From 28 July-7 August, Shenouda Mamdouh, Abba Seraphim’s Egyptian Secretary, visited England with his wife, Mary, as the guests of the British Orthodox Church. Shenouda was here previously in 2000 and 2007 but this was Mary’s first visit. During their stay they were largely based in Charlton, London. They had a busy schedule, which included visits to historic places and meetings with church friends. On 29 July the Coptologist, Dr. Carol Downer and husband Deacon Richard Downer gave a welcome dinner party at their home in Redhill, Surrey, at which were also present Abba Seraphim, Father John Whooley, Viscountess Coke, Mark Hassall and Trevor Maskery. On 30 July they visited the British Orthodox Church at Chatham and later Abba Seraphim took them to meet his mother, Joyce Edwards, who is in her ninety-seventh year, and they spent a lively time chatting with her.
On 31 July Shenouda Mamdouh joined Father Simon and Sheila Smyth as ecumenical guests at a Pontifical Mass at Saint Nicholas Church, Worth, West Sussex. The Right Rev’d Geoffrey Rowell, Anglican Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe presided. Father Simon was seated in the sanctuary, an expression of the friendship and love, not only personal but also that exists between Bishop Geoffrey and our family of Churches, towards which he has long been a good friend. Bishop Geoffrey is the Archbishop of Canterbury’s representative to the Oriental Orthodox Churches and co-chairman of both the international Dialogue and the local Forum between the Anglican and Oriental Orthodox Churches. Following the Mass there was a reception in the bishop’s residence which included a guided tour by Bishop Geoffrey of his art collection and domestic chapel including an impressive collection of icons which included Armenian, Coptic, Ethiopian, Syrian, Greek, Russian and Romanian. Bishop Geoffrey asked Shenouda Mamdouh to convey his greetings to His Holiness Pope Shenouda whom he has met on numerous occasions over the years.
On Sunday 1 August Shenouda and Mary joined the British Orthodox congregation in the Church of Christ the Saviour, Bournemouth. Following the Liturgy Shenouda gave an informative talk on his personal experience of the ministry of Pope Shenouda, beginning with his baptism by His Holiness, through Sunday School and his educational studies in which the Pope always showed interest and onto his life as translator for His Holiness at ecumenical meetings. He shared insightful knowledge into the Pope’s years under house arrest at the Monastery of Saint Bishoy, in particular emphasising His Holiness’ good humour and joy throughout that time. Several of the points that Father Simon had made in his sermon, on the example from the Gospel for the day, of Levi who when called “left all, rose up, and followed” our Lord, were well illustrated from the life of Pope Shenouda who left all to become a monk, then a hermit and as bishop and then patriarch has always left his own will and desires in order to serve the people as a faithful shepherd. A short time of questions and discussion followed Shenouda’s talk.
The next day, before returning to London, Shenouda and Mary, together with Father Simon and Sheila, visited Hampton Court Palace. When visiting the Chapel Royal the party removed shoes (to the surprise of some other visitors not familiar with this act of piety on entering a church to pray) and lit candles before a Greek icon of Christ Pantocrater. Father Simon enquired of the verger concerning a prominent silver Ethiopian processional cross and learned that this was a gift to the chapel in the 1960s. He also explained that the oval shape in the east wall has in fact never contained a picture as mistakenly thought by many visitors but was believed to represent an egg, symbolic of the resurrection, similar to our own tradition of using ostrich eggs.
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’.
John Robert Tomkys Douglas, OBE, died at his home at Canford Cliffs, Poole, Dorset, on 13 June 2010 after a long battle with prostate cancer. He was 79 years old.
Born at Tamworth in Staffordshire in 1930, he married Sheila Varey in 1957 and together they enjoyed over half a century of devoted married life, with the blessing of loving children and grandchildren.
Abba Seraphim first met John Douglas when he was invited to become an advisor and later a member of the Development Advisory Council of Sat-7, the Christian TV channel broadcasting to the Middle East. At that time John was the Chairman of Sat-7 Trust Limited. John combined his long business experience with a deep desire to support disadvantaged and persecuted Christians throughout the world and also enabling the Gospel to be preached to people in their own language. From that time he and Abba Seraphim became firm friends and he was always happy to support specific cases of need brought to his attention as well as Coptic and Syriac causes. Himself an Evangelical Christian he had a deep love and respect for the ancient Orthodox churches and valued his contacts with these churches. He was also a generous benefactor to the British Orthodox Church and when the Church in Chatham was bought he made a substantial donation towards its refurbishment, noting that as a National Service officer in the Royal Engineers he had done part of his training in Chatham.
Although accomplished in so many ways, John was completely unassuming and his many acts of generosity were done in secret so that those who benefitted would never even have known his name. In sending condolences to his widow and family, Abba Seraphim said he felt privileged to have known John, whose life was an example of Christian living and he commended his soul to God, praying for his repose and that all those who mourned his loss would be comforted.
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.
As members and clergy of St Alban’s British Orthodox Church in Chatham we had felt that we should be organising a regular activity to allow members of the British Orthodox Fellowship in our area to experience something of our Christian life, as indeed was the purpose of the Fellowship being introduced.
So far we have welcomed visitors to two Study Evenings. The first was held in November and had as its topic, ‘The Jesus Prayer’. The second has just taken place and the topic was ‘Praying with Icons’. Read more ►