraphim was among the ecumenical guests who attended the enthronement of the Right Rev’d Christopher Chessum as tenth Bishop of Southwark, in Southwark Cathedral on 6 March. Bishop Christopher has served as a very popular Suffragen Bishop of Woolwich for the past eight years and his appointment as diocesan bishop has been well received. Abba Seraphim works together with Bishop Christopher on the Tur Abdin Focus Group. His love for the Orthodox Churches has also been demonstrated by his support for the campaign to free Abune Antonios of Eritrea and and he has also recently joined the Anglican-Oriental Orthodox Regional Forum. Bishop Christopher has supported and encouraged the long-standing warm relations between the United Benefice of St. Luke & St. Thomas at Charlton, where the British Orthodox Church has been accorded hospitality for more than two decades.
The Enthronement took place during Choral Evensong and was followed by a reception in nearby Glaziers’ Hall. A large number of Anglican bishops were in attendance, including Bishop Christopher’s three immediate predecessors in the diocese of Southwark and four bishops from the Anglican diocese of Zimbabwe, which is twinned with Southwark. Earlier in the day Bishop Christopher and the Bishop of London (The Right Rev’d Richard Chartres) had met together symbolically on London Bridge to pledge co-operation in Christian witness in London, which is divided between the two dioceses. Also present were the Catholic Archbishop of Southwark (Most Rev’d Peter Smith) and His Grace Bishop Angaelos.
On 27 February Abba Seraphim marked the fortieth anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood as well as his 63rd birthday. There were no special celebrations organised but thanksgiving prayers were held in all British Orthodox churches and congratulations were received from many clergy in other churches. Abba Seraphim visited Father Michael Robson at Morden College in the morning and was delighted to find him sitting up out of bed and much improved in health and spirits. Later he celebrated the monthly Liturgy at St. Thomas’s Church in Charlton, assisted by Father Sergius Scott and Deacon Theodore de Quincey and preached on the Spiritual Purpose of Great Lent. The regular congregation were delighted to be joined by Reader Seraphim-Mark Boorman and his wife, Susannah, from the Chatham Church also Father Deacon Richard & Dr. Carol Downer from the Melkite Church who had come to greet Abba Seraphim. After the service everyone stayed for tea with a small portion of birthday cake.
Monday, 28 February is the thirty-second anniversary of the death of the late Metropolitan Georgius and Abba Seraphim’s succession as head of the British Orthodox Church.
St. Thomas’ Parish Church in Old Charlton, which has also been the home of a British Orthodox community for many years, held special prayers for the Alexandrian martyrs at their Sunday morning service on 9 January to show their love and concern for the Coptic Orthodox Church. Abba Seraphim was invited to address the congregation about the brutal attack on New Year’s Eve and Orthodox worshippers joined the l0cal congregation to pray for the departed, the wounded, the bereaved and the entire Coptic Orthodox Church. Following the service Abba Seraphim said, “Not only are the Coptic and British Orthodox Churches united in prayer this morning, but Christians of other traditions have been so shocked by recent events that they too want to stand beside us. Just over a month ago we were showing our prayerful solidarity for Christians slaughtered in Baghdad, now it is our turn to be the victims. The Apostle St. Paul tells us that if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it (1 Cor. XII: 26) and this desire for a united witness on behalf of the suffering church is a great joy and comfort in these troubled times.”
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 Sunday, 18th July, Abba Seraphim ordained Seraphim Mark Boorman as a Reader for St Alban’s Orthodox Church in Chatham. Members of the congregation of St Alban’s had travelled to join the congregation of the Orthodox parish of St Thomas’ for the Liturgy, including Father Peter Farrington, Seraphim Mark and Susanna Boorman and Tina Hammond.
During the Liturgy Abba Seraphim received Tina Hammond as a catechumen, and then ordained Seraphim as a Reader. The members of the St Alban’s congregation who had been able to be at the Liturgy at Charlton were pleased to be able to spend time with Abba Seraphim, and the clergy and congregation of St Thomas’.