The British Orthodox Church

within the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate

St. Felix welcomes Catholic Bishop

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Since 2002 the British Orthodox Parish of St. Mary & St. Felix at Babingley, Norfolk, has participated in the local Week of Prayer for Christian Unity by sponsoring an ecumenical lecture during The Raising of Evening Incense. This year a full church welcomed The Right Rev’d Alan Hopes, 4th Catholic Bishop of East Anglia. Introducing him to those present, Abba Seraphim spoke warmly of his predecessor, the late Bishop Michael Evans, who had been the speaker at the St. Felix ecumenical lecturer in 2005 and had also served on the Catholic-Oriental Orthodox Regional Forum alongside Abba Seraphim .

Bishop Alan began by reviewing the progress of the Catholic Church’s ecumenical dialogue in the fifty years since the IInd Vatican Council and its serious commitment to ecumenical dialogue with a wide range of Christian traditions, of which the dialogue with the Oriental Orthodox Churches was very active. Abba Seraphim later recalled that the meeting between the two newly elected Popes, Tawadros II of Alexandria and Francis I of Rome, last year was hugely significant, being the first meeting of heads of churches of both Popes, and came exactly forty years after the visit of Pope Shenouda III to Pope Paul VI in Rome.

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Following the Evening Service, at which Abba Seraphim was assiated by Father David Seeds from Cusworth and Deacons Christopher Barnes and Daniel Malyon, all present joined together for a very British tea party and Bishop Alan was able to talk with local members of the British Orthodox Church as well as the wider ecumenical visitors.    

Advent Carol Service at Cusworth

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On Tuesday, 17 December the Church of St Mark & St Hubert held their Advent Carol Service. The form of the service has been used each year since the Church opened 25 years ago. Fr David Seeds preached on the reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Phillipians Chapter 3 verses 5-10, its importance as the central message to humanity, and its relevance to our Christmas worship.

Members of the congregation took turns to read the lessons, including Christopher Gray who expects to be received into the Church shortly.

Holy Pascha

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Paschal Eve Liturgy was celebrated in the British Orthodox churches in Babingley, Bournemouth, Chatham and Cusworth;  but the Palm Sunday Liturgy was celebrated at Charlton and additional Holy Week services were also held in Portsmouth. Services in all churches and missions were well supported and numbers were augmented on Pascha Eve by the attendance throughout of Orthodox from Eritrea, Moldova, Roumania and Russia, so that ‘Christ is Risen’ was proclaimed in several languages. Abba Seraphim officiated at St. Felix at Babingley and returned to Charlton in time to host a Paschal barbecue at the Church Secretariat for the London Mission. The marked improvement of the weather over the weekend was much appreciated.  The London Mission Liturgy at Shadwell on Saturday, 11 May, will serve as the paschal celebration for London.

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Holy Week and Pascha

The traditional services of Holy Week and Pascha were observed by the British Orthodox churches and missions during the past week and reports indicate that they were all well supported. Father Simon Smyth reported that services were held in the three South Coast communities of Southampton, Portsmouth and Bournemouth from Palm Sunday evening to Holy Wednesday but thereafter came together at the Church in Bournemouth for Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Pascha Eve. Representing the local ‘Churches Together’ Father Robin Nash, priest in charge of St. Luke Winton, joined the local congregation for the Paschal Liturgy when he read the Pauline Epistle. On Holy Pascha, Father Simon held a forenoon service and administered Holy Communion to those who had been unable to attend the late night Liturgy, before conducting the usual Memorial prayers around the Orthodox graves in Winton Cemetery.

Abba Seraphim visited the Chatham Church on Holy Thursday, where he performed the Laquan Footwashing and celebrated the Liturgy before travelling to Babingley to preside at the Good Friday prayer and the Paschal Vigil and Liturgy, which took place at sunset, earlier than at Bournemouth, Chatham and Cusworth, which all began at 10.00 p.m. Before the Paschal Vigil Abba Seraphim baptised and chrismated Richard Tawn at St. Felix Church and, dressed in his white chrisom robe and having been given the new name of George, he was joyfully able to receive his first communion and warmly welcomed to fellowship. Abba Seraphim returned to London early on Pascha morning where he took the sacrament to Father Michael Robson at Morden College and to other elderly and sick members who had been unable to attend a liturgy the previous night.

Abba Seraphim, Father Simon Smyth, Father David Seeds and Father Peter all preached on the Resurrection during their respective liturgies but in Bournemouth and Portsmouth the local deacons also took responsibility for preaching during Holy Week.   Always popular is the Good Friday Burial Service, where rose petals, herbs and spices are reverently offered by the women, who assist the clergy in preparing the cross for ‘burial’ and its transfer into the sanctuary.

The services at Chatham and Cusworth were also well supported by their local congregations and all churches reported that they were joined by other ethnic Orthodox who were unable to attend their own churches. Although refreshments were provided in all churches following the Paschal Liturgy, many also brought baskets with traditional paschal dishes to have them blessed before returning with them to their homes.  Dyed and chocolate eggs were distributed among all the worshippers and always prove very popular with the children.

