Abba Seraphim attended the triennial Forum of Churches Together in England as the representative of the Council of Oriental Orthodox Churches. The Forum met at The Hayes Conference Centre, Swanwick, Derbyshire from 23-25 October. The theme of the Conference was, “What does Love require of us?”
It was an good opportunity to meet and share with members of other churches and to learn about their hopes and vision for the church in this country. In the absence of any organised Orthodox worship, Abba Seraphim attended a Catholic Mass on the morning of 24 October, among whom two of the concelebrants, Bishop Paul Hendriks and Father Robert Byrne, National Ecumenical Officer & Secretary to the Department of Dialogue & Unity of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference, are also members of the Catholic-Oriental Orthodox Regional Forum.
The quarterly meeting of the Council of Oriental Orthodox Churches in the UK & Ireland, held on 4 September at St. Thomas Syrian Orthodox Cathedral in Acton, London, was the first under the presidency of His Grace Bishop Vahan Hovhannesian. The new President had invited His Grace Bishop Gevork Saroyan, Dean of the Gevorkian Theological Seminary of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, who was visiting the UK, to attend the meeting, which was particularly appropriate as the subject of planning future Orthodox Education Days was one of the items on the agenda.
At its meeting on 17 July at the Armenian Church Hall in Iverna Gardens, the Council of Oriental Orthodox Churches in the UK & Ireland held its trienniel elections. Having served two terms as President, His Grace Bishop Angaelos (Coptic Orthodox Church) retired from the Presidency and His Grace Bishop Vahan Hovhanessian (Armenian Orthodox Church) was unanimously elected his successor. Abba Seraphim paid tribute to Bishop Angaelos’ commitment to the Council and the spirit of fraternal co-operation which he had encouraged between the sister churches. Bishop Angaelos was then elected as Chairman of the Council in succession to His Grace Mathews Mar Thimothios, who was not standing for a second term because of his frequent absences abroad. Father Peter Farrington was re-elected for a second term as Secretary and Father George Joy (Indian Orthodox Church) was elected successor to Father Snork Bagdassarion as Treasurer.
For the second year running, Abba Seraphim was happy to attend the annual patronal festival of Saint Mary of Zion (Tserha Tsion) Ethiopian Orthodox Tewehedo Church in London on 3 December. The congregation is currently worshipping in St. James the Great Church in Lower Clapton but has recently purchased an adjacent site at 229 Lower Clapton Road, which includes a former cinema, which had lately been used as a night club). Imaginative plans are in hand to convert this building along traditional lines, with the historic Church of St. Mary of Zion at Axum as the inspiration. The project also includes a community hall, school rooms and an episcopal residence.
This parish has a long history of over thirty years and became established under the oversight of the late Archbishop Yohannes (died 1997), who served first as priest-in-charge and later as Bishop of Western Europe with his seat in London. Since 2006 Abuna Antonios has been the resident Ethiopian Archbishop.
In a brief address to the congregation, at the conclusion of the liturgy, Abba Seraphim spoke of his delight to share in their festival and participate in the holy joy of the congregation, and especially at their purchase of the premises after many years of searching. This was a true blessing of God and he congratulated them on their faithfulness. He not only brought them greetings from their brothers and sisters in the British Orthodox Church, but also as one of the Vice-Presidents of the Council of Oriental Orthodox Churches in the UK.