The fact that Holy Pascha falls within the forty days of mourning for the death of Pope Shenouda undoubtedly contributed to a reflective spirit in all the churches, and the prayers which are normally made for his life were now changed to those for his repose, but also for many this highlighted the common hope of the Resurrection which we all share and the deep joy we feel in proclaiming that Christ is Risen.

British Orthodox Churches throughout the UK commemorate His Holiness Pope Shenouda

Father Simon Smyth of the Bournemouth and South-Coast churches shared this message:

SOUTH COAST CHURCHES MOURN HIS HOLINESS

In the Church of Christ the Saviour, Bournemouth, the photographs of our beloved patriarch, His Holiness Pope Shenouda, were veiled in black with lighted candles and a cross placed in front.  The tone of sadness and loss that Father Simon had heard from so many the previous evening as he had ‘phoned to tell them the news could not be hidden during the Sunday Divine Liturgy.  At the conclusion of the Liturgy the hymn “For all the saints who from their labours rest” was sung with real meaning and depth of feeling by the congregation.

Father Simon then stood before the veiled photograph and read an extract from His Holiness’ book The Release of the Spirit:

“what can we say about the father bishops each of whom will be asked by God about nearly two hundred thousands or more whether priests or lay-men? …pray for them earnestly that God may help them carry out their duties…  Remember how the holy monks used to escape from this position because of its fearful responsibility. And when one of them was taken by force and ordained as bishop he cried out weeping before God and saying, ‘O Lord, you know that I left the world and went to the monastery to seek my own salvation.. But now I return to the world though I have not attained salvation yet and is required to save others also…  What about our fathers the Patriarchs, each one of whom God will ask about ten million in Egypt and much more in” the West and around trhe world.  “My brethren, you ought to pray for every Patriarch that he may be able to perform his duties and give a good reply to God when He asks him about his own soul and the souls of the bishops, priests, deacons, monks and laymen… and about keeping the church laws and spreading the Orthodox faith all over the world… do not look to God’s ministers and to those who hold any responsibilities just like spectators praising them when they do good and condemning them when they do wrong… You rather pray for them…”

The morning worship ended with the Memorial Service and the singing of “Give rest, O Christ, Thou light of Light Eternal”:

“Though o’er the grave, for loved ones, still we sorrow,
Yet we may commune with them while we’re waiting,
And, in the joyful hope of that ‘tomorrow’:
Sing Alleluia !”

The Portsmouth Church of Saint Mary the Mother of God and Saint Moses the Black was represented by Reader James Kelly who spoke briefly and movingly of meeting Pope Shenouda in Egypt in late 2010.  The Southampton Mission of Saint Polycarp was represented by Mary Goodchild.  Both in Southampton and Portsmouth the congregations also veiled photos of Pope Shenouda in black and lit candles before them for their Memorial Services.

Archdeacon Alexandar writes on behalf of the Cusworth, Doncaster Congregation

“His Holiness Pope Shenouda III was remembered in prayers at the Sunday Liturgy of the Church at Cusworth, as were the people of Egypt  and the authorities tasked with governing the Church until a new Pope is elected.   After the Liturgy special memorial prayers were also offered for the repose of our late Pope’s soul.”

The Babingley, Norfolk congregation had to cancel their Sunday Raising of Incense and Divine Liturgy service, due to Abba Seraphim leaving for Cairo. But they instead held a prayer service for His Holiness lead by Deacon Mark and Deacon Christopher Barnes.

Father Peter Farrington of the Chatham, Maidstone congregation writes

“The congregation of St Alban and St Athanasius Orthodox Chuch in Chatham prayed for the repose of His Holiness during the Liturgy, and then offered prayers for him after the Liturgy in the form of the Panikhida (Memorial prayer service).”

Other messages of support were received from other denominations in the UK

Father Marcus Brisley, Parish of the Annunciation and St. Edmund Campion, Bournemouth writes:

On behalf of myself and my parish I would like to pass on sincere condolences to you and your community at the Church of Christ the Saviour on the death of His Holiness Pope Shenoudah III. A charismatic leader who was used by the Lord to continue the great movement of spiritual renewal within the Coptic Church, he has guided his people in a time of challenge and difficulty. I therefore sense how deeply you and all his spiritual children will feel your loss. May the Lord receive him with mercy and reward him for his labours, comforting Coptic Christians as you mourn and raising up a worthy successor to shepherd you.

With prayers and best wishes in Christ

There were other supporters and well wishers who share their prayers and kind thoughts for H.H. Pope Shenouda III and the families of Egypt.


Upcoming events

  • 24 August 2014
    • Morning Incense & Divine Liturgy: Bournemouth
      Morning Incense 09.30, Divine Liturgy 10.15
    • Raising of Incense & Divine Liturgy: Doncaster
      Raising of Incense – 9:45am
      Divine Liturgy – 10:30am
    • Morning Prayer: Babingley
      10.30am Morning Prayer
    • Raising of Incense & Divine Liturgy: Charlton
      Raising of Incense 2.00 p.m.
      Divine Liturgy 2.30 p.m.
  • 31 August 2014
    • Morning Incense & Divine Liturgy: Bournemouth
      Morning Incense 09.30, Divine Liturgy 10.15


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